C6/1999R Tank wagons derailing and catching fire at Vainikkala, on April 7, 1999

On Wednesday, 7 April 1999, on Vainikkala freight yard, nine wagons of a 52 wagon train derailed. Seven of the wagons turned over and the crude oil hauled in the wagons ignited. As a result the wagons were badly burnt and the environment damaged due to the crude oil penetrating the surrounding ground and ditches. The wagons remaining on the rails were rescued from the fire by being removed from the scene of the incident by shunting engines. Regular passenger traffic was not affected as the main track running past the scene of the incident could be opened for traffic before the arrival of any succeeding regular trains. However freight traffic had to be operated by exceptional arrangements over a period of about two months.

The incident did not entail any personal injury. Seven Russian tank wagons designed for the transport of oil products were badly damaged so as to become quite unusable. The tank of one wagon and the bogies of two wagons suffered some damage. Railway line was damaged over an area of five tracks requiring the dismounting of 850 m of track. About 225 m of totally new track had to be built. In the accident two turnouts broke. When the wagons bumped into the foot of an electric railway catenary support, the portal cantilever dropped and fell down and five contact wires broke. In the fire also a heating transformer, the railway yard lighting centre as well as some luminaires and their lighting cablings were damaged. Of the 600 m­ of crude oil carried in the tanks of the incident wagons, 200 m­ burnt outside the tanks. About 260 m­ of crude oil was recovered from the burnt wagons after the extinction operation, and 40m­ of petroleum was removed from the ground. An estimated 100 m­ of crude oil penetrated the railway yard and the ground. The total costs generated by the accident amounted to over FIM 7 million.

The accident was caused by a failing fastening (screw fastening in old turnout wooden sleepers) of the fixed part (i.e. the intermediate rail) of the point of the outer-curve-side turnout. The outer-curve-side wheels of the loaded wagons had displaced and bent the fixed part of the outer-curve-side point of the turnout to the extent that the inner-curve side wheels of the wagons dropped between the rails. When the wheelsets reached the point of the turnout blade and the inner-curve-side wheels continued rolling between the rails, the outer-curve-side wheels raised over the rails. Then they continued outwards and caused the wagons to derail. As a result some of the wagons turned over. A fire ignited when a wagon bumped into the foot of a catenary support and the contract wires broke; an arc was generated which ignited the crude oil having leaked from the wagons. The derailed wagons were the 18th – 26th wagons of the train. In fact Russian wagons have more rigidly turning bogies than the Finnish wagons, and this probably contributed in some extent to the incident.

In order to prevent similar incidents and accidents, Accident Investigation Board Finland recommends that the limit values of the turnout dimensions be specified to be more reasonable and expedient. An unambiguous definition of the different limit values should be produced and they should be strictly followed. Also the measures to be implemented in cases of non-conformity should be specified. Finally the measuring of the turnouts in load ought to be developed. The aforementioned is of particular importance on such sections, which are operated by Russian wagons carrying hazardous goods.

In view of the development of rescue work Accident Investigation Board Finland recommends that a better and more expedient marking to be adopted for hazardous goods in the wagon lists and for the wagons carrying hazardous goods, as governed by the Finnish-Russian bilateral railway traffic agreement. It is also recommended that a chemicals control network be formed; chemicals control equipment be purchased for VR’s rescue units; rescue plans conforming with the Seveso II Directive be drawn up for all railway yards handling chemicals; instructions be drawn up for organized activities in different incident and accident situations; a supplement be entered in the emergency direction of the municipal fire brigades; the management system be expanded so as to include advance preparative measures; the alarm stages of Lappeenranta Rescue Institution be redefined; the alarm instructions be revised as for the rescue activities and the medical care measures implemented.

Legends for the figures in the report are also in English.

C6/1999R Report (pdf, 0.87 Mt)

  • Recommendation S125
  • Recommendation S126
  • Recommendation S127
  • Recommendation S128
  • Recommendation S129
  • Recommendation S130
  • Recommendation S131
  • Recommendation S132
  • Recommendation S133
  • Recommendation S134

Published 7.4.1999