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Trainmaster Jon Hosfeld: Stopping a runaway train

Rail workers Terry Forson, left, Jon Hosfeld, center, and Jesse Knowlton  

(CNN) -- Jon Hosfeld, trainmaster, is a 31-year CSXT veteran from Kenton, OH. He and other rail workers stopped a runaway freight train after it had traveled nearly 70 miles with no one at the controls on Tuesday.

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Jon Hosfeld, and welcome

Jon Hosfeld: Hello, everyone. I thank you for this opportunity to speak to you.

CNN Moderator: When were you aware that the train had no one aboard?

Jon Hosfeld: Well, we were first notified of a possible runaway train about 12:35 p.m. There were first rumors that there was an employee on the locomotive, but through the channels of communication, we determined that there was no one on board. About 1:00 p.m. we determined that there was no one onboard.


Question from chat room: What happened to the person that was supposed to be on the train? Has anyone determined how this train got away?

Jon Hosfeld: Well, right now, we're running an intensive investigation, and before we release facts, we want to know everything, have the scenario, and then make a press release. Right now investigators are in conference. Once all the data is gathered, I think our spokesperson from CSX will make a statement to the media. I don't really have that knowledge.

Question from chat room: How was it determined that you would be the one to attempt to board the train?

Jon Hosfeld: Well, I started in Stanley Yard, in Toledo, Ohio. I was made aware about 12:35 p.m. Myself and fellow supervisor Mike Smith, road foreman of engines, decided that we'd get in his truck and try to chase the train down. We were close several times, or ahead or behind the train. We determined that it was going at such a speed that we could not board it. We were both going to attempt to board it. We spoke with management, and they advised us to not put ourselves at risk.

CNN Moderator: How dangerous was it to try to link an engine to the train from behind at that speed?

Jon Hosfeld: From what I understand, the engineer felt confident he could do it. He's a professional, and can judge speed. He believes that he coupled onto the end of the train with his locomotive at about 45-47 mph without any slack action. Fortunately, the coupling was made on the first attempt, and he was able to slow the train from the rear with his locomotive.

That engineer's name is Jess Knowlton. The conductor was Terry L. Forson. They were the guys that really helped. This was a total team effort. The three of us just happened to be the three in the field, who were able to accomplish this mission. The engineer and the conductor weren't told to do this... they volunteered. They were successful, of course.

CNN Moderator: Tell us about boarding the train.

Jon Hosfeld: Well, I mentioned previously that we had gotten ahead of the train in the truck, and determined that it was humanly impossible to board it at the speed it was traveling. After the rescue engine was able to slow the train down, then we had to determine a location where there was a safe speed where one or two of us could board it, and isolate the power. That happened just south of my headquarters at Canton, Ohio, where we call it milepost 74. I actually boarded the train at what I thought was about 10 mph, but now they're saying it was 10-15. I isolated the power, and brought the train to a safe stop.

CNN Moderator: Considering that train traffic is coordinated and controlled, how dangerous was this "unscheduled" train? Could it have collided with other trains?

Jon Hosfeld: We determined that at about 12:30 p.m. there was a runaway train, and through coordination of the tower operator at Stanley, and our dispatcher out of Indianapolis, which controls the Toledo branch, they said they had problems. The signal system is designed that if there's a signal going by, all the others will go red, and all adjoining connections are notified. Two other trains on that portion of track were made sure to be on a siding, and clear of the main. That's factual information, to the best of my knowledge there was only one other train on the branch, which we used as the rescue engine, to slow the train.

Question from chat room: Were there any other options available had these things not worked?

Jon Hosfeld: We had a contingency plan. Ahead of the train, I had a local locomotive with two cars to be more or less a buffer and couple in with the train, if I was unsuccessful in isolating the engine.

CNN Moderator: Has your training prepared you for situations like this?

Jon Hosfeld: Not exactly. This is very unusual, probably once in a lifetime. I believe that once we find all the data, we'll be able to ensure that it never happens again.

Question from chat room: How are you handling being in the public eye?

Jon Hosfeld: I'm just a regular guy. I did what I thought was right, to protect the public and my fellow employees.

Question from chat room: Do you have a family? Did they know that you were chasing the train on that day?

Jon Hosfeld: Yes, I have a wife and daughter, and they were aware of it. As soon as the event was over, I called them and told them I was safe.

CNN Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us today?

Jon Hosfeld: I was glad that I was able to make some good decisions, and bring this to a safe ending. Also, I'd like to thank all the state and public officials for their support and all the municipalities, that we did not have any accidents. This effort was a total team effort, more than just the three of us. There were ten or twenty other employees behind the scenes, and hundreds of state and local people, communicating. I'm proud to be an employee of CSX.

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us today.

Jon Hosfeld: Good day, folks!

Jon Hosfeld joined the chat room via telephone from Ohio and provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Wednesday at 1 p.m. EDT.

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Rail workers describe how they stopped runaway train
May 16, 2001


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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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