A two-train collision and derailment last July in southeastern Wisconsin was caused by human error when the rear of a freight train was unintentionally backed onto another rail line, according to reports submitted to federal transportation officials.
Incident reports released by the Federal Railroad Administration say the wreck in the village of Slinger caused more than $3.1 million in damage, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
More than 120 village residents had to be evacuated. An estimated 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from the lead locomotive.
Minutes before the July 20 collision, a northbound Wisconsin & Southern Railroad train of two locomotives and 64 freight cars stopped after it had cleared the other track at the crossing of two rail lines. The engineer then decided to back up the long train — known as a shoving movement — to pick up a crew member at the rail crossing, according to the company’s report.
Without the aid of a spotter at the train’s end as it backed up, the engineer drove too far in reverse and several cars were pushed across the other rail line, according to the company’s incident report. Federal regulations do not require a person to be placed at the end of a train when it is reversed.
By that time, a southbound Canadian National Railway Co. train with three locomotives and 98 freight cars already had entered the village and a signal light gave it authority to proceed into the crossing when the crash occurred at 8:34 p.m. The train was traveling at a speed of 38 miles per hour, the company’s report says.
All three of the Canadian National locomotives and four freight cars derailed in the collision. Five cars derailed from the Wisconsin & Southern train.
An engineer and conductor on the Canadian National train were hurt.
Wisconsin & Southern officials did not respond to the newspaper’s messages for comments on the crash. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said it has requested but not yet received the Federal Railroad Administration’s accident investigation report.
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