Dave Mistich Published

Broken Rail the Cause of February Train Derailment Near Montgomery


Federal investigators say a broken rail that was overlooked on two previous inspections led to a fiery oil train derailment in southern West Virginia in February.

The Federal Railroad Administration announced Friday the results of its investigation into the Feb. 16 derailment during a snowstorm in Mount Carbon.

Data from digital track inspections by CSX contractor Sperry Rail Service in December 2014 and January 2015 indicated defects resulting in a vertical split in the rail head at what would become the point of derailment.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s acting administrator Sarah Feinberg says neither CSX or its contractor followed up by confirming the data or checking the data visually or by hand.

“Had this Sperry operator left the car to inspect the rail more closely, FRA investigators believe the rail defect could have been discovered prior to the derailment,” said Feinberg.
The train was carrying 3 million gallons of Bakken crude oil. Twenty-seven of the train’s 109 cars derailed. Twenty cars leaked crude oil.

The derailment shot fireballs into the sky, burned down a nearby house and caused fires on the ground that smoldered for days.

Both CSX and Sperry have been fined $25,000 by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Acting FRA administrator Sarah Feinberg said there are currently no regulations on rail head wear. The FRA says they plan to establish regulations through the agency’s rule-making process.