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Accident Report Detail

​Pennsylvania Railroad, Train PR-11A, Extra 2210 West and Train SW-6, Extra 2217 East, Derailment and Collision

Executive Summary

About 9:30 p.m., January 1, 1968, Pennsylvania Westbound freight train PR-11A, consisting of 98 cars and five-unit diesel-electric locomotive, was passing Dunreith, Indiana, at 42 miles per hour when the trailing wheels of the 88th car, an empty tank car, AESX 850, derailed at a broken rail near the eastern edge of the town. At the same time, eastbound freight train SW-6 consisting of a five-unit diesel-electric locomotive and 106 cars, was moving eastward at 32 miles per hour on the adjacent track. The derailed car in train PR-11A continued westward until it became disengaged from its trailing truck when it struck the crossing board at a grade crossing about 723 feet west of the point of original derailment. One or more cars collided with cars of hazardous materials moving in the opposite direction in SW-6's train, causing a general derailment and puncturing several tank cars of flammable materials. A large-scale fire ensued, followed by a violent explosion of a tank car of ethylene oxide forty-five minutes later. Immediately after the derailment and outbreak of fire the population of Dunreith was evacuated without injury. A cannery and several residences and businesses were destroyed. Three firemen and two policemen were slightly injured in the fire and explosion.

Probable Cause

The probable cause of the initial derailment in train PR-11A was the broken rail within the compromise joint where two different sizes of rail were joined. A contributing causal factor was the inadequate track maintenance which left the joint unsupported and allowed the development of the break in the rail. This initial derailment and the design of the lift-off type of center-pin connection between the truck and body of AESX car 850 which allowed the truck to separate from the car under impacts of a simple derailment, led to the secondary collision and general derailment.

Accident Location: Dunreith , IN    
Accident Date: 1/1/1968
Accident ID: 79780

Date Adopted: 12/18/1968
NTSB Number: RAR-68-03
NTIS Number: PB-190213

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