Diagram of accident.

​Diagram of accident.​

Norfolk Southern Railway Employee Fatality

What Happened

This information is preliminary and subject to change. Release Date: January 17, 2023

​On December 13, 2022, about 12:01 a.m. local time, a Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) trainee conductor was killed, and another conductor injured, when the lead locomotive of NS freight train A55-12 (A55) struck a length of steel angle iron protruding from a gondola car on NS freight train 340-12 that was stopped on an adjacent main track in Bessemer, Alabama. [1] The 70-car NS northbound train A55 was traveling about 55 mph on main track 2 when it approached a stationary gondola car, SSEX 100843, part of a 21-car pickup recently added to NS freight train 340-12 located on adjacent main track 1. [2] (See figure.) Angle iron originally welded to the gondola’s top-right edge was broken and hanging loose, fouling main track 2 at milepost 153.3. [3] As the lead locomotive approached the gondola car, it collided with the angle iron fouling main ​track 2. The angle iron then pierced the locomotive’s left front door window, continued into the operating cab, and struck both conductors. The NS trainee conductor was killed and the conductor was seriously injured. Visibility conditions at the time of the accident were dark with cloudy skies, and the temperature was 50°F. Damage was estimated by NS to be $1,300.00.

​​While on scene, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators photographed and documented the locomotive and gondola car damage, collected data from the locomotive’s forward-facing image recorder and event recorder and from signal and dispatcher logs, examined train air brake equipment, obtained radio and telephone recordings, and completed interviews. The NTSB’s investigation is ongoing. Future investigative activity will focus on NS freight car inspection practices and on NS and U.S. Pipe operating procedures for unloading cars and returning freight cars to NS.

As a result of this accident, the Federal Railroad Administration issued Safety Bulletin 2022-01, Pre-Departure Inspections – Appendix D to Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 215, informing railroads of this accident and advising them to take action to remind train crews to perform visual inspections when safe to do so on trains placed into service. [4]

Parties to this investigation include the Federal Railroad Administration; Norfolk Southern Railway; the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

 [1] (a) An angle iron is a length of metal with two sides that meet at 90 degrees to form an L shape. The section of angle iron involved in this accident was 16 feet 7.75 inches long and 0.5 inches thick, with sides 5 inches tall. (b) A gondola is an open-top railroad freight car. ​
 [2] A pickup is when railcars are added to a train while en route to its destination. Gondola SSEX 100843 had recently been unloaded of metal scrap by metal fabrication company U.S. Pipe at its Bessemer facility and returned to service in NS train 340-12 for transport to another destination.
 [3] Fouling a track means the placement of an individual or an item of equipment in such proximity to a track that the individual or equipment could be struck by a moving train or on-track equipment or, in any case, is within 4 feet of the field side of the near running rail.