ILLINOIS CENTRAL GULF RAILROAD

BROOKHAVEN, MISSISSIPPI

MARCH 10, 1975

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The Accident

At 4:11 p.m., March 10, 1975 a southbound Illinois Central Gulf freight train struck the trailer section of a highway tractor trailer at Thayer Road crossing, 6.3 miles south of Brookhaven, Mississippi. The weather was clear and dry.

The engineer was killed and the front brakeman was seriously injured.

Cause

The tractor trailer operatorís failure to wait at the railroad-highway crossing until he could cross safely as required by Mississippi State Law caused the accident.

Damages

The carrier estimated the damage to equipment, track and signals at $701,100. Damage to the: motor vehicle was estimated at $19,OOO.

Location and Method of Operation

The accident occurred on that portion of the railroad extending between Canton and McComb, Mississippi a distance of 101.2 miles. Brookhaven is 23.8 miles north of McComb. The train and tractor trailer collided 6.3 miles south of Brookhaven station on the Thayer Road crossing.

In the accident area trains operate over a double track line by signal indications of an automatic block signal system supplemented by train orders and timetable. Trains operate to the right, and the west track is designated "southward" and the east track is designated "northward".

Authorized Speed

Current timetable special instructions restrict freight trains and passenger trains to 63 m.p.h. and 79 m.p.h., respectively, in the accident area.

 

Track

The southward track is tangent for a considerable distance both north and south of the collision point where the grade is 0.19% southward descending. The railroad runs nearly north and south.

A whistle pose stands 957 feet north of Thayer Road to remind trainmen of the crossing.

County Road

Thayer Road is a county road, crossing the railroad at a 60į14íangle from the northeast to the southwest. The roadway is 18 1/2 feet wide and paved with asphalt. The crossing is of 22-foot solid timbers. Approaching the crossing from the northeast, the road is tangent to within 259 feet of the crossing: where it curves to the right for 235 feet at a 12į angle. The road is then tangent up to and beyond the crossing. From a point 700 feet northeast of the point of collision to a point 375 feet northeast of the crossing, the grade is 0.16% descending. The next 150 feet, toward the southwest the grade is 0.95% ascending followed by 125 feet of 0.68%. descending grade. The grade changes to 11.7% ascending for l00 feet is level across the railroad tracks and descends 70 feet beyond at a 6.9% grade.

Road Signs

Two rectangular railroad crossing warning signs, each 40 inches high and 50 inches wide, are adjacent to the north and south sides of Thayer Road,75 and 87 feet, respectively Northeast and Southwest of the crossing. Each mounted on a mast 9 feet 4 1/2 inches above the road, bears the words "MISSISSIPPI LAW STOP," in red letters on a white background. A sign reading "2 TRACKS" also in red figures on a white background is attached to the mast below the stop sign.

Circumstances Prior to the Accident

Train No. 53

Train No. 53 a southbound first-class piggy back train, consisting of four road switcher type diesel-electric locomotive units, 1776 (EMD GP-38), 3002 (EMD GP-40), 3006 (EMD GP-40), 9091 (EMD GP-9), 17 loads and one empty (l,570 tons), departed from Canton, Mississippi, at 1:30 p.m. on the day of the accident. Arriving at Jackson at 2:15 p.m., eight loads were set out. After a brake test was made, the train departed at 2:25 p.m., with nine loads and one empty (850 tons). The engineer and front brakeman were in the control compartment of the lead locomotive and the conductor and f1agman were in the caboose.

Train No. 53 was being operated at a speed of about 60 m.p.h. in compliance with all carrier rules and regulations, as it approached Thayer Road with the locomotive horn sounding and the engine bell ringing.

Motor Vehicle

The tractor trailer was owned and operated by Crude Oil Purchasing Incorporated Jackson, Mississippi, an enterprise engaged in transporting crude oil within the State of Mississippi. The tractor was a 1974 White, Model RBM-64T-08, equipped with a 13-speed manual transmission. Large 7 X 20 inch, outside mirrors were mounted on the door pillars on both sides of the cab. The cabís rear corner pillars and outside mirror interfered with the operatorís view to the right of the vehicle.

