Wheelsets Suspected in NS Springfield Derailment

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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National Steel Car coil steel car built new for Norfolk Southern. Some wheelsets on these cars are suspected as causing an out-of-gage derailment. Stephen C. Host photo

On March 8, following a second derailment in Ohio that did not involve a hazmat spill or any injuries, Norfolk Southern identified loose wheelsets on a series of recently acquired coil steel cars that present an increased risk of an out-of-gage-derailment. The Association of American Railroads immediately issued a service advisory instructing railroads to pull so-equipped cars from service, inspect them, and replace all wheelsets of a particular type.

“During Norfolk Southern’s cleanup of the derailment in Springfield, Ohio on March 5, the company determined that a specific model and series of railcars had loose wheels, which could cause a derailment,” NS said. “The investigative team identified these wheels as coming from a series of recently acquired cars from a specific manufacturer. Although the investigation into the cause of the accident is still under way, we immediately notified the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration and began inspecting other cars from this series on our network. 

“Upon identifying additional cases of unusual wheel movement, we acted swiftly. We issued orders to remove these cars from service until their wheelsets could be replaced, and we have taken steps to remove this specific model and series from service until they can be fully inspected. We also notified the manufacturer and worked urgently to inform the rest of the railroad industry, as Norfolk Southern is not the only user of these cars. As a result, the AAR issued an advisory to halt the use of these cars. Norfolk Southern will continue to investigate this matter and take appropriate action.”

On March 9, AAR, through its WABL (Wheels, Axles, Bearings & Lubrication) Committee structure, “took expeditious action and issued an advisory to stop cars with these wheelsets from use and interchange until those wheelsets can be replaced,” AAR told Railway Age. “This is an uncommon defect to see—a wheelset that demanded urgent action. This is a voluntary, proactive step aimed at ensuring equipment health and integrity.”

According to AAR’s advisory (download below), the cars in question were manufactured by National Steel Car, Hamilton, Ontario. “A member railroad has experienced three loose wheels in the subject car series,” AAR noted. “These cars are new builds. This advisory is issued to inspect and remove from service wheelsets that were mounted by National Steel Car (NSC-T) in the date range between 08-22 and 03-23 inclusive. These wheelsets are at an increased risk of an out-of-gage derailment. All cars included in this advisory must be inspected for the wheelsets in question … Any cars, loaded or empty, found so equipped must have the NSC-T mounted wheelsets removed immediately as directed below. If available, replace suspect wheelsets with new wheelsets. Handle in accordance with the instructions for identification, inspection and counter billing outlined below.”

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