About 5:22 a.m., eastern daylight time, on August 20, 1996, a CSX Transportation (CSXT) eastbound freight train Q316-18 collided head-on with westbound CSXT train Q317-19 (lead Engine No. 23) while operating on the CSXT's Short Line Subdivision, near Smithfield, West Virginia.
Train Q316-18 consisted of 3 locomotives and 27 cars, and was 1373 feet in length and had 2773 trailing tons. There were two crewmembers in the operating compartment of the lead locomotive: an engineer and a conductor.
Train Q317-19 consisted of 3 locomotives and 41 cars, and was 2274 feet in length and had 1888 trailing tons. The train was manned by an engineer, and a conductor, who were riding in the operating compartment of the lead locomotive.
As a result of the collision, a total of 4 locomotive units and 11 cars from both trains were derailed; three locomotives were destroyed. Two crewmembers received serious injuries and two crewmembers received fatal injuries. A tank car containing polyvinyl chloride was ruptured and an undetermined amount of product was spilled. Local police evacuated a ½ square mile area near the accident site as a precautionary measure. Total damages were estimated at $3,848,914. At the time of the collision, weather conditions were reported to be foggy with an ambient temperature of 64° F.