Cause of Pennsylvania train derailment, explosion and fire under investigation

Derailment occurred at “strategic” location with explosive cargo

22 October 2006: Federal investigators are searching for the cause of a train derailment that caused a massive explosion and fire late Friday in the town of New Brighton, about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The train of 3 locomotives and 89 cars, many tankers, was traveling from Chicago to New Jersey. As the front of the train passed beyond the Beaver River in New Brighton, 23 cars in the midsection of the train derailed, resulting in a large explosion and fire in a least 9 of the tankers carrying highly flammable ethanol – directly on the bridge and at its approach. Fear of additional explosions caused upwards of 50 area residents to seek emergency shelter away from their homes. The fire continued to burn through late Saturday. The half-mile long rail bridge is a familiar site and busy bridge in New Brighton, servicing about 60 trains each day, including Amtrak’s Capitol Limited, which makes one round trip daily between Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Investigators on site state that the train was traveling within the speed limit of 45 miles-per-hour. A visual inspection of the track by investigators noted that one section appeared to be “cut in two,” although forensic examination of the track is needed to determine if this was the cause of the derailment. Yesterday, NTSB investigators also removed data recorders from the train. The data recorders are similar to the black boxes found on airliners and will be examined by investigators for possible clues. The bridge and track area will remain closed for the foreseeable future, causing multiple rerouting delays – including an additional  2-1/2 hours each way for the Amtrak trip between Washington, and Chicago.