Railroad Accident Report - Derailment of CSX Transportation Coal Train V986-26

Bloomington, Maryland
March 5, 2002

NTSB Number: RAR-02/02
NTIS Number: PB2002-916302
Adopted December 10, 2002
PDF

Executive Summary

About 7:00 a.m. on January 30, 2000, eastbound loaded CSX Transportation (CSXT) coal train V986-26 lost effective braking while descending a section of track known as "17-mile grade" from Altamont to Bloomington, Maryland, and derailed 76 of its 80 "bathtub" high-side gondola cars when the train failed to negotiate curves at excessive speed. The derailed cars destroyed a nearby occupied residence, killing a 15-year-old boy and seriously injuring his mother. Three other occupants of the residence escaped with little or no injury. Track and equipment damages were estimated to be in excess of $3.2 million. There was no resulting fire or hazardous materials release.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the January 30, 2000, derailment of CSX Transportation train V986-26 near Bloomington, Maryland, was the railroad's practice of including dynamic braking in determining maximum authorized speed without providing the engineer with real-time information on the status of the dynamic braking system.

The safety issues addressed in the report include:

  • The determination and designation of maximum authorized train speeds with sufficient safety margins to ensure that a train can be stopped by the air brake system alone.
  • Locomotive engineer support and training.
  • Engineer knowledge of the condition of the dynamic braking system before and during use.

As a result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board makes safety recommendations to CSX Transportation and all class I railroads.

Recommendations

As a result of its investigation of the January 30, 2000, derailment of CSXT train V986-26 near Bloomington, Maryland, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

To CSX Transportation, Inc.:

Systematically ensure that engineers are provided with pilots as appropriate and that locomotive engineers are fully evaluated over the whole of their territories, particularly in critical areas of train handling such as steep grades. (R-02-8)

Revise your locomotive engineer training and requalification programs as necessary to ensure that they address (1) the emergency use of the two-way end-of-train emergency switch, (2) the proper use of power during a brake application to prevent heat fade and loss of braking, and (3) the use of all styles of locomotive radios, especially their use during emergency situations to call the dispatcher. (R-02-9)

Modify CSX Transportation Rule 3.3.7, Speed Control on Descending Grade, Paragraph C, "Use of Power on Heavy Descending Grades," to impose a speed limit in addition to the maximum distance and brake pipe reduction currently imposed to prevent excessive heat generation, heat fade, and loss of braking ability. (R-0-10)

To all class I railroads:

Calculate and document steep-grade maximum authorized speeds to ensure that trains can be stopped by use of the air brake system alone. (R-02-11) Establish procedures to revise steep-grade maximum authorized speeds as necessary. (R-02-12)