Accident Description

On 22-Nov-1994, the crew of SP taconite train 2MNGVC-17 found themselves unable to slow the heavy westbound, having just crested Tennessee Pass and started down the 3% grade to Minturn. At approximately 0245h, the train had reached 60+ mph when it tried to round the 10-degree curves at Mitchell, CO. While the lead unit, DRGW 5369, held the rails, the following three units - DRGW 5348, SP 8670 (an SD40R), and DRGW 5370 - derailed at MP 283.6, as did 51 of the 54 cars of iron ore behind them. Taconite pellets went everywhere, and one or more of the fuel tanks ruptured, spilling approximately 1500 gallons of diesel fuel.

Engineer FM Thompson, in the lead unit that negotiated the curves and stayed on the rails, was uninjured. However, Conductor M. Perkins was in the 5370 when the derailment occurred, and reportedly suffered very serious injuries. Thankfully, both men lived, and both were cleared of any fault in the wreck. The cause of the derailment was determined to be ice blockage in the brake pipe just behind the head end. Fault for the wreck was placed with the individual(s) who not conducted an adequate brake test before the train departed Pueblo some hours earlier. (Details from Trains Magazine, March 1995, page 99, and from Mark Hemphill, via the D&RGW mailing list)

At least some of the fuel caught fire, as 5348 and 8670 were both observed to have fire damage after the incident. (per Norm Metcalf, via the D&RGW mailing list) SD40T-2s 5348 and 5370 were both determined beyond repair, and subsequetly scrapped at Pueblo in 1995. The cab of 5370 was saved, and today still sits in a scrapyard just south of Santa Fe Drive (US 50 Business Route, just north of Minnequa).

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  Last modified on November 14, 2009, at 06:37 PM
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