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When Amtrak’s Vermonter passenger train headed toward Putney, Vt., on the tracks of the New England Central (NEC) at 3:40 a.m. on Oct. 9, 2005, there was no way that the engineer could have known that a heavy rainfall had washed out the tracks ahead of the train at a bridge on the line. Although all of the signals were green, WeatherData, a private weather-reporting agency, informed NEC’s dispatchers that flash flooding could have damaged the track. After the train engineer was alerted, the train stopped, and an inspection was conducted. “If the train had gone over that section at 59 miles an hour, there could have been fatalities,” American Rail Dispatch Director Tom Murphy told The Wall Street Journal, as 90 feet of rail was suspended over a major washout.

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