Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 Investigates team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

Train derailment - 2/27/19

First responders are at the scene of a train derailment in Berry Hill.

Train derailments are more common in Tennessee than you may think.

Last year trains derailed 37 times in the state, a 27 percent increase in the number of derailments in 2017.

The numbers are based on accidents and incidents reported by railroads to the Federal Railroad Administration.

There were 20 fatalities involving train accidents in Tennessee last year, though none were related to derailments; most involved people trespassing on the tracks.

In Nashville, most derailments happened at the Radnor Yards.

The worst months in 2018 for train derailments in Tennessee were January and May. There were seven derailments each in those months.

Here’s what happened in January 2018:

Jan. 6: nine train cars derailed nearChattanooga, releasing 11,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate. Six cars carrying the hazardous material were damaged or derailed. According to what Norfolk Southern Railway reported to the Federal Railway Administration, the knuckle broke between the 20th and 21st head cars.

  • Jan. 11: Six train cars derailed at Radnor Yard. None were carrying hazardous materials.
  • Jan. 15: A broken rail caused four cars to derail in Shelby County.
  • Jan. 16: Six cars carrying a hazardous material derailed in Knox County due to an “absence of man on or at leading end of movement,” according to the report. A derailed car released “20 gallons of glacial acetic acid,” (which you would recognize as the scent and flavor of vinegar.)
  • Jan. 25: There was another derailment at Radnor Yard in Nashville. Seven cars were damaged or derailed while “flat switching the RAR track.” Three of the derailed cars involved were carrying hazardous materials, but none of those cars released anything.
  • Jan. 28: Another Radnor Yard derailment was reported. Five cars derailed, none of them carrying hazardous materials.
  • Jan. 31: Five cars derailed “while shoving cars from track C14 to track b56” at Radnor Yard

In all, January 2018 was a bad month for train derailments in Tennessee, with seven accidents involving a total of 29 cars carrying hazardous materials, of which 15 were damaged or derailed, of them, two had a release.

In May 2018 there were seven accidents that involved derailments. Only three cars involved were carrying hazardous materials.

  • May 1: Nine cars derailed at Radnor Yards when a knuckle broke.
  • May 4: A train travelling south for Louisville to Nashville derailed in Gallatin when it hit an area in the track with “improper, excessive or insufficient elevation.” No hazardous materials were involved.
  • May 13: A rail broke causing a nine-car derailment at Radnor Yard.
  • May 23: There was a “human factor derailment” when the conductor “lined the wrong switch that was inside an active remote-control zone underneath a moving cut of cars, after having removed the lock and remote control zone tag from the switch.”  Three cars derailed at Radnor Yard.
  • May 25: One car derailed at Radnor Yard “due to automated control system retarder failure.”
  • May 25: Two cars derailed later that night at Radnor Yard “wide gage (due to defective or missing crossties.”
  • May 31: One train car derailed in the Chattanooga area due to “switch damaged or out of adjustment.”

In May 2018, there were a total of seven accidents involving 412 cars, three of them carrying hazardous materials, but no one was hurt and no hazardous materials were released.

In all in Tennessee in 2018, there were 194 train accidents or incidents.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.