NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


August 22, 2002

The National Transportation Safety Board today released the following updated information on its investigation of the July 29, 2002 derailment of the Amtrak passenger train, Capitol Limited in Kensington, Maryland.

The train, en route from Chicago to Washington, D.C., derailed in Kensington, Maryland, on straight track owned by CSX. The train was traveling at 60 miles per hour through the area of the derailment. Eleven of thirteen passenger cars derailed. The derailment resulted in 101 injuries that required hospitalization.

Parties to the NTSB’s investigation include: the Federal Railroad Administration, CSX Transportation, Amtrak, United Transportation Union, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, and the Montgomery County Emergency Response Services. On-scene activities were concluded the evening of August 1, 2002.

The Safety Board’s investigative work is progressing in many areas with the assistance of the parties. Below is a summary of the NTSB’s investigative activities to date:

Operations -- The two locomotive event recorders were downloaded on-scene and taken to the NTSB recorder laboratory for readout. The recorded events were identical. Just prior to the derailment and subsequent stop of the locomotives, the engineer made a 15 pound reduction of the brake pipe ("suppression" brake application) for 13 seconds. He then made a full-service brake application for 1 second before the train had a train-line induced emergency brake application. Within the next second, the engineer placed his train brakes in emergency. The train went from 60 miles per hour to stop in about 400 feet.

Signal -- Trains through the accident area are controlled by a wayside signal system controlled by CSX dispatchers in Jacksonville, Florida. The signal group acquired recorded data logs from defect detectors and the wayside signal and dispatcher control systems. All signal units and bungalows were found locked and secured with no signs of tampering or vandalism. The signal group has not identified any conditions that would prevent the signal system from operating as designed.

Mechanical -- The Amtrak train consisted of two locomotive units pulling 13 passenger cars. The locomotive units and the last two passenger cars did not derail. The train was re-railed and taken to the Amtrak maintenance facility in Washington, D.C. for inspection by the NTSB mechanical and crashworthiness groups on Tuesday, July 31, 2002. No pre-accident equipment conditions were found that may have attributed to the derailment.

Track -- The east-west track through the accident area was main line double-track consisting of 122 pound/yard continuous welded rail (CWR) on wooden ties spaced nominally 20 inches apart with every other tie box anchored. The accident train was on the northern or #1 track at the time of the accident. Interviews with maintenance-of-way workers revealed that work was done in the area of the derailment on July 22, 2002. Spot surfacing and tamping had been performed, which disturbed the track by breaking the bond between the ties and ballast. About half way through the work, the tamping machine broke and the work was temporarily finished using a pneumatic hand tamper. A 25-mile-per-hour slow order was then placed on the track until the work that was to have been completed with the mechanized tamper when it was repaired. The track work remained incomplete at the time of the accident due to delays from weather and other work. Several days after the start of the track maintenance, a track supervisor, who thought the repair work had been completed, lifted the slow order, and the maximum allowable speed of 60 miles per hour was in effect for the accident train. Safety Board investigators are continuing their examination of CSX track maintenance procedures.

Human Performance -- The human performance group conducted an on-scene visual inspection of the accident site and interviewed the following Amtrak train crewmembers: engineer, conductor, assistant conductor, and CSX track workers, including the tamper operator, track foreman, track inspector, and roadmaster. The group has collected personnel records of the Amtrak crewmembers and has submitted a formal request for crewmember medical records. Follow-up activities will include additional interviews, obtaining results of post-accident toxicological testing of Amtrak crewmembers (when available), and, if necessary, collection of additional personnel records.

Survival Factors -- The survival factors group interviewed a total of 15 of the most seriously injured passengers the day after the accident. A majority of the passengers interviewed stated that there were no problems evacuating the passenger cars through the emergency windows and emergency doors. One passenger stated that she followed the evacuation instructions listed on the “Passenger Safety Instructions” card provided by Amtrak and was able to easily exit the passenger car.

NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100



The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.