Bear Creek Jct., Pa. 05/18/1930

INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION

REPORT OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF SAFETY IN RE INVESTIGATION OF
AN ACCIDENT WHICH OCCURRED ON THE LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD NEAR BEAR
CREEK JUNCTION, PA., ON MAY 18, 1930.

June 28, 1930.

To the Commission:

On May 18, 1930, there was a rear-end collision between two freight trains on the Lehigh Valley
Railroad near Bear Creek Junction, Pa., which resulted in the injury of three employees.

Location and method of operation

This accident occurred on that part of the Wyoming Division extending between Ransom and Penn
Haven Junction, Pa., a distance of 53.52 miles; in the immediate vicinity of the point of accident
this is a three-track line over which trains are operated by time-table, train orders, and an
automatic block-signal and train-stop system. The accident occurred on the eastbound main track at
a point approximately 3.6 miles west of Bear Creek Junction; approaching tins point from the west
there is a series of curves and short tangents, followed by a 2 degree 30′ curve to the right 776
feet in length, then tangent track for a distance of 1,785 feet, the accident occurring on this
tangent at a point 857 feet from its eastern end. The grade for eastbound trains is 1.209 per cent
descending for a distance of about 3 miles to the point of accident and for a considerable distance
beyond that point.

The signals involved are signals 1532 and 1542, of the single-arm, three position, upper quadrant
type, and are located 228 feet and 10,166 feet, respectively, west of the point of accident. The
automatic train stop device in use on this line is of the intermittent inductive type with
fore-stalling device.

The weather was clear at the time of the accident, which occurred about 1.55 p.m.

Description

Eastbound extra freight train symbol Advance BJ-4 consisted of 64 cars and a caboose, hauled by
engine 2107, and was in chance of Conductor Corcoran and Engineman Conniff. This train departed
from Coxton, 37 miles west of Bear Creek Junction, at 11.50 a.m., left Gracedale, 0.1 miles west
of Bear Creek Junction at about 1.33 p.m., and was approaching Bear Creak Junction when it was
stopped due to an undesired emergency application of the brakes. It had been standing at this point
approximately 6 minutes when it was struck by train MG-2.

Eastbound extra freight train symbol MG-2 consisted of 45 loaded and 5 empty cars and a caboose,
hauled by engine 380, with a total of 2167 gross tons, and was in charge of Conductor Boyle and
Engineman Neimeyer. This train left Coxton at 12.01 p.m., left Gracedale about 1.43 p.m., passed
signal 1542 which was displaying a caution indication, passed signal 1532 displaying a stop
indication and collided with train BJ-4 while traveling at a speed estimated to have been between
15 and 20 miles per hour.

The caboose of train BJ-4 was demolished and the wreckage consumed by fire. The rear truck of the
60th car and the Gist to 64th cars, inclusive in this train were derailed, the 61st and 63rd cars
being destroyed and the other derailed cars damaged. Engine 380 and its tender were over-turned on
their right sides and stopped 233 feet east of the point of collision, about 25 feet from the
track, and were considerably damaged. The forward truck of the first car in train MG-2 was also
derailed and slightly damaged.

Summary of evidence

Engineman Conniff, of train BJ-4, stated that when he stopped at Pittston Junction, 1.1 miles
east of Coxton, for the purpose of coupling on a pusher engine, he made a 5 to 7-pound brake-pipe
reduction but the brakes applied in emergency, which he thought at the time was caused by some a
one opening the brake valve at the rear of the train, as he had no previous difficulty with the
brakes. Upon examination of the train it was found that the knuckle on the rear end of the first
car was broken and the car off center. This car was set out and after recouping the engine to the
train, the train line Was recharged and a standing brake-test was made by reducing the brake-pipe
pressure several times. The air-brake inspector then gave him a card showing the brakes were
operative on all of the cars and the train departed. The next stop was at Mountain Top, 10.3 miles
from Bear Creek Junction, where he made a service application and at that time the brakes
functioned properly. The pusher engine placed the caboose on the rear of the train and coupled
behind at this point and the train proceeded to Gracedale where a stop was made for water, this
stop being made by using the independent engine brake. After water had been taken the train
continued with the pusher engine assisting for a short distance. The train passed over the summit
of the mountain at a speed of 4 or 5 miles per hour and when it reached a point just beyond signal
1532 and while traveling at a speed of 25 or 30 miles per hour he made another brake-pipe reduction
of 6 or 7 pounds and the brakes again went into emergency, breaking the knuckle on the forward end
of the leading car and bringing the train to a stop. Engineman Conniff did not know that a
collision occurred while standing at that point until informed of the fact by a brakeman. Some time
after the accident he handled the forward part of the train to Mahoney yard and on the way down the
mountain six or seven service applications of the brakes were made and on the last occasion they
again applied in emergency, braking a knuckle on the first car for the third time. As soon as
repairs wore made he continued to his destination but he controlled the speed of the train by use
of the independent brake.

