Aerial view of the first derailment site (left) and the second derailment site (right).

​Aerial view of the first derailment site (left) and the second derailment site (right). (Courtesy of Norfolk Southern)​

Norfolk Southern Railway Train Derailment

What Happened

​ This information is preliminary and subject to change. Release Date: 20 March 2023

​On March 9, 2023, about 6:19 a.m. local time, westbound Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) mixed freight train 245A109 derailed 2 locomotives and 37 railcars on the Alabama East End District of its Gulf Division in Anniston, Alabama. [1]  The derailment involved two sections of the train, resulting in two derailment sites. At the first site, located near the head end of the consist, 2 locomotives and 29 railcars derailed. At the second site, located near the rear end of the consist, eight railcars derailed. A total of three tank cars carrying hazardous materials derailed: one containing sodium hydrosulfide residue and two containing ferrous chloride residue. The tank cars remained intact and did not release hazardous materials. There were no reported fatalities or injuries. NS estimated damages to equipment, track, and signal infrastructure to be about $2.9 million. At the time of the accident, visibility conditions were clear with early morning daylight; the weather was 57°F with no precipitation.

​The crew of train 245A109 consisted of one engineer and one conductor. The train was composed of 6 locomotives and 108 railcars; 34 railcars were loaded, 74 were empty, and 2 of the locomotives were being transported as waybill locomotives.[2] The waybill locomotives were not equipped with alignment control couplers, which resist lateral coupler movement under compressive in-train forces. NS operating rule L-212 prohibits coupling together locomotives without alignment control couplers when those locomotives will be dead-in-tow.[3] The waybill locomotives were coupled together and picked up from Bluffton, Indiana, on February 24, 2023.[4] An NS inspection performed before the first movement involving the coupled waybill locomotives did not identify the absence of alignment control couplers.

​While on scene, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators examined railroad equipment and track conditions; reviewed data from the signal system, wayside defect detectors, and the lead locomotive’s event recorder and forward-facing and inward-facing image recorders; and completed interviews.

The NTSB’s investigation is ongoing. Future investigative activity will focus on NS communication, maintenance, and inspection practices; locomotive and railcar positioning; and train handling.

Parties to the investigation include the Federal Railroad Administration; the Alabama Public Service Commission; NS; the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division.[5]

[1] T​rain 245A109 was traveling from Atlanta, Georgia, to Birmingham, Alabama. 
​[2] A waybill locomotive is being transported for revenue and is dead-in-tow; meaning it is not used for tractive power.
[3] See NS-1 Rules for Equipment Operation and Handling, effective January 1, 2019.
[4] The waybill locomotives were moved by four trains before being added to train 245A109 on the day of the derailment.
​[5] The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division spells employees with one final e.