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Practice that derailed in Alabama lacked alignment management couplers, in response to federal investigators

A Norfolk Southern prepare that derailed in Alabama earlier this month lacked required alignment management couplers for 2 of its locomotives and an organization inspection didn’t determine their absence, federal investigators mentioned Monday.

The notation is available in considered one of three preliminary experiences issued Monday by the Nationwide Transportation Security Board about Norfolk Southern prepare accidents this month because the board investigates the railroad’s security practices after the fiery February derailment and poisonous chemical burn in East Palestine, Ohio.

In a report launched Monday a few March 9 derailment of two locomotives and 37 rail automobiles in Anniston, Alabama, the protection board mentioned two of the prepare’s six locomotives have been “waybill locomotives,” or towed automobiles not used for any tractive energy. The automobiles weren’t geared up with alignment management couplers that “resist lateral coupler motion underneath compressive in-train forces.” An organization rule bars towing waybill locomotives with out such couplers, the report mentioned.

The waybill locomotives have been coupled collectively and picked up from Bluffton, Indiana, on Feb. 24 and a Norfolk Southern inspection earlier than the primary motion involving the coupled locomotives “didn’t determine the absence of alignment management couplers,” the protection board mentioned.

An organization spokesperson mentioned in an e-mail Monday that “these locomotives weren’t owned by Norfolk Southern and the couplers on these locomotives will not be widespread on our community.”

“We have now taken fast motion to replace our manuals with photographs and particulars to implement coaching with our crews. Security is a precedence at NS and we’ll proceed working with the NTSB to determine the ultimate explanation for this derailment and implement every other needed adjustments,” mentioned Connor Spielmaker, a senior communications supervisor with Norfolk Southern.


No accidents have been reported; three derailed tank automobiles have been carrying hazardous materials residue however all remained intact, the report mentioned. The security board mentioned future investigation will concentrate on Norfolk Southern “communication, upkeep, and inspection practices” in addition to locomotive and railcar positioning and prepare dealing with.

The security board additionally mentioned it was analyzing industry-wide requirements and practices concerning railcar wheel and axle assemblies after a prepare derailment in Ohio earlier this month. Eight wheelsets have been recovered from two of the 28 Norfolk Southern railcars that derailed March four close to Springfield. Images taken after the derailment confirmed three wheels from the eight wheelsets “exhibited motion on their axles,” the board mentioned.

5 days after that derailment, the Affiliation of American Railroads issued an tools inspection order advising railroads to take away from service — wheelsets mounted by Nationwide Metal Automobile between August and March. The affiliation mentioned railroads nationwide initially recognized 675 automobiles affected by the advisory and pulled them off the tracks.

The wheelsets and different materials from the crash together with wheelsets from elsewhere within the Norfolk Southern fleet have been present process evaluation since final Wednesday at a Norfolk Southern facility in Altoona, the protection board mentioned.


“Future investigative exercise will concentrate on failure evaluation of the topic wheelsets and on industry-wide requirements and practices for railcar wheel and axle meeting processes, specs, and high quality management,” the protection board mentioned Monday.

Quickly after the Springfield crash, the protection board introduced a broad have a look at Norfolk Southern’s security tradition — the primary such investigation inside the rail {industry} since 2014 — and mentioned it had despatched investigation groups to look into 5 important accidents involving Norfolk Southern since December 2021.

In a preliminary report on a March 7 accident that killed a Norfolk Southern conductor when a prepare and dump truck collided as they concurrently entered a non-public rail crossing at a Cleveland metal plant, the protection board mentioned the prepare was going 9 mph, lower than the 10 mph restrict inside the Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. metal plant. The Federal Railroad administration later urged correct coaching, oversight and crew communication at freeway–railroad grade crossings.

Following the Feb. three derailment exterior East Palestine, Ohio, Norfolk Southern introduced plans to enhance using detectors positioned alongside railroad tracks to identify overheating bearings and different issues. Investigators have mentioned the crew acquired a warning from such a detector however couldn’t cease the prepare earlier than greater than three dozen automobiles got here off the tracks and caught hearth.

Half of the city of about 5,000 needed to evacuate for days when responders deliberately burned poisonous chemical substances in some derailed automobiles to forestall an uncontrolled explosion, leaving residents with lingering well being issues. Authorities officers say assessments haven’t discovered harmful ranges of chemical substances within the air or water within the space.


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