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The current railroaders will have a better answer

I have read Train A was stopped on the main, Train B following behind was running on Restricted Speed and rear ended Train A.  I don't believe PTC was designed to prevent this. Restricted speed is more about vision than speed. That engineer should have been able to stop within 1/2 range of vision of that stopped train.  (or men/ equipment on the tracks, fouled switches, or other obstacles)

Train C on the opposing track just got screwed - wrong place, wrong time.

I was thankful to hear all crew were OK.


I just came from the crash site, well, across the river from the crash site.  They've made a lot of progress.  The two locomotives are now upright and at least aligned with where the track should be.  I'm not sure if their trucks were under them or not.  Someone thought that at least one of them didn't have theirs.   Without binoculars I couldn't tell for sure from my vantage point.  I'll have to zoom in on some of my pictures.  It looked to me that there was only one car still on its side.  Lots of activity with Caterpillars moving assembled sections of track around. Two engines took two of the double stacked cars out to the west as I was leaving the area.

@laming posted:

Right there is the issue.

Train B was NOT running as per the Restricted Speed rule or the accident would NOT have occurred.

Engineer on Train B: Sucks to be him right now.


I agree with you, Andre.  You've identified the root cause. Indeed it does suck to be Engineer B . . . and especially on Norfolk Southern, which is known in the railroad industry for its “old school” attitude on employee discipline.  However, in fairness, it still remains to be investigated in all aspects, and event recorders will be very helpful in that process.  If Train B was composed largely or entirely of auto racks, very prudent speed control would have been appropriate, as it’s like having a 5,000 ton concertina behind your locomotive, and the air braking requires more skill than does, say, a string of hoppers, especially at low speed.

Last edited by Number 90
@Number 90 posted:

<snip>However, in fairness, it still remains to be investigated in all aspects, and event recorders will be very helpful in that process. <snip>

Yes, there may have been an extenuating circumstance that will save Engineer B's butt.

I strongly suspect he was overrunning his distance of vision. It is way too easy to do and if doing so bites you, it bites hard.

In the past, I stressed to the Engineer Trainee's that I've had under my charge that to comply with Restricted Speed you MUST be aware of the conditions: Is the rail wet from dew, sweating, etc? Is it foggy? As well as circumstances: How is this train handling? What's the grade through here? And so forth. Also, IF there's a curve involved, you MUST factor that in and being going SLOW ENOUGH to get stopped in time.

Lastly, I told them you can pass safely through a Restricted Speed zone too slow as many times as you want without being sent home... but you'll only do so once if you're too fast.

Err on the side of caution: Slow that son-of-gun down!


NTSB releases preliminary report.

Two locomotives to be scrapped on site according to this second account.  This article starts out ok but later it mixes up east and west bound.  For clarity: First eastbound train is stopped.  Second eastbound train runs into the back of the first train causing derailed cars onto the westbound track.  Westbound train runs into the derailed cars and the two locomotives derail and slide into the river.  Per the article, a county executive says they still don't know why the first train was stopped.  Well the double track main turns into a single track in Easton before it crosses the Delaware River and continues into New Jersey.  So the fact that there was a westbound train is the reason the first eastbound train was stopped.

Often, crews who are going to be delayed for other trains or for track gangs at a control point will stop before getting close to the control point, if they would have crossings blocked by stopping right at the control point. It’s better to stop farther back, outside of town without blocking any crossings, and thereby avoid having to send the conductor back to cut the train at crossings, and then recouple everything and make an air brake test before proceeding. Thus, they can avoid a lot of delay.
Train Dispatchers are not allowed to tell a crew who has “stopped back” that they are lined up, but they can tell them to pull down and look at the signal.
This may not be the reason the first eastbound train stopped where it did, but it is a possibility and is something often done to save unnecessary delay.

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