This afternoon a relatively minor head on collision took place on the KCT Low Line between UP Armourdale Yard and Adams Street Interlocking just north of Kansas Avenue in Kansas City, KS.
A DME/CP transfer from Joint Agency Yard to UP Armourdale yarded its consist of autoracks at the UP. The power consist was a pair of SD40-2s, NREX 7349 and NREX 5581, both facing west (elephant style). The rear engine, the 5581, was cut away and ran long hood forward east to Adams Street, where it was turned, and then began to head back west to the other unit, again running long hood forward to UP Armourdale Yard where it was to be coupled back into the 7349, and return Joint Agency Yard back to back engine light.
This is where something went awry. About this time a KCT transfer with WAMX 1507, a SW1500, and 15-20 cars began to pull out of UP Armourdale east on the way to KCT Mill Street Yard. This move was on the southern of the 2 running tracks out of the yard. This was also the track that the light engine was on. This track is OMT other than main track GCOR 6.28 territory with a 10 MPH speed limit. About 30 feet north of Kansas Avenue these two movements collided head on in a sharp, blind curve, derailing the rear truck of the NREX SD40-2, and what appeared to be both trucks of the KCT SW1500, and possibly the first car of the transfer. The impact did damage to the pilots of both engines, and bent both drawbars downward. The weather conditions were sunny, clear, temperatures right around 60 degrees, and occurred around 15:30 on 2-26-12.
Kansas City, Kansas Police were called to the scene. By 17:00 R.J. Corman Derailment Services were on the scene unloading the sidebooms. A UP remote yard job was brought over to rear of the transfer and uncoupled all but the head 2 cars, and dragged them back into Armourdale Yard around 5:30.
I hate to speculate on a matter such as this, but there are several things that could have went wrong here, whether it be a crew running a signal onto the running track (or signal problem), a crew not asking permission to make their move, or there was a miscommunication such as a crew not taking the proper assigned routing. Regardless, this is still 6.28 territory which requires you to travel at a speed able to stop within half the range of vision, which is fairly limited in that particular curve, and in a perfect world would have prevented this.
At least one crew member from the CP light engine move was taken to the hospital with either broken and/or bruised ribs. The CP conductor was said to have less than a year of service, and the engineer is said to have been promoted 2 months ago.
This is an unfortunate event, and the railroads involved are obviously doing their investigations (Watco/KCT/Kaw River Railroad, DME/CP, and UP mangers were on the scene as well, since it partially occurred on their track, right at the maintenance limit sign with the KCT).
I posted this as a reminder to be safe, and to check, and recheck your instructions before you make a move. Having spent a fair share of my days in the cab of a locomotive I know first hand how easily this could happen if you have even a momentary lapse in attention or judgement at the wrong time. Be careful out there guys.