Railroad Accident Report

Collision and Derailment
of Union Pacific Railroad
Freight Trains 5981 North and 9186 South
in Devine, Texas
on June 22, 1997

NTSB Number RAR-98/02
NTIS Number PB98-916302
PDF Document (609K)

Synopsis: At 10:52 p.m. on June 22, 1997, Union Pacific Railroad (UP) freight trains 5981 North and 9186 South collided head-on in Devine, Texas. The trains were operating on a single main track with passing sidings in dark (nonsignalized) territory in which train movement was governed by conditional track warrant control authority through a dispatcher. The conductor from 5981 North, the engineer from 9186 South, and two unidentified individuals who may have been riding on 5981 North were killed in the derailment and subsequent fire. The engineer from 5981 North received minor injuries, and the conductor from 9186 South was seriously burned. Estimated damages exceeded $6 million.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this acci-dent was the failure of the third-shift dispatcher to communicate the correct track warrant infor-mation to the traincrew and to verify the accu-racy of the read-back information because the UP management had not established and imple-mented workload policies and operational pro-cedures to ensure a safe dispatching system and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had failed to provide standards and oversight in all aspects of train dispatching operations. Contrib-uting to the accident was the lack of an installed positive train separation control system that would have prevented the trains from colliding by automatically intervening in their operation because of inappropriate actions being taken.

The major safety issues discussed in this re-port are the train dispatcher's performance and workload, the adequacy of the UP management oversight of the dispatcher apprentice program and dispatching operations, the sufficiency of the FRA oversight of dispatching operations, the effectiveness of conditional track warrant con-trol authority, the adequacy of disaster prepar-edness, the crashworthiness of locomotives and event recorders, and the merits of positive train separation control systems.

As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the UP, the FRA, and the Texas Railroad Commission. In addition, the Safety Board reiterates a safety recommendation to the FRA.