NTSB Issues Report on CSX Pa. Derailment

Improper use of hand brakes was the probable cause of a 2017 CSX derailment in Hyndman, Pennsylvania, that resulted in 1,000 people being evacuated and property damage of $1.8 billion.

The National Transportation Safety Board said hand brakes on empty rail cars were set improperly.

It found that placement of empty cars at the front of the train consist led to the build-up of longitudinal and lateral forces that, along with tread buildup on the 35th car in the consist, led that car to be the first to derail.

The derailment occurred before dawn on Aug. 2, 2017.

The train had 70 cars of hazardous materials, including a car carrying propane that caught fire and cars carrying molten sulfur and asphalt that leaked.

The fire drove fire fighters away from the scene due to smoke and high levels of sulfur dioxide from the smoldering molten sulfur.

The fire was not extinguished until two days later and the evacuation order remained in place for three days.

The NTSB had three recommendations for CSX, one for the Federal Railroad Administration, one for the Association of American Railroads, and one for the Security and Emergency Response Training Center.

For CSX, the board recommended revising rules on building trains to place large blocks of empty cars near the end of a consist; prohibiting the use of hand brakes on empty cars to control train speed; and incorporating lessons about the hazards of fire in jacketed pressure tank cars in first-responder training and outreach.

For the FRA, the board recommended issuing guidance to develop risk reduction programs.

Such a program was not required at the time of the derailment but one was mandated under a rule published in February 2020 and to become effective in August 2021.

For the AAR, the NTSB recommended working with member railroads to develop those programs.

For the response training center, the NTSB recommended incorporating lessons from the accident into first-responder training programs.

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