About 4:17 p.m., central standard time, on January 18, 2006, eastbound Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) freight train No. 226A117 (226), while traveling about 50 mph near Lincoln, Alabama, diverted from the main track onto a siding track where it struck the rear of eastbound NS train No. 22RA116 (22R), which was stopped in the siding. The collision derailed the three locomotives and the first seven cars of train 226 and the rear three cars of train 22R. The three crewmembers of train 226 were injured. Property damage was estimated to be about $5.2 million.
We determined that the probable cause of the January 18, 2006, collision of Norfolk Southern Railway train 226 with the rear of Norfolk Southern Railway train 22R at Lincoln, Alabama, was the failure by the crew of train 226 to recognize an extra lighted aspect (caused by reflected sunlight) as an imperfectly displayed signal and to treat it as a most restrictive indication. Contributing to the accident was Norfolk Southern Railway’s inadequate illustrations and text in the rulebook and inadequate training to prepare crews to recognize a signal displaying an extra lighted aspect as an imperfectly displayed signal. Also contributing to the accident was the lack of a positive train control system that would have intervened when the crew did not respond appropriately to the signal.
We made recommendations to Norfolk Southern Railway Company, Class I Railroads, the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.