On September 22, Amtrak’s eastbound Sunset Limited en route from Los Angeles to Miami, carrying 220 persons on board, roared across the Big Bayou Canot Bridge near Mobile, Alabama and derailed. Three locomotive units, the baggage and dormitory cars, and two of the six passenger cars were catapulted into the water.
It was the worst train disaster in U.S. history. The National Transportation Safety Board was called in to investigate and used forensic engineering and metallurgy to discover the cause of this accident.
TMBA was asked to recreate several animations of the incident based on the final NTSB findings report.
This wreck occurred after a CSX Transportation swing bridge over the Big Bayou Canot in southwestern Alabama (about 10 miles northeast of Mobile) was struck at approximately 2:45 AM by a barge being pushed by the towboat Mauvilla (owned and operated by Warrior and Gulf Navigation of Chickasaw, Alabama), whose pilot had become disoriented in heavy fog.
The collision forced the bridge approximately three feet out of alignment and severely kinked the track.
At approximately 2:53 AM, Amtrak's Sunset Limited train, powered by three locomotives (one GE Genesis P40DC number 819 and two EMD F40PHs, numbers 262 and 312) en route from Los Angeles, California to Orlando, Florida with 220 passengers and crew aboard, crossed the bridge at high speed and derailed at the kink.
The locomotives slammed into the bridge superstructure, causing its destruction. The lead locomotive embedded itself nose-first into the canal bank and the other locomotives, as well as the baggage car, dormitory car and two of the six passenger cars, plunged into the water.
The locomotives' fuel tanks, each of which held several thousand gallons of diesel fuel, ruptured upon impact, resulting in a massive fuel spill and a fire.
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