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Date: 05/15/01 16:18
Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: k8dti

I was up north chasing the CSX Operation Lifesaver Special today, which operated on the former Conrail Toledo Branch between Columbus and Toledo. After getting my last northbound shot north of Bowling Green, I decided to grab some lunch. After lunch, I proceeded back north to Trombley to await the return southbound Operation Lifesaver train. While on I-75, I heard some VERY UNUSUAL radio chatter, culminating in,"Well where is the engineer?" "Right here in the crew room!" A train had somehow gotten out of Stanley Yard in Toledo and was running southbound with no one aboard. I saw the train at North Trombley running at about 30mph. It was a solo SD40-2 #8888, an ex-Conrail unit with about 47 cars. It tripped the detector at North Trombley with dragging equipment, but none of the others further south. I then heard the CSX "IE" Dispatcher call the maintainers along the road that the train had run through the switches at CP 14 and were likely damaged. The pursuit by CSX employees, police, and myself began at this point. Folks, the Good Lord was watching over north central Ohio today!

Thankfully, due to the Operation Lifesaver Special, there was a very high police presence along the railroad. This was crucial! Almost every grade crossing was protected when the train passed. Keep in mind, nobody was aboard to sound the horn and bell. The headlights were not on either. I caught up with the train again at Mortimer (North Findlay). Here, a CSX maintainer had placed a derail on the track to derail the train. Everyone was out of the way, expecting a horrific wreck. Amazingly, the train RAN THROUGH the derail, kicking it out of the way! Now, the city of Findlay lay ahead. By this time, all police and emergency personnel along the line had been alerted. NS & other CSX dispatchers had been alerted to prevent any intersecting lines from passing traffic through railroad crossings at grade (Galatea, Mortimer, Findlay, etc.). They were going to attempt to put the train in the siding at Whirlpool, just north of Findlay, but the fear of the hazardous material cars on the train nixed that move. It was then decided to put the train in the siding at Blanchard, south of Dunkirk. However, another idea arose. There was a northbound Q636 waiting at Dunkirk in the siding. Dunkirk has probably never seen so much excitement since the big wreck of some years ago. There was Q636 in the siding and an eastbound local on the PRR, waiting at the diamond with a clear signal. Thankfully the word had gotten out. The train accelerated going down the hill from the US 68 crossing to the diamond at Dunkirk. When the train passed, the great locomotive chase began.

The crew of Q636, in the siding at Dunkirk, had taken their lone SD40-2 off their train and through arrangement with the "IE" train dispatcher, prepared to pull out of the north end of the siding after the runaway had passed and begin a pursuit. The train got by at about 45 mph, the dispatcher immediately threw the switch and 636's power got out on the main. After a few tense seconds, the switch lined and the chase began! The crew on 636 were incredible. Gung ho, they WANTED to catch that train by the sounds of their voices on the radio. They caught up with the runaway just south of Blanchard. The city of Kenton, with its sharp curves laid ahead. The lone SD40-2, now coupled to the runaway, kicked the dynamic brakes on full and got immediate results, bringing the train down to a curve safe 20mph and less. The dispatcher then arranged for the Kenton local, with a lone GP38 and a covered hopper, to get in front of the runaway, if necessary, to pace, couple up, and buffer the train to a stop. The Q636's crew and Kenton local were placed in direct contact. Q636 gave the train speed every few seconds and the Kenton local got in a tangent where they could get a jump and engage the runaway as safely as possible under the circumstances.

Finally, the runaway was slowed to 12mph. At State Route 31, a CSX trainmaster heroically, swung aboard and shut the throttle off on the errant locomotive and train. The Kenton local was just ahead and did not have to couple to the runaway. The situation in the cab reported by the trainmaster: run 8 throttle, 20lb reduction on the automatic, and full application on the independent.

Amazingly, NOBODY WAS INJURED in this! The CSX folks deserve a tremendous pat on the back and congratulations for their handling of this extraordinary situation. I was there for almost the entire pursuit, never being more than 6 miles away and always in radio range. No one lost their cool and everyone was on the same page. There was some great crisis railroading being performed by the men out there today!

A few THANK GOD things worth mentioning:

1. The train had its brakes applied and was dragging along, preventing higher speeds from being achieved.
2. The derail at Mortimer did not work. A hazmat disaster would have likely resulted in a semi populated area, right next to I-75.
3. No one was involved in a collision with the train. Remember, nobody was aboard to sound the horn and bell.
4. The cities of Findlay and Kenton have some significant curves. The train did not derail!
5. There were ample personnel along the line thanks to the OLS special today.

As to how all of this got started, that is up for the investigators and I cannot speculate as I have no idea what happened in Toledo. What is typed above is my own account and any errors are mine alone. I have a recording of the radio traffic during the entire locomotive chase. I will make an mp3 tonight and post it someplace for all to hear. Will advise when it is complete.

Date: 05/15/01 16:32
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: crazy_nip

sweet, excellent report, i want to hear this mp3

Date: 05/15/01 16:48
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: calsubmp0

Great firsthand account k8dti, preciate it....regards ed

Date: 05/15/01 16:50
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: CGTower

Great report Erik...I almost went trackside to see the OLS special. Darn it anyway!


Date: 05/15/01 17:09
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: k8dti

Thanks fellas. Unfortunately, scratch the mp3. The audio is not that good and I'd just as soon not set myself up for trouble if you know what I mean. Maybe someone can talk CSX into releasing the tapes from JAX after the investigation. I can assure you, it speaks very highly of the company and the men involved. They did a great job resolving this!

