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From the photos shown, this happened early morning today......Dec 21st!  I do not have much I could find, but it is a sorry mishap, and perhaps the age of the bridge is a factor.  I know, once I was an Archaeologist doing field work in the immediate vicinity of that bridge.  I believe it may be even pre-civil war.

Original Post

The video does not seem to show much if any, damage to the track on the bridge structure from overhead or in the horizontal photo. The bridge span girders seem unaffected a well. However the cat walk beside the rails is wiped out from the cars that slid over it when derailed. 

That bridge, while laid out on an 1860's track plan, is much more modern than its original wood trusses. They were replaced with steel deck girder spans seen in the photos during the first half of the 20th Century.

From the position of other cars in that train to the left still on the rails, the empty covered hoppers that derailed likely string-lined when going through the reverse curve leading onto the bridge.

Both mid-19th century curves at that location are rather tight. Heavier or more cars at the rear of the train on the back curve could have allowed these long, empty and rather light weight cars to be pulled up and over the edge of the oppositely curved rails on the bridge. 

Just my 2 cents worth of observation here, but a later report should determine the cause of that derailment.

S. Islander

 

 

 

When I was in grade school we took a family trip to the east coast and one stop was at Harpers Ferry.  I think it was 5 of us 7 siblings and our parents in a station wagon.  My brothers and I walked halfway across that bridge on the ties as a dare, expecting a train to burst through the tunnel at any moment forcing us to jump off and into the river below.  I swear I broke the Guinness record for rock skipping at the confluence of the two rivers.  We had the book with us.  I skipped it 21 times, the record was 16.  Alas, I never did get credit for that, but I remember it well.

Last edited by William 1
William 1 posted:

When I was in grade school we took a family trip to the east coast and one stop was at Harpers Ferry.  I think it was 5 of us 7 siblings and our parents in a station wagon.  My brothers and I walked halfway across that bridge on the ties as a dare, expecting a train to burst through the tunnel at any moment forcing us to jump off and into the river below.  I swear I broke the Guinness record for rock skipping at the confluence of the two rivers.  We had the book with us.  I skipped it 21 times, the record was 16.  Alas, I never did get credit for that, but I remember it well.

As additional information, there are two bridges there at Harpers Ferry, first and foremost is the double track B&O main line, second is the VERY old, single track, Civil War era bridge form the Shenendoaha (sp) branch, involved in this derailment. The freight train was obviously coming off the branch line, heading east for Brunswick, MD.

Rich Melvin posted:

This looks like a train-handling derailment. Either too much dynamic brake or too much pulling with light cars on the head end.

Or it could have been an undesired emergency brake application near the rear causing the rear to sit down and pulling the train off of the rails. Since we are all guessing here, I would suspect that since the AT shares the bridge, the speed of the train would be slow, which in turn would exacerbate a UDE.

Rich Melvin posted:

This looks like a train-handling derailment. Either too much dynamic brake or too much pulling with light cars on the head end.

Train handling. How can you look at the picture and conclude it was train handling. As a retired engineer I must ask.  Is it a heavy downgrade that would necessitate heavy dynamic braking or a steep incline that requires heavy pulling.  Does the timetable limit the amount of power to be used at the head end when pulling through this section of track. Please explain your rational in determining it must be train handling.

Was told today from a reliable source a couple things about this. First, the train was stopped on a S-curve which is on the bridge approach. The engineer released the brakes but was in a hurry. He throttled up before the brakes had been fully released and...ker-splash! He was also to have been terminated today. Was his second major accident in a year's time.

Last edited by Dave Albright
Dave Albright posted:

Was told today from a reliable source a couple things about this. First, the train was stopped on a S-curve which is on the bridge approach. The engineer released the brakes but was in a hurry. He throttled up before the brakes had been fully released and...ker-splash! He was also to have been terminated today. Was his second major accident in a year's time.

Well now, that pretty well answers the post by "FOREST", above and confirms just what Rich Melvin posted. Imagine THAT!

@Forest posted:

Train handling. How can you look at the picture and conclude it was train handling. As a retired engineer I must ask.  Is it a heavy downgrade that would necessitate heavy dynamic braking or a steep incline that requires heavy pulling.  Does the timetable limit the amount of power to be used at the head end when pulling through this section of track. Please explain your rational in determining it must be train handling.

There are two posts in this thread that attributed the derailment to train handling:

  • Was told today from a reliable (but unnamed and therefore unverified) source a couple things about this. First, the train was stopped on a S-curve which is on the bridge approach. The engineer released the brakes but . . . throttled up before the brakes had been fully released . . .
  • They released a report last week, blaming the engineer for the accident . . .

To be perfectly honest, both messages, while they may likely be the truth, are hearsay, and they don't have to be believed.  

Personally, the way the cars are lying in relation to the curve, my first inclination would be to say that they are string lined, which is caused by excessive draft force.  But, we have no information as to the point of first derailment, which is critical in investigating an accident of this type.  So, did the Engineer pull too hard?  Did he begin trying to move the train before the brakes at the rear of the train had released?  Did one truck of a car derail from a mechanical or track failure, and then dig in, string lining cars ahead of it?  Did an undesired emergency brake application occur and cause the empties on the rear of the train to "squat" while the loads on the head end could not be stopped as quickly?  And how fast was the train going when it derailed?

These are all possibilities that had to be considered by the railroad in its investigation of the accident.  And, since the derailment put cars into a river that is used for the water supply of downstream communities, we can be certain that the FRA, and possibly the NTSB, also took part in the accident investigation, and that it was carefully investigated.

The short version of the findings is quite sufficient for this Forum.  We are not the Air Brake Association.

So, each of us can favor the root cause that most satisfies us.  I would like to see an official statement about the cause. Meanwhile, we on this Forum have a video and a couple of messages posted in good faith, pointing toward excessive draft force.  If the Engineer actually was dismissed over his responsibility in this derailment, then we can be sure there is evidence to back up the dismissal.  With modern day event recorders, the investigating committee could get detailed information about the activity aboard the locomotive.

Last edited by Number 90

The following information was taken from the FRA Railroad Accident Report associated with this incident, that CSX filed with FRA.

Train consisted of 2 units, 0 loads, 105 empties, 3236 tons.

FRA Cause Code applied as cause for this incident is:    H514- Failure to allow air brakes to fully release before proceeding.

The report states    "As CSX train B80220 began to make a pulling move from a complete stop, engineer used excessive force to make initial movement with brakes still applied on train, resulting in string line derailment...."

As Tom mentions in his post, this root caused was arrived at through a complete and thorough investigation of the incident, including locomotive event recorder downloads and employee statements, along with any physical evidence at the scene. 

Submitted in the interest of keeping things factual......

C.J.

 

Last edited by Rich Melvin
@GP 40 posted:

The following information was taken from the FRA Railroad Accident Report associated with this incident, that CSX filed with FRA.

Train consisted of 2 units, 0 loads, 105 empties, 3236 tons.

FRA Cause Code applied as cause for this incident is:    H514- Failure to allow air brakes to fully release before proceeding.

The report states    "As CSX train B80220 began to make a pulling move from a complete stop, engineer used excessive force to make initial movement with brakes still applied on train, resulting in string line derailment...."

 

 

Dang! He must have really been in a hurry!!!

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