NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


December 4, 2002

On July 18, 2001, an eastbound CSXT freight train (L412-16), consisting of 3 locomotive units and 31 loaded and 29 empty cars (total of 60 cars), derailed in the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland. The train had just departed the CSXT Mount Clair Yard located about 6 miles west of the derailment site. No one was injured in the accident.

The following is an update on the NTSB’s investigation.

Accident sequence

The train entered the west end of the tunnel (Camden Yard sports facility) at a speed of 23 miles per hour without any reported incident. The engineer described feeling the train “jerk” and the traction effort increasing. Shortly thereafter, an uncommanded emergency air brake application stopped the train.

Upon derailment, the train broke apart with a 300-350 foot separation between the 45th and 46th cars. The 46th through 56th cars derailed (11 cars). The cars derailed upright and generally in line, with the 49th through 51st cars leaning against the left side of the tunnel wall.

The 52nd railroad car, a tank car of tri-propylene, was punctured. The released tri-propylene caught fire and set fire to the 6 paper product cars ahead of it and one behind. An adjacent hydrochloric acid car, the 53rd car, developed a leak. The derailed cars came to rest under Howard Street just north of the intersection with Lombard Street.

As a result of the derailment and subsequent release of a hazardous material and fire, Camden Yards was evacuated. Because of the fire inside the tunnel, NTSB investigators could not enter and inspect the derailment site for six days.

Accident Investigation

· Investigators have completed extensive computer simulation testing at the Association of American Railroad’s Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado, in its evaluation of the dynamics of the derailment sequence.

· The NTSB’s laboratory has completed its metallurgical evaluation of the rail recovered from the derailment area within the tunnel and the fractured 40-inch cast iron water pipe that was located above the tunnel at the intersections of Howard and Lombard streets.

· A mathematical finite analysis of the fracture mechanism is being performed on the 40-inch pipe.

· At the NTSB’s request, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is completing a study on the tunnel substructure and underground areas adjacent to the Howard Street Tunnel.

· Safety Board investigators have been working with staff from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the National Institute of Standards (NIST), and the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) to evaluate the effects of a fire in a tunnel. These reports will be included in the investigation factual report. Completion of work by the NIST and SWRI for the NRC is expected within the next 3-6 months.

The Board will release more factual information as it becomes available.

NTSB Media Contact:
Keith Holloway
(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.