Date: 05/15/01 17:31
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: lew

Amazing that they would try to derail that train at Mortimer, with I-75 within rockthrowing distance and the NS diamond. Surely, they set that derail up, well, just where did they set that derail up, north or south of the diamond? Great description of the happenings, I can see it now, here come more FRA-mandated safety rules.

Date: 05/15/01 17:47
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: herbsommers

Thanks Eric for an excellent report and thank the lord that the P967 made it to Stanley before thr runaway left!
Herb Sommers

Date: 05/15/01 19:05
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: lowwater

Thanks from the Rockies for a fantastic report! Truly an incident where once it started everything went right -- even those things that were thought to have failed.


Date: 05/15/01 19:15
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: HoosierVirg

Great report Erik, thanks, couldn't think of a better person to be there to give us a report. Sounds like a lot of people did a great job under a lot of pressure. Have a good and safe day.

Date: 05/15/01 20:16
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: trainhand

good report. Wonder how the throttle got to #8. I knew the traincrews were competent and apparently some officials are too. glad no one was hurt.

Date: 05/15/01 20:24
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: cjones00

the onion pacific has just blamed this mishap on the microsoft train simulator. apparently some lunatic boarded the loco and set it loose after a session playing the train sim.

watch your speed


Date: 05/15/01 21:00
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: PaulMerriman

Thats a fabulous report and very well done. It was our good fortune to have had you out there with the full story! Kudos to you and to CSX. An engine in run 8 sounds like sabotage, like the MRL runaways in the early 90's. I guess we'll find out.

Date: 05/15/01 21:00
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: Deshlerrailfan

You nailed it. I didn't realize it was a run away at first. On my way to Wapak. Turned on the hand held scanner when I saw all the Cops running code 3. Statewide (155.370) was loaded with traffic as was CSX Freqs. I listened all the way to Wapak. Everyone made the best of a VERY BAD situation.

I still have the memory of it approaching Jerry City Rd. dark, no headlight nor ditchlights. That was a sick feeling.


Date: 05/15/01 21:32
RE: Firsthand Account of the Ohio Runaway
Author: BCM

Thanks k8dti for the EXCELLENT report... It's a real shame that professional journalists and the press in general cannot be as knowledgeable and accurate.

I also think CSX should press charges (for reckless endangerment and firing at a train) against that Ohio law enforement officer who so wisely decided to shoot the units fuel tank. Now there's a law enforcement officer that we can all be proud of! Sure his name wasn't Tacklebury?


Date: 05/15/01 21:38
Not that I believe this, but...
Author: diddle_e._squat

OK, the thing that sticks in my mind the most, is how did the throttle get in Run-8? Of course that report may turn out to be erroneous, but lets assume for a moment that it is correct. And lets assume that the reports of the engineer getting off to line a switch are correct? How does it get in Run-8? Most obvious reason would be sabotage, but why? Coulda been kids from the neighborhood, but if not, would seem perhaps someone wanted to embarrass the engineer or get him in trouble for throwing the switch. If so, that would point in four directions: First, someone who had a grudge against this particular engineer or crew. Second, a pissed BLE hogger who thought the engineer was setting a bad precedent by continually throwing switches. Third, a pissed UTU guy who felt the engineer was allowing the company to eliminate brakemen by throwing switches. Fourth, a mgmt type who wanted to set up a guy for leaving the engine to throw a switch.

Not saying I believe any of these scenarios, they seem far-fetched, but how did it get to Run-8? Robert Blake ain't looking so good, either, BTW. Who just happens to forget and leave their gun laying around a restaraunt?

Date: 05/15/01 21:47
RE: Not that I believe this, but...
Author: stevelv

A full NTSB investigation should answer some of the unknown factors. The only drawback, these investigations my take a year or more.

Date: 05/15/01 21:47
Yo armchair crisis managers...
Author: diddle_e._squat

...enough with this second guessing BS, especially regarding the officer who shot at the fuel tank. I betcha dollars to donuts that before he did that the idea was discussed with CSX officials. Sounds like CSX and law enforcement/safety officials had the communications lines opened early and extensively. They all did a fine job in difficult circumstances, and I certainly would trust these public servants, willing to risk their lives, trained in crisis management far more than some of the amateurs on this board who get trigger happy with the mouth/keyboard. Not trying to personally attack, but when this officer is trashed in posts in a half-dozen different threads, well its time to speak up. Some of the same critics are the first to jump all over the media because they can't tell an SD40 from an SD40-2. Yes, the coverage was sensational, over done, and often stupid(FOX was pitiful), but lets try and be objective, also.

Date: 05/15/01 22:05
RE: Yo armchair crisis managers...
Author: nkp329

Thank you diddle. With all the other inaccuracies listed herein I have yet to hear anyone offer that the cop may have been firing a non-lethal beanbag round at the fuel cutoff???

Date: 05/15/01 22:45
RE: Yo armchair crisis managers...
Author: BCM

One early press report had the officer firing at the fuel tank to try to rupture it and cause it to drain all the fuel... (hopefully that report was wrong but it was the report on which my comment was made)

Date: 05/15/01 23:33
RE: Yo armchair crisis managers...
Author: vicneves

CNN reported that they were trying to hit the fuel cuttoff switch.

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