Sunset Limited Derailment
They who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Recent events raise ghosts of the past.
October 9, 1995
An Amtrak passenger train enroute from Phoenix, Arizona
to Los Angeles, California derails at 1:20 AM on a deserted
section of track in a protected wilderness area.
One railroad worker is killed, 77 passengers and
crew are injured, 12 seriously. The train carried 248
passengers and 20 crew.
There is strong evidence of sabotage by a person or persons
who knew how to defeat railroad safety devices.
A typewritten letter is found at the scene claiming that the
derailment was caused by the "Sons of the Gestapo." The
letter is critical of the government and bears swastikas. It
alludes to the FBI and BATF involvement in the Randy Weaver
incident in Ruby Ridge, Idaho and the Branch Davidian incident
in Waco, Texas. It is also critical of local law enforcement in
A Southern Pacific Railway spokesperson told reporters that
the section of track is inspected for safety twice a week,
the most recent inspection having been on October 5. The last
train to successfully use the section of track passed through
18 hours before. Railway officials estimated that it would
only take 10 minutes for knowledgeable persons to implement the
President Clinton immediately cites the incident as an
example of why his stalled anti-terrorism bill must
be passed by Congress. The bill has been strongly criticized
for its negative impact on civil liberties by both liberals
Who Did It?
It is not yet clear who is responsible. Among the suggestions:
- A disgruntled railroad worker or rail proponent.
This is reasonable since the technique for disabling the
safety devices is not general knowledge. It is relevant to
note that Southern Pacific Railway [which owns the section of
track] has proposed abandonment of the lightly used, obsolete
and allegedly poorly maintained section of track. This would
prevent Amtrak service to Phoenix. It is also relevant to
note that a niche railway publication carried an article a
couple weeks earlier describing how a similar case of sabotage
had been done a number of years earlier.
- A neo-Nazi group. The letter found at the scene
clearly is designed to point in this direction. However, nobody
seems to have heard of 'The Sons of the Gestapo', and
references to the Gestapo and swastikas have negative
connotations that neo-Nazi groups tend to avoid as they
attempt to present a more positive public image. Finally,
it is not at all apparent that neo-Nazis would be sympathetic
with Branch Davidians [an unusual religious community with
both Christian and Judaic overtones].
- An anti-Nazi group seeking to discredit neo-Nazis.
- Militias attacking the government. Unlikely, since
the attack would serve no purpose other than to raise a backlash.
- Branch Davidian or Randy Weaver sympathizers
(who want to punish the government but not take credit for it?)
Unlikely. Besides, what would they have against local Arizona
- A couple "good ol' boys" who had a few beers
too many. Unlikely, in view of the letter which was apparently
prepared in advance. Also, while a
prankster might sabotage the track, it is unlikely that a
prankster would know how to defeat the safety systems.
- A lone nut influenced by "hate talk" on the radio.
It is unlikely that such a person would have the technology,
nor have I heard any "hate talk" on the radio that would
be likely to lead to the sabotage of an Amtrak passenger
- Someone disguntled with the OJ verdict who
decided to take it out on a train full of people bound for LA.
I actually saw this suggested on the internet. I don't
give this one much credibility.
- A supporter of President Clinton seeking
to stir public sentiment against "hate talk" on the radio.
- International terrorists.
Since terrorists generally seek credit for their acts in order
to publicize their cause, it is unlikely that international
terrorists are responsible.
- Gang Bangers carrying out an initiation rite.
It is unlikely that such individuals would have the technical
knowledge required to implement the sabotage.
- Proponents of anti-terrorism legislation,
which has been stalled in Congress due to concerns
from both liberals and conservatives about the potential
negative impact on civil rights. Creating such an incident
would enhance their arguments.
- Proponents of gun control who have an interest
in the proposed anti-terrorism legislation because of the
- Supporters of the FBI or BATF. These agencies
have been taking a lot of heat in Congressional hearings
for their role in the Randy Weaver and Branch Davidian incidents.
An incident such as this might be useful to redirect
public sentiment to view Randy Weaver and the Branch Davidians
in a less savory light, rather than as victims of Federal
- Multiple independent conspirators. Consider,
for example the possibility that some folks with an ax
to grind with the railroads plot and execute the sabotage,
while a Federal Law enforcement group which has infiltrated
the first group plants the letter to achieve a political
objective. Such a scenario is not far removed from a sting
Groups that most likely would have the technology to
accomplish the sabotage or who might benefit most from
the act or the letter include:
Am I suggesting a government conspiracy? Not necessarily,
although I am not ruling it out, either. Even in the event
that government employees are involved, they would not
necessarily be acting in an official capacity. What is
most clear, however, is that the note found at the scene
was intended to mislead. "Sons of the Gestapo" indeed!
- A disgruntled railroad worker or rail proponent
- A supporter of President Clinton
- Proponents of anti-terrorism legislation
- Proponents of gun control
- Supporters of the FBI or BATF
- Multiple independent conspirators
Regardless of who is responsible, we must still contend with
the fact that incidents such as this are being
cited by proponents of anti-terrorism legislation. We
must keep in mind the lessons of history, such as the
Reichstag fire and not
allow ourselves to be frightened into giving up our civil
- Reichstag Fire
- Randy Weaver Family [COMING SOON]
- Branch Davidians [COMING SOON]
- Oklahoma City Bombing [COMING SOON]
Copyright © 1995
"Orville R. Weyrich, Jr."
Last updated: December 31, 1997; Version: 1.4