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Accident Report Detail

Collision of Two Canadian National Railway Freight Trains

Executive Summary

On September 30, 2010, about 4:05 p.m. central daylight time, a southbound Canadian National Railway freight train collided head on with a northbound Canadian National Railway freight train near Two Harbors, Minnesota. The collision occurred near milepost 13.5 on Canadian National Railway's Iron Range Subdivision. The trains were operating in nonsignaled territory. The northbound train had 118 empty iron ore railcars and had authority to operate on the single main track. The southbound train had 116 railcars loaded with iron ore and did not have authority to operate on the single main track. The crew of the southbound train entered the main track after failing to properly execute an after-arrival track authority. A total of three locomotives and 14 railcars derailed. All five crewmembers on the two trains were injured and transported to hospitals. Four crewmembers were treated and released; one crewmember remained hospitalized for further treatment. Canadian National Railway estimated damages at $8.1 million. The weather was clear and the temperature was 72°F.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the southbound train crew's error in departing the Highland siding before the northbound train had passed. Contributing to the accident was the Canadian National Railway's use of after-arrival track authorities in nonsignaled territory, a procedure that is vulnerable to human error and lacks inherent safety redundancies necessary to ensure consistent, safe operation. Also contributing to the accident was crew fatigue and inadequate crew resource management.

This report discusses the following safety issues: use of after-arrival track authorities for train movement on nonsignaled tracks prohibited use of portable electronic devices fatigue crew resource management management and regulatory oversight

Accident Location: Two Harbors , MN    
Accident Date: 9/30/2010
Accident ID: DCA10FR009

Date Adopted: 2/12/2013
NTSB Number: RAR-13-01
NTIS Number: PB2013-104865