The semitrailer was a 1964 Trailmobile, built as a multiple compartment cargo tank to transport gasoline. It had been converted to a one compartment tank for use in transporting crude oil.

The 55-foot-long tractor trailer had air brakes throughout. At the time of the accident, the cargo consisted of approximately 6,762 gallons of crude oil, with a gross weight of 73,000 pounds.

The driver, age 29, held a valid Mississippi operatorís license. Employed by Crude Oil Purchasing about two months prior to the acc1dent, the driver had two weeks on-the-job training with an experienced company driver and a review of the tractor operator's a manual. He attended a safety meeting about six weeks before the accident.

The driver reported for work at 7:00 a.m. on the day of the accident having been off duty for 13 hours.

At about 4:00 p.m., the semitrailer, loaded with the crude oil, left Mallalien and proceeded southwest on Thayer Road toward Liberty Mississippi. The dr1ver stated the stopped the tractor on the ascending grade, looking in both directions, before driving onto the crossing at a speed of 3-5 m.p.h. He also stated he neither saw nor heard the train prior to the collision. At the time of the collision, the driver had been on duty for nine hours and eleven minutes.

Mississippi Traffic Regulations

63-3-1011 Certain vehicles must atop at all railroad grade crossings

(l) The driver of any motor vehicle carrying passengers for hire, or of any school bus carrying any school child, or of any vehicle carrying explosive substances of flammable liquids as a cargo or part of a cargo, before crossing at grade any track or tracks of a railroad shall stop such vehicle within fifty feet but not less than ten feet from the nearest rail of such railroad and while so stopped shall listen and look in both direction along such track for any approaching train and for signals indicating the approach of a train except as hereinafter provided, and shall not proceed until he can do so safely.

Railroad Operating Rules

14 (1) Sound _____ ______ o ______ Indication-Approaching public grade crossings. To be prolonged or repeated until crossing is occupied by engine or cars.

Duration of signal must be twenty seconds or longer.

Motor Vehicle Operatorís View of Railroad

Approaching the railroad crossing from the northeast, a vehicle operatorís view of southbound trains is 1imited. At a point 225 feet from the crossing, a vehicle operator can see only 182 feet north along the track. At a point 50 feet from the crossing, the view to the north along the track is increased to 1,822 feet while at a distance 30 feet northeast of the crossing the view to the north along the track is increased to 2.5 miles.

The Accident

Shortly before 4:11 p.m., Train No. 53 approached Thayer Road crossing at about 60 m.p.h. Its regular and oscillating headlights were on and the locomotive bell was ringing. The engineer began to sound the locomotive horn as the train neared the whistle post north of the crossing, and continued sounding it to the crossing.

The tractor trailer operator stated that he approached the railroad crossing shortly before 4:11 p.m., first stopping on the ascending grade and then proceeding to cross the tracks.

The tractor cleared the railroad tracks, but the trailer was struck by the southbound train. On impact, the crude oil cargo burst into flames. The trailer became disconnected from the tractor, and the four locomotive units and trailer caught fire. The locomotives and cars remained coupled and on the tracks, coming to a stop 2,443 feet south of the point of collision. The destroyed tractor stopped 244 feet southwest of the point of collision. Burning parts of the trailer were found as far as 216 feet south and 44 feet west of the point of collision. The trailer and two locomotive units were destroyed, while the other two locomotive units were substantially damaged.

The engineer was killed, and the front brakeman was seriously injured. The tractor trailer operator received minor injuries. The crew had been on duty for two hours and forty minutes at the time of the accident having first completed the required off-duty period.

Findings

1. Train No. 53 was being operated in compliance with a11 carrier rules and regulations.

2. The tractor trailer operator failed to yield the right-of-way as required by Mississippi Law.

3. The whistle post was located 959 feet north of the crossing. The running time for a passenger train from this post to the crossing is less than nine seconds. The running time for freight trains over this distance is less than 11 seconds. The whistle post is too close to the crossing to enable trainmen to comply with carrier Rule 14(l).

4. The tractor trailer stopping 10 feet from the nearest rail, needed more than 11 seconds to clear both tracks at 5 m.p.h. and more than 19 seconds to clear at 3 m.p.h., with no allowance for starting, or in this accident, for starting on a 11.7% ascending grade.