The 1996 Cajon pass runaway 23 years later

it's fair to say home past had seen some

tragic freak accidents in the past in

1989 and 1994 so locals wondered could

it get worse well unfortunately it would

get worse

on February 1st 1996 at 1:00 a.m.

Santa Fe train HB alt 1-31 departed

Barstow yard in California the drain

consisted of GP 60 M 157 GP 50:38 53 GP

60 B 342 and GP 60 40 31 the Train was a

manifest carrying all sorts of cargo

like general merchandise iron coils

lumber plastic pellets tires pipes

filler board and hazardous materials

like pesticides in seven tanker cars

like the ill-fated trains that crashed

the fourth this crew had no idea they

were headed for trouble the engineer

tested his brakes at Victorville

California coming to a stop this was

comply with the timetable instruction

requiring him to make an air brake test

at the location the brakes worked fine

so he continued on then the train stops

again at Summit California to wait for a

signal once again the brakes worked

after being cleared at 3:40 a.m. they

descended toward Cajon Pass

as they began to go down the engineer

initiates the dynamic brakes on 157 and

instead of slowing the train down the

train instead accelerates engineer then

hits the air brakes into full emergency

but to his horror the speedometer

ominously creeped up to 45 miles an hour

there was nothing more the crew could do

to save their train the conductor in the

brakeman bailout from 157 but the

engineers stayed with his locomotives

like a captain of a sinking ship hoping

to ride it out in a last-ditch effort he

throws the engines into reverse

but then he felt 127 start to lead to

the right on a sharp curve by a trestle

bridge he ducked to the floor embraced


at 4:10 a.m. the train jumped the tracks

and flies into a dry creek bed 157

skidded onto its right side mostly

intact while the other engines ended up

crushed by 45 of the 49 freight cars -

railing and smashing into one another

the tanker cars exploded and the

wreckage became an inferno like the

engineer of 75 51 East seven years ago

the engineer climbs out of the damaged

lead engine which remained relatively

intact from the rest of the Train two

locals who heard the roar of the crash

came to help the badly injured engineer

the conductor however jumped the wrong

way and smashed his head into a rock

killing him instantly the brakeman

survived from jumping the Train but

later died from carbon monoxide

poisoning from the fire as the fire

burns toxic smoke rises into the air

that can be seen for miles as a

precaution interstate 15 near the wreck

is shut down all firefighters battled

the flames and locals near the area are

ordered to evacuate because of the

chemicals firefighters had to be hosed

down after exposure to the fumes

hours passed and eventually one tank car

containing the flammable liquid butyl

acrylic was found to have its internal

temperature rising from the heat

creating the risk of a BLEVE or boiling

liquid expanding vapor explosion which

occurs when there's a rupture of a

vessel containing a pressurized liquid

that's reached at temperatures way

beyond its boiling point finally on

February 5th at 9:44 p.m. the car was

ventilated by using plastic explosives

that was no longer a threat

therefore interstate 15 and California

State Route 138 were reopened at 11:47

p.m. the National Transportation Safety

Board concluded that the probable cause

was the same reason why the Santa Fe

intermodal ran away and collided with

the yupi coal train in 1994 a kink in

the air hose that triggers the brakes

train brakes work differently than other

air brakes brakes apply when pressure

drops instead of increasing to increase

to keep the brakes off air brakes should

be charged to 90 psi while the air PSI

is for emergency the PSI meter was

however only showing 81 psi when the

engineer applied the brakes instead of

90 psi like it should a crimp or kink

the air hose could block or restrict the

amount of air flowing through the air

brakes such a crimp or kink will gently

reoccur in a worn or damaged hose or in

a hose connected to an unauthorized

design or repair as HB alt 1-31 begins

to descend the slack and the train

couplers and draft gear bunched together

the slack action may have bent the air

hose and pinched off the air flow for

the engines to the rear of the Train and

resulted in the loss of air brakes it

was suspected that the sixteenth car was

the culprit as it was added before the

train left and improper repairs were

done to its air hose

however considering how far back the car

was it was likely it had little to no

impact on the Train

the NTSB then shifted their attention to

the fifth car it was within the effected

position for a blockage as identified by

the simulation for the crash

however the derailment subsequent fire

and the wreckage prevented close

examination of the car repair records

showed no history of intimate problems

indicate avow skanking or restriction

the investigators were also unable to

find any brake hoses that appeared to

have been kinked or crimped before the

accident or that could have been

identified to any particular car in the

suspect zone between five and eight

whatever the case the NTSB concluded

that somewhere between car number five

and car number nine and air hose kinked

cutting off the train's brakes in the

end 38 53 and 40:31 were damaged beyond

repair and scrapped 157 and 342 were

repaired and put back into service still

operating today with BNSF 23 years had

passed since the incident a memorial to

the two crew members that died was

erected by the crash site a chilling

reminder of not just the 1996 crash but

the other two that happened years before

but since then no more trains have run

away down the grid and now safety

systems are in place for where when a

trains air brake pressure drops too much

from a kink or a leak emergency brakes

are applied automatically stopping the

train but locals can't stop wondering

have they seen the last runaway train