Derailment and Collision of Metro-North Railroad Passenger Trains 1548 and 1581

Bridgeport, Connecticut
May 17, 2013

Accident Reconstruction Animation

This animated reconstruction shows the sequence of events that preceeded the derailment and collision of two Metro-North Railroad passenger trains. The accident occurred on May 17, 2013 at 6:01 pm local time, when eastbound train 1548 derailed at milepost 53.25 and was subsequently struck by westbound train 1581. Locomotive event recorder data was used to determine the position, speed and braking status of the two trains. Photographs were used to determine the final rest positions of the trains. The animation does not depict the weather or visibility conditions at the time of the accident. The animation includes audio with a voice over narration.

The animation begins with an overall map of the New Haven subdivision of the Metro-North Railroad. The point of derailment at milepost 53.25 is depicted as well as a photograph of a Metro-North train. The routes of the eastbound and westbound trains between Grand Central Terminal in New York and the New Haven-State Street station in New Haven Connecticut are shown. A three-dimensional animation then illustrates the installation of joint bars on the north rail of track number 4 at milepost 53.25. These joint bars were found broken and replaced 43 days before the accident. The next view is a map focused on the area between the Fairfield Metro station and the Bridgeport station, with the point of derailment in between those stations. A still image from the forward-facing video camera of a westbound Amtrak train is shown, highlighting the visibly broken joint bars on the north rail of track number 4 about 48 minutes before the accident occurred. The still image from the Amtrak video was sharpened to enhance the visibility of the broken joint bars. The positions and speeds of the eastbound and westbound trains are shown during their approach to milepost 53.25. The scene transitions to a closer-in view and steps through the sequence showing the eastbound train derailing at milepost 53.25 and the westbound train applying emergency braking. The final two illustrations show the positions of the two trains at the point of collision and at their final rest positions. The final illustration transitions to a photograph of the two trains at the accident scene.

Voice over Narration:

  1. On May 17, 2013 at 6:01 p.m., eastbound Metro-North Train 1548 derailed at milepost 53.25 on the New Haven subdivision of the Metro-North railroad in Bridgeport, CT.

  2. The eastbound derailed train was then struck by westbound Metro-North Train 1581.

  3. The eastbound train originated from Grand Central Terminal, NY with a final destination of New Haven State-Street, in New Haven, CT.

  4. The westbound train originated from New Haven State-Street Station in New Haven, CT, with a final destination of Grand Central Terminal, NY.

  5. This presentation shows a timeline of events leading up to the accident, starting with track maintenance that took place on April 4, 2013.

  6. At milepost 53.25, two sections of the north rail of track number 4 were connected with joint bars.

  7. Joint bars are installed on the gage side and field side of the rail, and then are bolted together.

  8. On April 4th, 2013, 43 days before the accident, Metro-North track inspectors found that the joint bars on the gage side and the field side were completely broken through at this location.

  9. Metro-North track inspectors also documented that the track was pumping under load, which is vertical movement of track when a train passes over it.

  10.  The broken joint bars were replaced and the area was hand tamped to correct the pumping condition.

  11.  Two days before the accident, Metro North track inspectors again documented a pumping condition and inadequate ballast support on track number 4 at milepost 53.25 no corrective actions were noted in their report.

  12.  On May 17, 2013, about 48 minutes before the accident, an Amtrak train passed milepost 53.25 heading west.

  13.  This still image from the forward-facing video camera on the Amtrak train shows the joint bars of the north rail of track number 4 were broken.

  14.  Over the next 48 minutes, four Metro-North passenger trains traveled across the connection with the broken joint bar with no reported problems.

  15.  The westbound train made its regular station stop at Bridgeport, and departed at 5:58 p.m.

  16.  The eastbound train made its scheduled stop at Fairfield Metro station and departed for Bridgeport at 6:00 p.m.

  17.  The eastbound train accelerated to 74 miles per hour as it approached Milepost 53.25.

  18.  At 6:01 p.m., the eastbound train derailed as it traveled over the broken joint bars.

  19.  The westbound train was traveling at 74 miles per hour when the engineer observed a flash from the overhead electrical wires above the eastbound train as it derailed.

  20.  The engineer of the westbound train applied emergency brakes about 1900 feet from the point of the eastbound train's derailment.

  21.  About 20 seconds after the emergency brakes were applied; the westbound train had slowed to about 23 miles per hour when it collided with the derailed eastbound train.

  22.  48 passengers, 2 engineers, and a conductor were transported to local hospitals on the day of the accident; Metro-North estimated there were about 250 passengers on each train at the time of the accident.