RAILROAD ACCIDENT REPORT: COLLISION OF MISSOURI PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY FREIGHT TRAIN EXTRA 615 SOUTH WITH A STANDING LOCOMOTIVE, COTULLA, TEXAS, DECEMBER 1, 1973

At 8:30 a.m., Saturday, December 1, 1973, Missouri Pacific Railroad Company freight train Extra 615 South (train DMX) entered Cotulla, Texas. Train DMX was traveling on a nonsignalized main track at a speed of 35 to 40 mph. Just after it passed over a grade crossing, the train was diverted through a switch onto an adjacent track where an unmanned locomotive, a caboose, and 11 cars were standing. Train DMX collided with the standing locomotive before any appreciable braking. The collision derailed all of the locomotive units and 29 railroad cars. Three crew-members who were riding in the lead locomotive unit of train DMX were killed. The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the establishment of a collision route for train DMX by the unauthorized operation of a switch by persons unknown. Contributing to the collision were railroad operating practices which authorize engineers to operate trains at speeds at which they could not stop short of a switch target which indicates the switch is improperly aligned. Contributing to the severity of the collision was the fact that the crewmembers of the locomotive of train DMX did not identify the open switch and apply the train's brakes soon enough to slow the train. The report contains recommendations to the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company and the Federal Railroad Administration.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Railroad Accident Report. This report contains Railroad Safety Recommendations R-74-22 through R-74-28.
  • Corporate Authors:

    National Transportation Safety Board

    490 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
    Washington, DC  USA  20594
  • Publication Date: 1974-6-27

Media Info

  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Photos;
  • Pagination: 36 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00057880
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: National Transportation Safety Board
  • Report/Paper Numbers: NTSB-RAR-74-3
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 12 1976 12:00AM