NTSB preliminary report provides details on collision of CSX trains in PTC territory in Ohio

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WASHINGTON — The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report on the August collision of two CSX Transportation trains provides more detail on the wreck that occurred in territory protected by positive train control.

Local train H702, which rammed into 110-car frac sand train, W314, at a control point, was operating with its PTC system in restricted mode at the time of the 5:08 a.m. collision near Carey, Ohio, according to the preliminary report released on Thursday.

“The crew’s first job assignment was to set out 30 empty cars in Carey. 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,” the preliminary report says.

After 30 of the train’s 176 cars were set out, the conductor planned to ride a railroad shuttle van to a nearby grade crossing to reboard the train.

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

Both engineers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, and the crews of both trains underwent drug and alcohol testing.

While under the control of a previous crew, the W314 experienced a PTC failure, which required the system to be disabled.

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

The crew of W314 told investigators that signals indicated their train would diverge from 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 preliminary report says. “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.”

The ongoing investigation is focusing on train crew distractions, crew resource management, and current railroad operating rules for PTC, the NTSB says.

The report is available online.

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