Posts Tagged ‘NTSB investigations’

NTSB Sets Hearings in East Palestine

May 29, 2023

A two-day hearing has been set for June 22-23 in East Palestine to take testimony as part of the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board of a Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern derailment in the town located near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.

The hearings, to be held at East Palestine High School, will begin at 9 a.m.

In a news release, NTSB officials said the hearings will focus on hazard communications and emergency responder preparedness for the initial emergency response; the circumstances that led to the decision to vent and burn five rail tank cars carrying vinyl chloride; freight car bearing failure modes and wayside detection systems; and tank car derailment damage, crashworthiness, and hazardous materials package information.

The hearings are open to the public but only NTSB board members, investigators, scheduled witnesses and parties to the hearing will be allowed to participate.

Preliminary Reports Released on 2 NS Ohio Incidents

March 22, 2023

The National Transportation Board has issued preliminary reports on two incidents involving NS trains in Ohio earlier this month.

Wheelsets of steel coil care are being eyed as the cause of a March 4 derailment of 28 cars near Springfield of train C04.

The agency has placed an investigative hold on wheelsets of the cars involved in the Springfield derailment and other truck component. The hold also includes wheelsets of similar NS cars that were not involved in the derailment.

The wheelsets will be examined at the NS shops in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Investigators are going to focus on “failure analysis of the subject wheelsets and on industry-wide standards and practices for rail car wheel and axle assembly processes, specifications, and quality control.”

There were no injuries in the Springfield derailment, but some cars took down a power line, causing 47 homes to lose electricity. No hazardous substances were involved in the derailment.

The March 7 incident in Cleveland left an NS conductor dead after his train struck a dump truck at a grade crossing on the grounds of a Cleveland-Cliffs Incorporated steel plant.

NTSB investigators determined the truck and train entered the crossing at the same time. The conductor was riding the train in a shoving move.

The truck was owned by TMS International and was hauling rock. Video taken from a steel company camera showed the truck stopped for the crossing and then began to cross the tracks.

The train was traveling 9 miles per house at the time of the collision. The top speed within the plant is 10 mph. The grade crossing has stop signs but no flashing signals.

NTSB Finds Anomalies With Tank Car Relief Valves Taken From 5 Cars in East Palestine Derailment

March 22, 2023

Investigators found anomalies with the function of some pressure relief devices removed from the five vinyl chloride monomer tank cars involved in the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine.

The valves regulate the internal pressure of rail tank cars by releasing material when under pressure.

National Transportation Safety Board officials said the defects were found during a review of the valves at a Texas laboratory.

The NTSB finding said the function of some values may have compromised their pressure relieving capability. However, officials said further testing is needed to further investigate that finding.

The investigation at the Texas lab found that  one of the internal springs of one of the values was coated with aluminum, which is not compatible with vinyl chloride.

The NTSB report said that although aluminum debris from melted protective housing covers entered the valve discharge areas, there was no evidence that melted aluminum entered the tank car itself.

NTSB Wants Changes in Track Protection

October 1, 2021

The National Transportation Safety Board wants Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration to ban the practice of using watchmen to notify track worker of approaching trains in areas where positive train control offers additional safety features.

The recommendation was included in an NTSB report about an April 24, 2018, accident in which an Amtrak watchman was killed in Bowie, Maryland, when he was struck from behind by a northbound Amtrak train while focused on the movement of a southbound MARC commuter train.

The report said the probable cause of the accident was “Amtrak’s insufficient site-specific safety work plan for the Bowie project that (1) did not consider the multiple main tracks in a high-noise environment and (2) did not provide the rail gang watchman with a safe place to stand,” leading to him standing on an active track.

NTSB noted in its report that PTC systems can automatically slow trains through work zones.

NTSB Issues Report on CSX Pa. Derailment

December 10, 2020

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.

NTSB To Hold Hearing on CSX Carey Collision

August 7, 2020

The National Transportation Safety Board will make its final determination on Sept. 15 of the likely cause of a 2019 collision between two CSX trains near Carey, Ohio.

The Board will conduct a virtual hearing at 9:30 a.m. on that day that will be webcast.

No members of the public, STB staff or members will be gathered in one location for the proceeding.

The crash occurred on Aug. 12, 2019, and caused both trains to derail.

The lead locomotive and four cars of a westbound train turned onto their sides while 21 cars of an eastbound train derailed.

The crew members involved suffered minor injuries and damage from the wreck was an estimated $4.9 million.

During the meeting, the Board will vote on the findings, probable cause and recommendations as well as any changes to the draft final report.

A link to the hearing  will be available at

NTSB Releases Preliminary CSX Ohio Crash Report

October 12, 2019

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the August collision of two CSX trains in Ohio is focusing on train crew distractions, crew resource management, and current railroad operating rules for positive train control.

The NTSB this week released a preliminary report on the collision near Carey, Ohio, on the Columbus Subdivision in which local train H702 rammed into the W314, a 110-car frac sand train.

The report said the crash occurred in PTC territory although the locomotive of the local was operating at the time of the early morning incident with its PTC apparatus in restricted mode while the PTC system on the frac sand train had been disabled due to a malfunction.

“The [local] crew’s first job assignment was to set out 30 empty cars in Carey,” the report said.

