Photo of Resting location of wreckage.

​​Resting location of wreckage. (Source: Federal Railroad Administration.)

Raking Collision Between Canadian Pacific Railway Freight Train and Union Pacific Railroad Freight Train Impacting Standing BNSF Railway Freight Train

Investigation Details

What Happened

​​​This information is preliminary and will be either supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation. Release date 13 OCT 2021.

​On August 25, 2021, about 5:08 p.m. local time, a mixed freight Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) train (train 296-23) traveling eastbound collided with a stopped Union Pacific Railroad (UP) train (train M-SSDM-25) on the same track on the St. Paul subdivision in St. Paul, Minnesota, derailing one locomotive from the CP train and two locomotives from the UP train.[1] The derailed CP locomotive then struck and derailed a loaded lumber railcar from a BNSF Railway train (train HNTWBRC-25), which was stopped on the adjacent main track. (See figure.) There were no reported fatalities or injuries. The initial accident damage was estimated at $674,000. The weather at the time of the accident was daylight, 82°F and clear.

​The BNSF St. Paul subdivision consists of two main tracks in a timetable east-west direction.[2] Train movements are coordinated by a BNSF train dispatcher located at its dispatch center in Fort Worth, Texas, and are governed by operating rules, special instructions, timetable instructions, and wayside signal indications of the traffic control system. Train movements are enforced with a positive train control (PTC) system.[3] The maximum authorized speed on the subdivision is 50 mph for freight trains and 70 mph for passenger trains. A permanent speed limit of 25 mph was in effect for freight trains in the area of the accident location.

The CP train originated in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and consisted of four locomotives on the front of the train and 117 railcars (28 loads and 89 empties). Records show that on August 23, the CP train had an air brake test and predeparture inspection before departing eastbound to St. Paul, Minnesota. The CP train entered the United States on August 25, and the PTC system was initialized in CP’s Carrington subdivision. Investigators learned the train crew experienced a failure of the onboard PTC system that same day and contacted the CP PTC Help Desk for assistance. The Help Desk was unable to troubleshoot the failure and per procedures instructed the train crew to proceed without an operating PTC system. The CP train continued toward St. Paul where the train crew radioed the BNSF dispatcher that the onboard PTC system was disabled. The BNSF chief dispatcher authorized the CP train crew to proceed without PTC onto BNSF tracks.

As the CP train traveled on the St. Paul subdivision toward St. Paul, the train crew stopped its train at a control point (Seventh Street) displaying a red (stop) signal for about 20 minutes. The control point then displayed a red over yellow signal (diverging approach indication: proceed prepared to advance on diverging route at the next signal at prescribed speed) and the CP train began moving toward the next control point (Division Street) where the accident occurred.

During the on-scene phase of the investigation, investigators reviewed signal and train control data logs, data from the locomotive event recorder, completed interviews with train crews and operations personnel, and obtained operating rules and special orders in effect at the time of the accident. The NTSB investigation is ongoing, and the investigation activities will focus on train crew performance.​

Parties to the investigation include the Federal Railroad Administration, BNSF, CP, UP, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

  1. ​​All times in this document are local time unless otherwise noted.
  2. ​​Timetable means the authority for the movement of trains subject to the rules.
  3. Positive train control (PTC) is an advanced train control system that uses communication-based and processor-based technology and must reliably and functionally prevent train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and movements through mainline switches in the improper position.