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Western Railroad Discussion > Southern Pacific Lines February 21, 1996 Tennessee Pass


Date: 02/23/06 09:02
Southern Pacific Lines February 21, 1996 Tennessee Pass
Author: eatontm

I had intended on posting this 2 days ago but it slipped my mind. It was 10 years ago that SP's 1ASRVM-18 (Alton & Southern to Roseville, CA Manifest) ran away on the hillside above Pando, CO. Two crew members lost their lives in the accident. There is no hiding the scars left on the hillside to this day. May those involved rest in peace.

The little known memorial sits at the trains final curve, next to the mainline where trains stopped running long ago. August, 2005.

TME

LAX 96 FR 007
DERAILMENT AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS RELEASE
SOUTHERN PACIFIC LINES
TENNESSEE PASS, COLORADO
FEBRUARY 21, 1996

Accident Description

On February 21, 1996 at about 5:55 a.m., mountain standard time, Southern Pacific Lines freight train 1ASRVM-18 derailed 39 cars and 2 locomotives while descending the Tennessee Pass, a 3.0 percent grade in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The train's three-member traincrew consisted of a locomotive engineer, a student locomotive engineer, and a conductor. According to the conductor, the train was being operated by the student engineer. As the train started the mountainous descent it began gaining speed and eventually ran away. The runaway train broke apart three different times, resulting in three separate derailments.

The derailment resulted in the death of both engineers. The conductor, who was in the second locomotive unit during the runaway, survived with serious injuries. As a result of the derailment 51,606 gallons of sulfuric acid and 19,733 gallons of triethylene glycol, both regulated hazardous materials, were released. Four family members living on a nearby farm were evacuated from the area. Monetary damage was estimated to be $6.8 million.

Postaccident brake tests and inspections at the accident site and subsequent bench and laboratory tests revealed no equipment failures. The locomotive event recorder had documented brake pipe pressures at both the front and rear of the train. Investigators concluded that the brake pipe was operative throughout the train, without restriction, both prior to and during the runaway. There were no compromises of the integrity of the train brake system.

Event recorder data showed that as the train descended the steep mountain grade, small (1 to 2 psi) incremental brake pipe reductions were progressively made in an apparent attempt to control the rapid increase in the train's speed. Train speed continued to increase despite continued incremental brake pipe reductions and brake application. Train speed increased to the point where the brake system no longer had the ability to stop the train. Such action would be expected of an inexperienced engineer. By the time the brakes were applied in emergency, the train was going too fast for the brakes to be effective.

The conductor stated that the student engineer had been at the controls of the locomotive since they departed Pueblo, Colorado, and was operating the train during the initial descent of the Tennessee Pass hill. After the accident, the locomotive engineer was found at the controls. The qualified engineer probably took over the controls of the locomotive sometime before the derailment.

The locomotive engineer has primary responsibility for train control. Other train crewmembers share some responsibility, but generally only after some action or inaction on the engineer's part. An engineer can and should provide the opportunity to run the train to a student engineer, but the engineer remains responsible for ensuring the train is handled in a safe and acceptable manner.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the mismanagement of the air brake system by the student engineer, allowing the speed of the train to increase to the point where the brake system no longer had the ability to stop the train, and the failure of the locomotive engineer to ensure proper train control.

http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/1998/RAB9808.htm



Date: 02/23/06 09:07
Re: Southern Pacific Lines February 21, 1996 Tennessee
Author: tolland

Roger Myli was trainmaster at the time this accident occurred. You may recall he went on to work on the UP Steam crew as an engineer. When I brought this unfortunate accident to conversation one time, Roger started crying. The two crewmen taken in this incident were well liked and very experienced taking trains over Tennessee Pass.



Date: 02/23/06 09:28
Re: Southern Pacific Lines February 21, 1996 Tennessee
Author: NH2006

A very caring tribute Tyler!



Date: 02/23/06 09:48
Re: Southern Pacific Lines February 21, 1996 Tennessee
Author: samreeves

That is a very interesting trinket of history. Thanks for posting.

Sam Reeves
—
http://www.samreevesphoto.com



Date: 02/23/06 11:44
Re: Southern Pacific Lines February 21, 1996 Tennessee
Author: David.Curlee

tolland Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Roger Myli was trainmaster at the time this
> accident occurred. You may recall he went on to
> work on the UP Steam crew as an engineer. When I
> brought this unfortunate accident to conversation
> one time, Roger started crying. The two crewmen
> taken in this incident were well liked and very
> experienced taking trains over Tennessee Pass.

Didn't the following train cut off its locomotives at the request of the dispatcher to go "look for" the derailed train, which wasn't responding to calls over the radio? I'm pretty sure the engineer on this following train was the son of a friend of mine. I seem to recall that both crews ate breakfast together that morning and were good friends.

The details in my head are sketchy, as it's been years since we last talked about this accident.



Date: 02/23/06 13:37
Re: Southern Pacific Lines February 21, 1996 Tennessee
Author: WAF

Tough piece of track, very unforgiving. You have to have them under control at a crawl coming of the tunnel to insure that 15 MPH speed down hill. The big derailment before in November, 1994 with the MNGVC was caused by ice in the trainline. After that, trains had to stop and do a stationary brake test at Tennessee Pass siding before proceeding downhill.

One thing for sure, the forest service was probably glad when the UP stopped running on Tenn. Pass.
Three major derailments in six years.



Date: 02/23/06 13:46
Re: Southern Pacific Lines February 21, 1996 Tennessee
Author: hogantunnel

Thank you for the story and the photos.

Is the event recorder on a locomotive similar to the "Black box" on an aircraft? Is it located in a place on the locomotive where the least amount of damage might be expected to occur? Thank you.



Date: 02/23/06 15:33
Re: Southern Pacific Lines February 21, 1996 Tennessee
Author: winchester

Exactly how fast was the train moving before leaving the tracks?



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