NTSB issues preliminary report on CSX freight train collision with SEPTA trolley in December

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
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SEPTA trolley, one of which collided with a CSX freight train in Dec. 2021.

In December 2021, RT&S reported on a collision between a CSX freight train and a SEPTA trolley outside of Philadelphia. The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a preliminary report on its accident investigation.

You can read the initial RT&S story here. The preliminary NTSB report is below.

“On December 9, 2021, about 8:27 a.m. local time, a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) trolley car was struck by a CSX Transportation (CSX) freight train at a highway-rail grade crossing near Main Street and 6th Street in Darby, Pennsylvania. Trolley 9070 was stopped on SEPTA’s eastbound trolley route 11 and fouling the CSX mainline tracks when it was struck by westbound CSX freight train I03309.[1] Six people on the trolley, including the trolley operator, and the train engineer were transported to local medical facilities with non-life-threatening injuries. SEPTA estimated damages to its trolley to be $125,000, and CSX estimated damages to its train to be $5,500. The weather was clear with no precipitation at the time of the collision.

“The SEPTA trolley was traveling southeast enroute to 13th and Market Street station. The trolley operator made a stop at Main Street and 6th Street to let passengers on and off. The trolley operator then proceeded into the Darby Diamond highway-rail grade crossing when the crossing was activated by the approaching CSX train. The trolley stopped and the gates protecting the crossing closed on its roof. As the stopped trolley fouled the CSX track, the CSX train struck the trolley, pushing it back (west) but not derailing the trolley. (See figure.)​

Figure. Illustration of the collision location. ​(NTSB)

“While on scene, National Transportation Safety Board investigators examined the highway-rail grade crossing, conducted track and equipment inspections, reviewed signal and train control data logs, conducted interviews, and obtained image and event recorder data from the lead locomotive of the CSX train and the SEPTA trolley. The crossing was equipped with gates and lights maintained by CSX. Investigators found the gates and lights were functioning properly.

“The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation is ongoing. Future investigative activity will focus on grade-crossing design, operations, and human performance.

“Parties to the investigation include the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, SEPTA, CSX, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Transport Workers Union, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division.”

(1) Fouling a track means the placement of an individual or an item of equipment in such proximity to a track that the individual or equipment could be struck by a moving train or on-track equipment, or in any case is within 4 feet of the outside of the nearest running rail.​”

RT&S will continue to follow this story and report new information as it is made available.

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