Silver Dollar City train derails again, resulting in one minor injury

The train and depot are decked out with holiday lights at Silver Dollar City.
The train and depot are decked out with holiday lights at Silver Dollar City.

Seven months after a derailment caused half a dozen injuries, Silver Dollar City's steam train has derailed again.

According to a press release from the amusement park, the front wheels of the third car on the Silver Dollar City steam train went off the track by less than two inches, causing the second and third cars to separate. The incident occurred Thursday at approximately 3:50 p.m.

Only one passenger reported a possible minor injury but declined outside medical care and all passengers were unloaded from the train and returned to the park. Silver Dollar City said the lack of injuries stemmed from new safety features implemented since the October 2022 derailment.

"New safety protocols worked as designed, stopping the train safely and slowly with all cars remaining upright," reads the press release.

The train will remain closed "until further notice," they added.

Up to 250 passengers ride the train at a time, leaving every half-hour on 1940s-era German steam locomotive and passenger cars.

The Silver Dollar City train last derailed in October 2022, injuring seven of the 160 passengers. Since that time, a state investigation into the incident found the crash resulted from misaligned rails, inconsistently spaced railroad ties and loose joint bolts, worn bearings and mismatched truck springs on the rail cars that allowed them to lean, according to previous News-Leader reporting.

More: Investigators cite misaligned rails, worn bearings in Silver Dollar City train derailment

What happened in 2022 derailment?

Silver Dollar City staff and train operators interviewed the day of the October crash described typical operations, with little warning before the train cars left the track.

The train, on its 15th or 16th run of the day, had been inspected by maintenance personnel that morning along with the track. The park's safety and security manager, Adam Buxton, told investigators that the engineer had inspected the engine and cars, as well, which is done daily.

While the train is capable of reaching a speed of 13 mph, it was going about 8-9 mph, staff said, while approaching the area where the mock robbery is performed.

Train operators said everything appeared to be in good working order until the train approached an area known as the "blow-down" curve or corner, when staff and passengers reported hearing loud grinding sounds, metal-on-metal, for several seconds, along with a jolt and a series of bangs or pops.

Conductor Cathy Wright, sitting in the back of the last train car, told investigators she called for the engineer to stop when she heard the grinding and popping but within seconds saw the third car go off the track. Engineer Cordell Conyac said the same: After hearing Wright's call, he "he felt a jolt and he started hitting the brakes and shutting the train down. He stated as he was shutting the train down he looked back and saw the cars were already falling over."

Witness statements investigators gathered in the hours and days after the crash were consistent with those relayed by staff, the reports show. Inspectors also noted that Silver Dollar City staff responded promptly to requests for ride manuals, maintenance logs, inspection reports and other information.

One exception, detailed in a Nov. 16 letter to the park's Vice President of Operations Jeff Ussery, involved a consultant's report Silver Dollar City commissioned by Wolf Railway Consulting.

"I am following up on our meeting with you and your counsel on November 16, 2022, during which we discussed your objections to providing facts and information discovered by your consultants regarding the October 26, 2022 accident," wrote Gus Guadamuz, deputy chief of the Missouri Elevator and Amusement Ride Safety Unit.

The letter, released with the other investigative reports as part of a public records request, cites state law on amusement park crashes in its request for "All information and facts known" about track conditions, the derailed train car and the crash.

"While I understand that some of the conclusions made by your investigator may be covered by attorney-clientprivilege or the work product doctrine, Missouri law clearly requires that the information that I have request(ed) beprovided to my office," Guadamuz wrote. "Until the requested information is received and reviewed, the train will remain closed. Thank you in advance for your assistance."

A report from Wolf Railway Consulting dated Dec. 19 is included in the released reports and includes detailed information about the railway's elevation and curvature at the crash site, as well as the worn or uneven mechanical components cited as a crash factor in the state's final report.

Along with recommendations addressing those railway and mechanical deficiencies, that final reporter also suggests Silver Dollar City develop track safety standards for two-foot, narrow-gauge tracks, for which there are no national standards and which are not regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Silver Dollar City said in a statement to the News-Leader that it has since made the appropriate changes. The train, tracks, and cars were recently cleared after a final inspection on March 24. The train is now closed until further notice, following the subsequent derailment this week.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Silver Dollar City train derails again, resulting in one minor injury