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Accident Report Detail

Derailment of Amtrak Train No. 21 (The Eagle) on the Missouri Pacific Railroad

Executive Summary

About 10:09 a.m. on November 12, 1983, Amtrak train No. 21 (The Eagle), with 162 persons aboard, derailed near Woodlawn, Texas, while traveling at 72 mph on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The train was traveling westbound on the single main track when it passes over a section of rail that a repair crew had just installed to replace a broken rail. The break had occurred at a field weld in a length of new continuous-welded, 136-lb RE section, chrome-vanadium alloy, high-strength, vacuum-treated rail, which had been installed in the track about 1 month earlier. The temporary repair consisted of removing a length of the outer rail in a curve and replacing it with a 19-foot 6-inch length of rail bolted in place. The repair insert was a section of used, 136-1b RE section, standard-carbon rail. The repair crew used an oxyacetylene torch to cut both the new alloy rail and the used standard-carbon rail during the repair. The accident resulted in 4 passenger fatalities and 72 injuries.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was torch-cutting a chrome-vanadium alloy rail in a track curve while making a temporary track repair, precipitating thermal cracks that served as the origin points for a catastrophic rail failure when a high-speed passenger train passed over. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the Missouri Pacific Railroad to train its maintenance-of-way department employees adequately in the requirements necessary to their positions, and of its management to monitor adherence to its maintenance-of-way rules and procedures and Federal regulations regarding minimum track safety standards.

Accident Location: Woodlawn , TX    
Accident Date: 11/12/1983
Accident ID: DCA84AR002

Date Adopted: 2/4/1985
NTSB Number: RAR-85-01
NTIS Number: PB85-916301

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