“CSX instructions specify that for trains operating with active PTC, crews performing pickups, set offs, or other switching activities including shoving movements must: (1) Stop the train/locomotive; (2) Use restricted mode for the PTC system. In restricted mode, the PTC system allows train movement at restricted speed and no longer automatically stops the train before it can violate a red (stop) signal.”

After setting out 30 of his train’s 176 cars the conductor planned to return to the head end aboard a railroad shuttle van.

“The engineer of train H70211 departed with the PTC system still in restricted mode and continued westbound for about 2 miles to CP Springs,” the report said.

“Preliminary event recorder data indicated the train speed never exceeded 20 mph (upper limit threshold of CSX restricted speed rule). The train continued past the red signal at CP Springs and collided with the sixth railcar of the eastbound train W31411.”

The report said the W314’s PTC system had failed while that train was under the control of another crew and had been disabled.

“The crew involved in the accident notified the CSX dispatcher of the disabled PTC system prior to departing Garrett [Indiana] and were given permission to proceed to Columbus, where the system could be repaired,” the NTSB preliminary report says.

The crew of W314 told NTSB investigators that signal indications showed that their train would diverge from the single main track onto main track 2 at CP Springs.

“They stated that they saw the westbound train approaching CP Springs on main track 1 and noted the locomotive headlight was on bright,” the NTSB report said.

“The eastbound train engineer said that he flashed his headlight to indicate to the westbound train engineer to dim the locomotive headlight but received no response.”

After the collision, the lead locomotive of the H702 derailed along with four trash cars. Twenty-one of W314’s frac sand cars, in positions six through 26, derailed.

The engineers of both trains were treated for minor injuries and all crew members of both trains were given drug and alcohol tests.

Truck was on Crossing at Time of Crash

February 23, 2018

An on-board camera has shown that the garbage truck that was struck by an Amtrak special on Jan. 31, had entered a grade crossing after the crossing gates had gone down.

The National Transportation Safety Board said this week that the forward-facing camera in the lead locomotive showed that as the crossing came into view, the gates were down and the garbage truck was on the tracks at the grade crossing.

The NTSB said that witnesses to the crash reported the truck had entered the crossing after the gates were down at the crossing near Crozet, Virginia.

The special was carrying Republican members of Congress to an annual political retreat at the Greenbrier resort hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

A passenger in the truck was killed and another suffered serious injuries. The truck driver came away with minor injuries.

Three Amtrak crew members and three passengers also suffered minor injuries.

The preliminary NTSB report said that the crossing has advance warning signs and pavement markings on its approach. It is equipped with crossbuck signs, warning lights, bells and gates.

The collision caused the front axle of the lead P42DC locomotive to derail, although it remained upright.

The NTSB will later release a finding of probable cause and issue safety recommendations.

NTSB Wants Screening for Sleep Disorders

February 16, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board wants the Federal Railroad Administration to require railroads to medically screen “safety-sensitive” employees for sleep disorders.

The recommendation came in a special investigation report about two end-of-track collisions at commuter train stations in New Jersey and New York.

In a separate report, the NTSB said last week that both accidents, which involved commuter railroads in the New York City area, were caused by engineer fatigue resulting from undiagnosed and untreated obstructive sleep apnea.

In both accidents trains struck end-of-track bumping posts and continued into the waiting rooms of the stations.

In a news release, the MTSB said both incidents had “almost identical” probable causes and safety issues.

The NTSB also called for the use of technology such as positive train control in terminal stations and improving the effectiveness of system safety program plans to improve terminal operations.

The New Jersey accident, which occurred on Sept. 29, 2016, and involved a New Jersey Transit train in Hoboken, killed one person and injured 110.

The other accident involved the Long Island Rail Road and occurred on Jan. 4, 2017, at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York. That incident injured 108.

Ex-NTSB Head Says Accidents Will Continue to Occur Until PTC is Installed and Implemented

February 13, 2018

A former head of the National Transportation Safety Board believes that accidents such as the one that killed two Amtrak crew members in South Carolina on Feb. 4 will continue until positive train control is fully installed and implemented.

Deborah Hersman said in an interview with Trains magazine that two recent derailments involving Amtrak that resulted in fatalities could have been prevented had PTC been in place at the time of the accidents.

Hersman said those accidents are especially frustrating because PTC is designed to prevent head-on collisions and speed-related incidents.

Excessive speed figured in a December derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train in Washington State while a misaligned switch has been implicated in the head-on crash of the southbound Silver Star with a parked CSX auto rack train.

“History just keeps repeating itself and we’re not learning from past mistakes fast enough to save lives,” she said.

Hersman was appointed to the NTSB in 2004. She was named chair of the board in 2009. Since 2014, she had served as president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

In the interview with Trains, Hersman noted that the NTSB has been calling for the implementation of PTC since 1990.

She said the number of accidents that might have been avoided had PTC been in place has continue to grow.

Following a head-on collision between a Los Angeles commuter train and a Union Pacific train in 2008, Congress adopted legislation requiring Class I railroad mainlines that haul hazardous materials or routes with regularly scheduled passenger service to have PTC.

The deadline was to have been at the end of 2016, but was extended by Congress to the end of 2018.

By law railroads required to have PTC must show that they have installed it by the end of this year. Failing that, they must show they have made substantial progress to seek an extension to 2020, something Hersman said would be disingenuous.

“We keep kicking the can down the road,” she said. “The pressure is on in the next 10 months because having PTC close to being installed is not close enough.”