On November 13, 2021, about 2343 local time, the towing vessel Baxter Southern had pushed its tow of four empty barges against the shoreline of the Upper Mississippi River at mile 372 near Galland, Iowa, when a BNSF coal train transiting the track along the shoreline struck the bow rake of a forward barge that was overhanging the railroad track. Two locomotives and ten hopper cars (loaded with coal) derailed, and six of the derailed hopper cars entered the river. A sheen was observed in the river following the derailment. The two train personnel sustained minor injuries. Damages to the locomotive and freight cars were estimated at $1.9 million. The barge sustained minor scrapes.
We determined that the probable cause of the collision between the Baxter Southern tow and BNSF coal train was the tow’s pilot and captain not correctly identifying a caution area on the electronic chart before deciding, due to the high wind’s effect on the tow’s empty barges, to push the tow up against the riverbank alongside a railroad track.