Accident Description

On 7-Feb-1989, D&RGW train #134-006 (a 62-car eastbound mixed) arrived at Minturn, CO, around 2145h on 6-Feb-1989 and stopped to pick up a swing helper set. The helpers were DRGW GP40-2 3108, and DRGW SD40T-2s 5402 and 5408. The train first stopped when it lost its air at MP 294, on account of an air hose coming apart. Repairs to the train line took approximately 30 minutes. This same scenario - a 30 minute stop on account of lost brake pipe pressure - happened again only seven miles further, at MP 287. Three miles further, the train suffered a pulled a drawbar six cars back. After some 70 minutes fixing drawbar, the rear 56 cars and the helper set began rolling back down the grade on account of no handbrakes being tied and all of the brake air bleeding out of the system.

The runaway rear section picked up speed for 2.6 miles before the first section derailed at MP 286.6, just east of the Pando Tunnel. The rear section continued on for another 1.4 miles before derailing at milepost 288, just above Pando. All three helper units were destroyed, and a car of sulfuric acid derailed and ruptured near 288, causing some environmental damage.

No one was seriously injured in the wreck. The helper crew jumped to safety as soon as the rear of the train began to roll backwards.

As a note, the three GP60s were acquired as a result of the insurance claim on the three helper locomotives.

Probable Cause

The derailment occurred because, after sitting for that long on the grade with little pressure in the brake pipe (since the helpers were not tied in to the brake line), the air eventually bled off and the brakes could no longer hold the train. Rules specified that some of the handbrakes should have been tied during the delays, providing a failsafe backup should the air bleed off. This was not done. Also, the helper crew was reportedly faulted for not cutting into the brake line and maintaining pressure, as well as for not applying power when the train began to roll backwards.

Details from Mark Hemphill, via the D&RGW mailing list, citing CTC Board magazine, April 1989, page 26

Questions/corrections/comments welcome - email me
Please see our disclaimer.
  Last modified on April 03, 2010, at 04:18 PM
Edit Page | Page History