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What happened

At approximately 0510[1] on 15 February 2015, the leading bogie on the leading wagon of empty Pacific National (PN) coal train NB901 derailed after climbing the railhead at 366.811[2] km while descending the grade between Ardglen and Kankool. The bogie travelled in a derailed state for approximately 1,950 metres before it collided with No. 51 catchpoints at Kankool. The impact caused the first wagon to uncouple from the rear of the third locomotive and veer towards a cutting wall. The derailed wagon and the following 18 wagons came to rest concertinaed in various positions within an 80-metre earthen cutting. The three locomotives continued until an automatic brake application, triggered when the train parted, brought them to a stand at 369.450 km in the Kankool to Chilcotts Creek section.

Of the 19 derailed wagons, 18 sustained severe damage and were decommissioned and the third locomotive received minor damage. The derailment damaged approximately 1,900 metres of track and 2,377 concrete sleepers. This included the total destruction of 115 metres of track, three sets of points and 1393 sleepers. The train crew did not report any injuries.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that train management procedures, designed to keep the train stretched and reduce in-train forces on descending grades, were not adhered to as the train descended between Ardglen and Kankool. This induced sufficient compressive forces in the train to affect the first wagon. As a result, the flange tip of the left hand side wheel of No.3 axle on the leading wagon gripped and climbed the railhead of the outside (down side[3]) rail and derailed as it transitioned a right hand curve in the section at 366.811 km.

What's been done as a result

PN revised its train-handling guidelines for Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP)-braked trains and train crew monitoring program to ensure conformance to the train management requirements.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) replaced the damaged infrastructure and installed an additional flange lubrication system in the Ardglen to Kankool section to minimise friction in the wheel/rail interface.

Safety message

Operators are to maintain constant vigil to ensure the correct application of train management procedures. Any departure from or non-conformance to the procedures, whether major or minor, can result in catastrophic damage to both track and rolling stock.

Third locomotive of NB901
Third Locomotive of NB901. Source: ATSB
Source: ATSB


  1. The 24-hour clock is used in this report. Local time was Australian Eastern Summer Time (AEST).
  2. Distance in kilometres from a track reference point at Sydney Central Station.
  3. The down side and down side rail are on the left-hand side of any (down) train travelling away from Sydney.
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The occurrence


Safety analysis


Safety issues and actions

Sources and submissions

General details
Date: 15 February 2015 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0516 ESDT Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination 
Location   (show map):Kankool Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: New South Wales Occurrence type: Derailment 
Release date: 06 April 2018  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Train details
Line operator: Australian Rail Track Corporation 
Train operator: Pacific National 
Train registration: NB901 
Type of operation: Freight 
Sector: Freight 
Damage to train: Substantial 
Departure point:Greta, NSW
Destination:Narrabri, NSW
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Last update 14 November 2018