July 29, 2011 | Mark Paradies

UK RAIB to Investigate the Root Causes of an Incident on the Kirklees Light Railway Near Huddersfield in the UK

Press release from the UK Rail Accident Investigation Branch …

At 12:09 hrs the second passenger train of the day on the 15 inch gauge Kirklees Light Railway stopped a short distance from the terminus at Shelley with low boiler water level.  The injectors were unable to maintain the level of water in the boiler which dropped below the bottom of the gauge glasses and the fusible plug melted. The train crew and the railway’s responsible officer were unable to diagnose the problem and, after some delay, the fire was dropped. By the time that the decision was made to drop the fire, parts of the firebox and boiler had been exposed to the fire without water behind them for several minutes. During this time there was an increasing risk of a dangerous failure of the boiler.

The RAIB’s preliminary examination has found that the flow of water to the boiler from the larger of the two injectors was restricted owing to a valve between the injector and the boiler being nearly closed.  The melting of the fusible plug in the firebox was not noticed by the train crew.

The investigation will examine the sequence of events leading up to the incident, the way in which the incident was managed, the railway’s procedures for locomotive maintenance and preparation and its system of training and assessment of operational staff.

The RAIB has issued safety advice reminding operators of steam locomotives of the need to ensure that they have identified the risks associated with boiler malfunction and have suitable processes in place, and briefed, for managing them.  This advice covers the need for preparation and routine inspection, and in particular, checking the correct operation of methods of feeding the boiler with water.  It also urges operators to review the adequacy of their arrangements for ensuring that the crews of locomotives are competent to recognise signs of low water and are aware of the subsequent actions to be taken.

The RAIB’s investigation is independent of any investigations by the safety authority (the Office of Rail Regulation).

The RAIB will publish a report, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of its investigation. This report will be available on the RAIB website.

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