No Injuries in NS 3-Train Derailment in Pennsylvania

No injuries were reported in a three-train collision on Norfolk Southern in Pennsylvania on Friday.

New reports indicated that the railroad’s Pittsburgh Line reopened on Sunday morning following the crash in which one train struck the other from behind, causing a derailment that struck the third train on an adjacent track.

The crash occurred about 3:30 p.m. near Georges Station Road in Hempfield Township about three miles east of Greensburg.

NS said in a statement that a westbound empty crude oil train hit the rear of an intermodal train, derailing both locomotives of the tank car train and some of the tankers. The derailed locomotives remained upright.

Eleven intermodal cars carrying 50 containers also derailed. Of those nine intermodal cars carrying 32 J.B. Hunt containers spilled onto the adjacent track.

NS said that after the line is reopened that traffic would be delayed 24 to 48 hours.

Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian did not operate on Saturday between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Sunday eastbound train originated in Harrisburg.

Officials said no hazardous material was spilled during the derailment.

Railroad officials are still investigating the cause of the collision.

Railway Age reported that the tank car train was operated at restricted speed of less than 20 miles per hour when it crested a grade and was going around curve when it struck the stationary intermodal train on an descending grade.

The report said the Pittsburgh line in that area has positive train control, but that a PTC system would not necessarily have prevented the collision because although it regulates the maximum restricted speed in a location “it is unable to determine the exact position (emphasis in original) of obstructions ahead.”

The trade magazine said existing PTC systems do not through an end-of-train device determine the position of the rear of a train and transmit that telemetry to a following train via the wayside and central office PTC equipment.

Obstructions could be a stopped train, a broken rail, or an improperly lined switch. PTC also cannot determine “half the range of vision” for a railroad’s restricted-speed rule, Railway Age reported.

At best PTC could mitigate the severity of restricted-speed accidents.

Railway Age said PTC will not prevent some low-speed collisions caused by permissive block operation in which more than one train is in a block a time.

Nor can it prevent accidents caused by trains “shoving” in reverse, derailments caused by track or train defects, grade crossing collisions, or collisions with previously derailed trains.

The magazine said such features might become part of the next generation of PTC.

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