Board Meeting Animation - Collision Between Two BNSF Railway Freight Trains

 

Red Oak, Iowa
April 17, 2011

This narrated animation displays the sequence of events leading up to the eastbound BNSF coal train collision with the rear end of a standing BNSF maintenance of way equipment train. The collision occurred near Red Oak, Iowa on April 17, 2011 at about 6:55 a.m. central daylight time. The animation begins approximately 15 minutes before the collision, when the BNSF maintenance of way equipment train stopped at CP McPherson, and the striking BNSF coal train was proceeding east on the same track about 3.7 miles behind. A series of still images steps through the events until the final minute before impact, which is then shown at real time to the point of impact. The animation then transitions to a post-accident photograph. The photograph was provided by the Red Oak Fire Department.

The top of the screen shows a profile view of the two accident trains with a magnified indication of the elevation. The orange bar on the left side represents the BNSF coal train traveling eastbound, and the yellow bar on the right represents the stopped BNSF maintenance of way equipment train. The grade signal is also indicated. Stars are shown on the profile view to indicate the points where the alerter alarmed.

Text in the middle section of the screen shows the time, along with the speed, throttle position and alerter status of the BNSF coal train.

The bottom of the screen depicts a three-dimensional view of the track ahead from the cab of the BNSF coal train.

This accident reconstruction was based on information obtained from the BNSF coal train event recorders and track geometry provided by BNSF. Weather and visibility at the time of the accident are not shown.

Narration:

  1. At the time the maintenance of way equipment train stopped at CP McPherson, the striking coal train was proceeding east on the same track about 3.7 miles behind.
  2. The next signal was a grade signal that governed entry into the track segment occupied by the maintenance of way equipment train.
  3. As the striking coal train continued up grade, the alerter alarmed after 2 minutes of no activity and was reset.
  4. As the grade signal came into view, speed had reduced to 14 mph.
  5. The grade signal was displaying a red aspect that allowed the engineer to proceed without stopping at restricted speed, a speed low enough to allow stopping short of another train.
  6. The striking coal train passed the grade signal at 13 mph.
  7. Restricted speed was required from this point forward.
  8. After about 2 minutes with no activity, the alerter alarmed and was reset.
  9. Shortly thereafter, the engineer made a throttle reduction.
  10. About 2 minutes later, speed had dropped to 10 mph and the engineer increased the throttle.
  11. As the train crested the grade, speed increased as more of the train's cars came onto the downgrade.
  12. After 2 minutes of no activity, the alerter alarmed again and was reset.
  13. The engineer immediately reduced the throttle.
  14. Over the next minute, the engineer made no control inputs and speed had increased to 20 mph when the rear of the maintenance of way equipment train came into view.
  15. Over the next 46 seconds, with the rear car of the maintenance of way train clearly in view, the engineer made no control inputs and train speed increased to 23 mph at impact.
  16. Although the stopped train ahead was clearly in view, neither crewmember on the striking coal train activated the braking system.
  17. The collision occurred a few seconds past 6:55 a.m., both crew members on the striking coal train were fatally injured.
  18. Had the accident not occurred, the alerter would have alarmed again a few seconds after impact.