train entered straight track, around MP 447, the speed of the train increased, and the engineer began increasing the brake pipe pressure reduction. He stated, "I kept waiting for it [the train] to settle down….I was already up to 20 pounds. Now I knew that was probably enough when that train should start bogging [slowing] down." According to the head-end engineer, he then went into a full service reduction (26 psi). He stated further, "When I made a full service and it wasn't slowing down, we realised that…this train wasn't going to stop." About 7:30 a.m., based on the readout of the event recorder, as the train speed reached 45 mph, the helper engineer, without communicating with the head-end engineer, placed the train brakes in emergency. According to the helper engineer, he did not communicate to the head-end engineer that he was going to place the train brakes in emergency because "at that point there might have been something wrong up there and the speed we were going, corrective action had to be taken and soon…" He further stated that he did not believe that communication prior to that time was necessary because by observing the brake pipe gauge on the rear end, he could tell that the head-end engineer was attempting to take corrective action. According to the head-end engineer, after the helper engineer placed the train brakes into emergency. he placed his brake valve in emergency and the train then began to "surge." According to SP, its locomotives are designed so that when the train brakes are placed in emergency, the dynamic brakes are pneumatically blocked out; both engineers testified that they were aware of this feature. The head-end engineer stated that when the train brakes were placed in emergency he believed there were no longer any options available for controlling the speed of the train.
A motorist who routinely travels on a highway that parallels the railroad tracks for some distance and normally sees trains at that time of the morning testified that she observed "…one train…going a lot faster than some I had normally seen before." The motorist, who estimated that the highway was about ¼ to ½ mile from the tracks, also testified that the train was engulfed in what she assumed to be smoke, which she described as light blue in color. The helper brakeman testified that after the helper engineer placed the brakes in emergency. he observed smoke coming from underneath the train. The head-end engineer also testified that when he looked back over his train, he saw a "lot of smoke coming from the train."
The speed of Extra 7551 East continued to increase as the train descended the hill. The head-end engineer stated that when he realized the train was not slowing, he instructed the conductor to "get on the phone and tell them we got a runaway train." According to a transcript of the dispatcher's radio log, at 7:33:21, an attempt was made to contact the Saugus dispatcher but was not successful. At 7:33:48, the conductor contacted the assistant general yard master at West Colton and informed him, "We have a slight problem. I don't know if we can get this train stopped. We're coming out of Dike [MP 481]." The helper engineer testified that when he overheard the radio transmission to the West Colton yard, he did not believe that the message conveyed the seriousness of the problem and that "I got on there and I called Mayday Mayday to clear the radio waves." He further stated that because the train speed was rapidly increasing, he positioned himself on the floor behind his control stand with his back and head braced against the back panel and his feet braced against the control stand. He stated that he had