I have no idea on which side of the labor-management divide you stand -- a divide particularly strong at the B&M, other lines, and their successors spanning three decades under the current ownership -- but I generally stand with labor. While the strike was not a major part of the story, it formed a major background to it. In the story, Messr. Silk and at least one other company official initially charged striker involvement in the event, a charge subsequently withdrawn. The story does not mention if Messr. Silk was the sole crew member on the power, nor does it mention if some form of three-step protection or handbrakes had been applied. Those who crewed during the strike were pressured to keep the line from total shut-down, and stress and fatigue were possible contributors to any erosion of any "safety first" ethos. The ICC still existed at that time, but perhaps because the event did not meet reporting thresholds, it is not included in the DOT Library archives, so there is no readily-accessible official account of crew and/or company accountability.
Please see above. Also, between the-then Family Pharmacy in Gardner and the entrance to the Deerfield Loop, there is a loss of elevation of a bit less than 900 feet (315M to 51M, per Gearth) in approximately 38 miles (ETT of your choice). The story does not give precision to the minute, only a bit after 10:00 AM and just before 11:00 AM. Positing 45 minutes, that would produce an average speed of just under 51 MPH. In 1987, the full effects of deferred maintenance were still to appear. Curvature would have a slowing affect, and stretches of level or brief stretches of upgrade line would also have a slowing affect. Likewise, especially on curves, MTs are more likely to lift a wheel and derail than are loads or power. There may have been stretches where a grade-assisted speed of 70 MPH was reached, but as the story's Erving eye-witness account indicates, there were other stretches where there were lesser speeds
"A gray crossover is definitely not company transportation."