Fireman Klaproth, of train BJ-4, stated that a massage was received at Athens stating that some
wheels were sliding in the train. The train was stopped, the air bled off from one car, and the
train continued to Pittston Junction. When the brakes were applied in making the stop at this
point he felt a jerk from the rear of the train which broke the knuckle on the rear of the first
car. This car was set out and the train then proceeded with no further trouble with the brakes
until they were applied in the vicinity of signal. 1532 and when this was done they went into
emergency. Fireman Klaproth said that when the engineman started to apply the brakes near signal.
1532, he made a remark which indicated that he anticipated another undesired emergency application.

Conductor Corcoran, of train BJ-4, stated that while his train was passing the station at Sayre
some one called to them that some of the brakes were sticking, and when the train arrived at
Athens, the next station in advance, they received a message to the same effect. The train was
stopped at this point and an examination revealed that the brakes were sticking on the 22nd car
from the caboose. After releasing the brakes on this car the train proceeded and no more trouble
was noticed until the train reached a point in the vicinity of Sugar Run and then it was
discovered the brakes were sticking on the rear car. He stopped the train by means of the emergency
valve in the caboose and the air was bled off this car and the train continued to Coxton with no
further trouble. When the brakes were applied to stop at Pittston Junction, a kicker in the train
caused them to go into emergency. After the caboose was coupled to the train at Gracedale he
noticed the caboose gauge registered 70 pounds pressure and observed that it registered the same
when the train started down the grade on which the accident occurred. He did not know how fast the
train moved over the top of the hill but it was moving down. The grade at a speed of 25 or 30 miles
per hour when the train was again stopped by an emergency application of the brakes. Thinking that
an air hose had burst he started forward and at the some time instructed the flagman to go back to
protect. Upon reaching the 22nd car from the caboose he found the wheels heated and he started to
close the out-out cock, thinking that this was the car which was causing the trouble. He was under
this car attempting to close the crossover valve when the car suddenly surged forward due to the
collision. He said that the train stopped at 1.50 p.m., and he thought the accident occurred from 7
to 10 minutes later.

The statements of Flagman McDonald, of train BJ-4, substantiated those of Conductor Corcoran as
to difficulty experienced with the brakes en route and as to the action taken to remedy the
situation. He said that each time the train stopped he went back to flag, and when the last stop
was made, at 1.50 p.m., he immediately went back with a flag and two torpedoes. When he reached a
point at about the leaving end of the curve west of the point of accident he heard train MG-2
approaching and almost immediately the engine appeared around the curve about six or seven car
lengths distant. He gave at signals with his flag which were acknowledged by the engine whistle of
the approaching train; he did not place the torpedoes as he did not have time to do so before the
engineman answered his flag. When the engine of that train passed him he noticed that sand was
running on the rails and from the sound of the exhaust it appeared that the engine was in reverse
motion; he did not hear the grinding of the brakes. He estimated the speed of the train at the time
it passed him at 35 miles per hour and said it did not seem to be reduced prior to the accident,
which according to his watch occurred at 1.56 p.m. Immediately after the accident he started for-
ward toward the point of accident and on his way he noticed that the retainers on about 25 cars in
that train were not set in holding position. He did not see anyone on top of the train, and
Brakeman Firestine and Conductor Boyle came up to the point of accident walking on the ground, one
on each side of the train. He said Engineman Neimeyer made a remark “that never happened to me
before; that is what a man gets for running without retainers.”

Engineman Neimeyer, of train MG-2, stated that alter coupling his engine to the train upon its
arrival at Coxton he tested the brakes and found very little leakage; he estimated it at 3 or 4
pounds per minute. He knew that another train was to precede his own train from Coxton as he had,
to wait until that train departed, and was also aware that he was following that train closely due
to the fact that the first automatic signal east of Coxton was in caution position and the signal
at Mountain Top Was in stop position; he stopped the train at the latter point by using the
automatic brakes. The next signal was in caution position, which he acknowledged by means of the
train control device in the engine cab, and the train continued to Grace dale where water was
taken. From that point all of the signals were clear until the train was passing over the summit,
when he observed the first signal east of that point, signal 1542, Was displaying a caution
indication. Before reaching that signal he made a brake-pipe reduction of about 7 pounds and the
sound of the train line exhaust indicated the brakes were in good condition. He passed this signal,
operating the forestalling lever of the train stop device, and left the brakes applied until the
train reached the curve just west of Conety’s Fill where he moved the brake valve to full release
position; when he placed the brake valve in running position the train-line gauge registered 71 or
72 pounds, the normal pressure being about 75 pounds. He estimated the speed of his train at 30
miles per hour at the time the brakes were applied, and at 15 miles per hour when they were
released. The train began to gain momentum and when the speed had increased to about 20 miles per
hour he made another reduction of about 10 pounds, but this application did not take proper hold
and after traveling a distance of about 10 car-lengths he made a further reduction of 10 pounds
which did not have any more effect than the former reduction, and, he immediately moved the brake
valve handle into the emergency position which caused only a slight shock to the train. At the time
of the emergency application he was not yet in sight of signal 1533, which did not come into view
until his engine was rounding the curve west of it, and he then saw that it was in stop position. A
short time later he saw a flagman giving stop signals which he acknowledged by two blasts of the
whistle, and then he saw the rear end of the train ahead. Realizing that his train was beyond
control he told the fireman that the safest thing for them to do was to jump. H6 did not sound the
whistle signal for hand brakes. When the engine was five or six car-lengths from the point of
accident, Engineman Neimeyer jumped from the lower step on the left side of the engine. Although
injured as a result of falling when he jumped off, he was fully conscious and remembered talking to
some of the employees about how the brakes operated, but did not recall saying anything to Flagman
McDonald about running without retainers; he thought some of the retainers were turned up,
although ha had not told the brakeman how many to turn up. He further stated that ho noticed
nothing unusual about the functioning of the brakes until after the train had started down the
grade on which the accident occurred.

