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Rail News: Norfolk Southern Railway

NTSB: Overheated wheel bearing may have caused derailment; NS sets up $1 million fund

The suspected overheated wheel bearing has been collected and will be examined at the NTSB Materials Laboratory.
Photo – National Transportation Safety Board


An overheated wheel bearing may have been a cause in the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern Railway train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The derailment occurred at 8:54 p.m. local time when the eastbound NS general merchandise freight train derailed on main track 1. As a result of the derailment, 38 rail cars derailed and a fire ensued that damaged an additional 12 cars.

There were 20 total hazardous material cars in the train consist, 10 of which derailed, NTSB officials said yesterday in an investigation update. A list of what the derailed cars were carrying is available via this link. Five of them carried vinyl chloride, which can be deadly if inhaled.

NTSB investigators identified and examined the rail car that initiated the derailment. Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment occurred, agency officials said.

The wheelset from the suspected rail car has been collected as evidence for metallurgical examination. The suspected overheated wheel bearing has been collected and will be examined by engineers at the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

The tank cars are being decontaminated. Once the process is complete, NTSB investigators will return to Ohio to complete a thorough examination of the tank cars, agency officials said.

The vinyl chloride tank cars' top fittings, including the relief valves, were removed and secured in a locked intermodal container pending an NTSB examination. Once the fittings are examined by investigators, they will be shipped to Texas for testing, which will be conducted under the direction of the NTSB.

NTSB has obtained the locomotive event recorder data, forward- and inward-facing image recording data and wayside defect detector data.

NTSB investigators continue to review documentation, event recorder data and perform interviews. A preliminary report is expected to publish in two weeks, they said.

Meanwhile, NS yesterday announced it is creating a $1 million fund as one component of its planned support for the community of East Palestine. NS will work with state and local leaders to identify where the donations can do the most good, company officials said in a press release.

"We are cleaning up the site in an environmentally responsible way, reimbursing residents affected by the derailment, and working with members of the community to identify what is needed to help East Palestine recover and thrive," said NS President and CEO Alan Shaw.

The fund enables NS to move quickly to meet local residents' needs, he added.

"We anticipate making further charitable contributions in East Palestine as conversations continue with local leaders and members of the community," Shaw said.

The contribution will supplement other efforts to support residents, businesses and first responders, NS officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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