The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched investigators to the scene of the derailment of METRA commuter train number 519 in Chicago on Sunday, October 12 at 4:38 p.m. The following is an update of factual information collected by the Safety Board's team.
The Safety Board's investigative team left the accident scene on Saturday, October 18, and returned to Washington.
An account of the accident trip was documented. The train left Chicago's LaSalle Street Station at 4:30 p.m. for a trip to Joliet, Illinois. The engineer had been given track bulletins (Form Bs), which set up operating limits that would have required a stop 4 miles beyond the crossover where the accident occurred. About two minutes after the train departed the station, the dispatcher finished establishing the route for the train through the crossover. At that point, the train had not yet reached the first of the two signals described below, traveling on main track number 1. Investigators are constructing a precise timeline.
At approximately mile post 3.7, the signal confronting the engineer indicated "Approach Diverging," which means that the train is to prepare to diverge to another track at the next signal (0.6 mile later). At the crossover (maximum speed through the crossover of 10 mph), the signal was set to "Diverging Clear." This signal informs the engineer that his train is to switch to another track (in this case switch to main track number 2 about 100 feet after the signal), and then, once the train has cleared that switch, he can resume normal train speed (70 mph).
The signal system was tested several days after the accident. There were no obstructions noted that would interfere with the engineer's ability to see the signals. The signals performed as designed when tested. In addition, all recordings - the dispatcher's log and the field logs at the signals - indicated that they were displaying the proper signals at the proper time.
As previously reported, the engineer had been promoted to his position at METRA in July. He had joined METRA in June 2001, as an assistant conductor trainee. His records indicate previous employment at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, where he was hired in January 1997 as a conductor-in- training and promoted to engineer there in May 1999. He was a qualified engineer on the Rock Island District.
Track and train equipment were inspected after the accident and nothing appeared out of the ordinary. Damage from the accident to track and rolling stock has been estimated at more than $5 million.
The Safety Board's investigation is expected to take up to 12 months, but safety recommendations may be issued at any time.