NTSB: Track Maintenance Partial Cause of Amtrak Wreck

A National Transportation Safety Board report has determined that track maintenance could be partially responsible for the July 29, 2002, derailment of Amtrak’s Capital Limited, in Kensington, Md.

No one was killed in the derailment. However, 16 people, including two Amtrak crewmembers, suffered “serious injuries,” the report indicates. Another 79 people, including eight crewmembers, suffered  “minor injuries.”

The report, released May 28, 2004, outlines three possible causes for the derailment:

  • “The failure of the track surfacing crew to adequately tamp the ballast and accomplish a proper run-off, leading to an unstable condition and buckled track.”
  • “An incorrect slow order code indicating that the work was complete when it was not.”
  • “Inadequate CSX Transportation oversight of track maintenance work on this section of track.”

The eastbound train, which was headed for Washington from Chicago, derailed about 1:55 p.m. The train had two locomotives and 13 cars. It was traveling at 60 mph, the NTSB said in its report.

“According to event recorder data, the engineer made an initial application of the train air brake system about 1,150 feet before the derailment,” the report reads. “The engineer briefly increased the service brake application before placing the brake handle in emergency. The event recorder data indicated that a separation in the train line (due to the derailment) had initiated an emergency brake application just before the engineer placed the brake handle in emergency. The train’s locomotives came to a stop about 400 feet beyond the point of the emergency brake application.”

Since the derailment, which cost an estimated $14.3 million, CSX “implemented a number of revisions to its track surfacing policies, procedures, and training,” the report indicates.

More than 20 passenger trains pass along the stretch of track on weekdays. About 15 freight trains also use the tracks each day. Between July 1, 2001, and June 30, 2002, train traffic along the tracks accounted for an annual gross tonnage of 59.63 million tons.

Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 281 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and The Travel Trolley.