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Accident Report Detail

Collision of Norfolk Southern Corporation Train 255L5 with Consolidated Rail Corporation Train TV 220

Executive Summary

On March 25, 1998, about 4:48 a.m. eastern standard time, southbound Norfolk Southern Corporation (Norfolk Southern) train 255L5, which was en route to Fort Wayne, Indiana, struck eastbound Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) train TV 220, which was en route to Columbus, Ohio. The collision occurred where the Norfolk Southern Huntington District and the Conrail Chicago main lines cross at grade at the east end of the town of Butler, Indiana. Both locomotives and five cars from the Norfolk Southern train derailed, and three cars from the Conrail train, two with multiple stacked platforms, derailed. The Norfolk Southern conductor was killed; the engineer and student engineer sustained minor injuries. The two Conrail crewmembers were not injured.

No hazardous materials were released, but both Norfolk Southern locomotive fuel tanks ruptured and released approximately 7,000 gallons of fuel oil. Norfolk Southern estimated total damages of $264,000 ($187,000 to equipment, $18,000 to track and signals, and $59,000 to cargo). Conrail estimated total damages of $352,200 ($314,000 to equipment, $33,500 to track and signals, and $4,700 to cargo).​

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the engineer and conductor of train 255L5 to comply with operating rules (specifically, their failure to observe and confirm signal aspects and their failure to continuously and directly supervise the student engineer) and the failure of Norfolk Southern Corporation to ensure employees' compliance with operating rules. Contributing to the accident was Norfolk Southern Corporation's failure to ensure that its locomotive engineer training program provided effective, timely training; oversight; and feedback to ensure that students were adequately prepared for operational situations. Also contributing to the probability of this accident occurring was the failure of Norfolk Southern Corporation's signal maintenance program to respond to a reported signal deficiency.​

Accident Location: Butler , IN    
Accident Date: 3/25/1998
Accident ID: CHI98FR009

Date Adopted: 7/13/1999
NTSB Number: RAR-99-02
NTIS Number: PB99-916302