CSX 8888 incident

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CSX 8888 incident
Route of CSX 8888 runaway train (starts at top, just south of Toledo, Ohio)
Route of CSX 8888 runaway train (starts at top, just south of Toledo, Ohio)
Date May 15, 2001
Location WalbridgeKenton, Ohio
Country United States
Operator CSX Transportation
Type of incident Unmanned runaway train
Cause Operator error
Trains CSX freight train
Deaths 0
Injuries 1

The CSX 8888 incident, also known as the Crazy Eights incident, was an unmanned runaway CSX Transportation freight train in the U.S. state of Ohio in 2001. Locomotive #8888, an EMD SD40-2, was pulling a train of 47 cars including some loaded with hazardous chemicals, and ran uncontrolled for two hours at up to 51 miles per hour (82 km/h).[1] It was finally halted by a railroad crew in a second locomotive, which caught the runaway and coupled to the rear car.[2]

The incident inspired the 2010 motion picture Unstoppable.[3]

Incident timeline[edit]

A CSX SD40-2 locomotive, similar to the locomotive involved in the incident.

On May 15, 2001, the runaway train departed Stanley Yard in Walbridge, Ohio, CSX's primary classification yard for Toledo,[1] and began a 66-mile (106 km) journey south through northwest Ohio with no-one at the controls.

While using the locomotive to move a string of freight cars from one track to another within the yard, the engineer noticed a misaligned switch and concluded his train would not be able to stop short of the switch. He then climbed out of the locomotive while the train was still moving slowly in order to correctly align the switch.

In his attempt to stop prior to leaving the train, the engineer had applied the locomotive's brake. He also attempted to apply the locomotive's dynamic brake, but failed to do so. He then set the throttle for the traction motors at 100%. If the dynamic brakes had been selected as intended, this throttle setting would have caused the train to slow down. However, since dynamic braking was not engaged, the setting caused the train to accelerate.

A portable derailer

The engineer also applied the train brake, but, as is normal for intra-yard movements, the air brake on the train was not connected to the locomotive, and thus was not functional. The locomotive's independent brake, which applies the air brake on only the locomotive, was engaged, but this was not enough to overcome full engine power.[4] Furthermore, applying the locomotive's brakes disabled the train's dead man's switch, which would otherwise have applied the train brakes to stop the train and cut the engine power. The engineer, a 35-year veteran with a clean disciplinary record, attempted to reboard the accelerating locomotive, but was unable to do so and was dragged about 80 feet (24 m), receiving minor cuts and abrasions. There were no other injuries or fatalities resulting from the incident.

The train consisted of CSX #8888 and 47 freight cars, 22 of which were loaded. Two tank cars contained thousands of gallons of molten phenol, a toxic ingredient of paints, glues, and dyes that is harmful when it is inhaled, ingested, or comes into contact with the skin. Attempts to derail the train using a portable derailer failed and police shot at an emergency fuel cutoff switch, which had no effect because the button must be pressed for several seconds before the engine is starved of fuel and shuts down. A northbound freight train, Q63615, was directed onto a siding where the crew uncoupled its locomotive, #8392 (another EMD SD40-2), and waited for the runaway to pass. The locomotive's crew of two, Jess Knowlton an engineer with 31 years of service and Terry L. Forson, conductor with one year's experience,[5] chased the runaway train and were able to couple onto the rear car. They slowed the train by applying the dynamic brakes on the chase locomotive. An EMD GP38 locomotive was prepared further down the line to couple to the front of the runaway to slow it further, if necessary. Once the runaway had slowed to 11 miles per hour, CSX trainmaster Jon Hosfeld ran alongside the train, climbed aboard, and shut down the engine. The train was stopped just southeast of Kenton, Ohio, before reaching the GP38.[6] All the brake blocks on #8888 had been completely destroyed by the heat from being applied throughout the runaway trip. The name of the engineer who let the train slip was never made public.

Preservation Attempts[edit]

CSX has been approached by a number of railway museums, seeking to purchase 8888 for preservation, or entry into a transport museum. However, in response to this CSX stated that they did not feel the locomotive was worthy of preservation, and instead had stated that the locomotive will instead be dismantled and rebuilt as part of the SD40-3 rebuild program in late 2014, early 2015.


  1. ^ a b http://www.michiganrailroads.com/RRHX/Stations/CountyStations/WoodOHStations/StanleyYardOH.htm
  2. ^ "Runaway train stopped after uncontrolled 2 hours". CNN. May 16, 2001. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  3. ^ David Patch (November 12, 2010). "At times, 'Unstoppable' goes off track from reality". Toledo Blade. 
  4. ^ "CSX 8888 - The Final Report". Retrieved 2014-06-01. 
  5. ^ Worden, Amy (Novmber 12, 2010). "Pennsylvania man lived the drama that inspired 'Unstoppable'". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 2014. 
  6. ^ "CSX 8888 - The Final Report". Retrieved 2014-06-01. 

External links[edit]