NTSB Hands Down Three Recommendations in 2006 Derailment

The National Transportation Safety Board this week handed down a trio of recommendations in response to a January 2006 Norfolk Southern derailment that injured three people and caused more than $5 million in property damage.

First, the NTSB recommended that Class I Railroads “modify, as necessary, your initial and recurrent training and operating rules to emphasize to your employees and the crews of other railroads operating on your territory that any signal that appears to display extra lighted aspects in a signal head should be treated as an improperly or imperfectly displayed signal.”

Next, the NTSB recommended that Norfolk Southern modify “initial and recurrent training and operating rules to emphasize to your employees and the crews of other railroads operating on your territory that any signal that appears to display extra lighted aspects in a signal head should be treated as an imperfectly displayed signal.”

Lastly, the NTSB recommended that the American Association of Railroads “inform your members … of the need to enhance their signal training to emphasize that extra lighted aspects in a signal head should be treated as an improperly displayed signal.”

At 4:17 p.m. Jan 18, 2006, an eastbound Norfolk Southern train traveling 50 m.p.h. “diverted” onto a siding and struck the rear of another train, according to the NTSB. Three locomotives and 10 cars derailed in the crash.

The NTSB ruled the derailment “was the failure by the crew … to recognize an extra lighted aspect (caused by reflected sunlight) as an imperfectly displayed signal and to treat it as a most restrictive indication,” Chairman Mark V. Rosenker wrote in a Nov. 23 letter to American Association of Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Edward R. Hamberger.

“Contributing to the accident was Norfolk Southern Railway’s inadequate illustrations and text in the rulebook and inadequate training to prepare crews to recognize a signal displaying an extra lighted aspect as an imperfectly displayed signal,” Rosenker wrote. “Also contributing to the accident was the lack of a positive train control system that would have intervened when the crew did not respond appropriately to the signal.”

Following the derailment, about 500 people living within two miles of the crash were evacuated. The wreck caused $5.2 million in property damage, according to the NTSB.

– Todd DeFeo, Railfanning.org News Wire

Todd DeFeo
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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.