Wreck of the Sunset Limited
Wreck of the Sunset Limited
Wreck of the Sunset Limited
Vital statistics
Series Seconds from Disaster
Title Wreck of the Sunset Limited
Airdate August 10, 2004
Disaster 1993 Big Bayou Canot Train Wreck
Date September 22, 1993
Kind Train
Nature Barge Collision with Bridge in Fog, Bent Tracks
Fatalities 47

Wreck of the Sunset Limited is the 6th episode of Seconds from Disaster and rescues the clues of the fall of a train.

Plot Edit

After one of a string of barges hit a support of a bridge in Big Bayou Canot, the Sunset Limited (an Amtrak train) derails as it crosses the bridge, resulting in its collapse and the deaths of 47 people.


  • Although there were signals on the line operated by track circuits, the long welded rails did not break and
    Alabama derail

    The aftermath of the crash

    did not cause the bridge approach signal to change to red. Had jointed rails still been fitted, the signal may have dropped to red, as such rails would more likely have broken at the joints.
  • The span had actually been designed to rotate so that the bridge could be converted to a swing-bridge by installing a motor and control equipment, if it were ever decided that barge traffic warranted this. No such conversion had ever been done and the span's lack of lateral rigidity was a contributing factor to the accident.
  • One span of the bridge was pushed so far out of position that the kink in the line caused the derailment. The span was not fitted with "stops" to keep it in reasonable alignment with other spans of the bridge. Had such stops been fitted, the kink in the line might have been less severe and less dangerous.
  • Had barge traffic posed a regular hazard, special barge collision detection circuits could have been fitted to shunt the signals to red in case of a collision. Similar circuits are used to detect Washaways. But the Big Bayou Canot is not navigable, so this seemed nearly pointless.
  • As a result of the accident, towboat pilots are now required to be trained in the use of radar.
  • In post accident analysis, the NTSB, again, called for Amtrak to implement an accurate, on board passenger enumeration ability. Amtrak now records passenger lists electronically.