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Accident Report Detail

Derailment of Southern Railway Company Train No. 2, The Crescent

Executive Summary

About 5:38 a.m., on December 3, 1978, as the Southern Railway Company's train No. 2, The Crescent, was passing through a 515' curve at Elma Nelson County, Virginia, eight cars and four locomotive units were derailed. Six persons were killed, 41 persons were injured, and property damage was estimated to be $557,500.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the engineer to observe the track ahead because he was unnecessarily distracted by a transition problem, which led to his operation of the train into a 515' curve at a high speed. The high speed produced excessive lateral forces which caused the wheels of either the fourth locomotive unit or the first car to climb out of the gage, cross the head of the rail, and derail.

Accident Location: Elma , VA    
Accident Date: 12/3/1978
Accident ID: RAR7904

Date Adopted: 6/7/1979
NTSB Number: RAR-79-04
NTIS Number: PB-297598/AS

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