Fireman Eckrote, of train MG-2, stated that they passed the first signal east of Coxton under a
caution indication and kept gaining on the train ahead until they were only a short distance behind
them as the trains approached Gardner’s Run. In order to permit the first train to get farther
ahead, his train stopped for water at this point. All signals were clear from this point until they
reached the first signal west of Mountain Top, which signal was displaying a caution indication,
and when they reached the signal at Mountain Top it Was in the stop position. His train was
delayed at this point for some time, due to the pusher engine of train BJ-4 changing the position
of the caboose, As soon as they received a clear board his train proceeded to Graceville, took
water and then continued, and while approaching signal 1562, located approximately 200 feet west of
the summit, it was in caution position but before the engine reached this signal it assumed the
clear position. After the engine passed over the summit he started fixing the fire and did not see
the indication of signal 1542 although when the engine was about a train-length down the grade he
felt an application of the brakes which appeared to properly check the speed. In the vicinity of
Conety’s Fill and while the train was traveling at a speed of about 25 miles per hour the engineman
made another service application of the brakes but this application did not seem to take proper
hold, and the engineman then applied the brakes in emergency which reduced the speed slightly but
did not have the proper effect. Shortly afterwards the engineman sounded two short blasts of the
whistle, indicating that a flap was being acknowledged, and upon looking out the gangway on the
left side of the engine he observed the caboose of train BJ-4 approximately 35 or 40 car-lengths
distant. He got down on the steps and when it became certain that a collision would occur he jumped
off; he estimated the speed of his train at this time at 20 or 25 miles per hour.

Conductor Boyle, of train MG-2, stated that the helper engine coupled the caboose to the rear of
the train at Mountain Top and when the air Was cut through he noticed the gauge registered 80
pounds pressure; the brakes were not tested after this shift was made. The speed of his train was
about 20 miles per hour when it passed the apex of the grade west of the point of accident, but was
increased to 22 or 23 miles per hour approaching signal 1542. He said that apparently this signal
was displaying a caution indication as the brakes were applied and the speed reduced to
approximately 15 miles per hour, when the brakes were released. Speed was again increased to about
25 miles per hour when the brakes were applied the second time, which appeared to be an emergency
application as the caboose received a severe shock. This application reduced the speed to about 20
miles per hour when the train conic to a sudden stop, which he thought at the time was due to a
derailment. He immediately left the caboose and went to the head end of the train, and on his way
he turned down four or five retainers that had been set up by the brakeman. Subsequent to the
accident he accompanied all of the equipment of his train, except the engine and first car, to
Mahoning, and on this trip he noticed nothing unusual about the operation of the train brakes.

Brakeman Firestine, of train MG-2, stated that the train was standing at Mountain Top he walked
forward alongside the train and inspected, it, but noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Then he
reached the leading car he started back over the train, setting up retainers, and estimated that he
turned them up on 30 or 35 cars. He rode on top of the train after leaving Mountain Top, and while
approaching signal 1542 he observed that it was in cation position. The engineman applied the
brakes when the engine reached a point about five car-lengths beyond this signal, and they seemed
to take proper hold, reducing the speed from 25 miles per hour to 13 or 15 miles per hour and then
the brakes wore released, which in his opinion was for the purpose of preventing the stalling of
the train. In the vicinity of Conety’s Fill the brakes were again applied, but it did not appear
to be an emergency application, as they applied gradually. This second application did not seem to
have the sane effect as the previous application, although the speed was gradually reduced until
the collision occurred; he estimated the speed at the time of the accident at from 15 to 20 miles
per hour.

Flagman Crowly, of train MG-2, stated that while the train was ascending the grade west of the
point of accident he noted the gauge in the caboose registered 80 pounds pressure. After the helper
engine placed the caboose on the rear of the train at Mountain Top he coupled the air to the
caboose and again noticed the gauge showed a pressure of 80 pounds. When the brakes were applied,
approximately 200 feet east of the apex, he observed an air reduction of 8 or 10 pounds but did not
look at the gauge again to see if the train-line was properly recharged. Another application of the
brakes was made when the engine reached a point, according to his estimation, 15 or 20 car-lengths
west of signal 1532, and from the surge of the caboose they functioned properly. He thought the
speed t the time his train passed the apex was about 15 miles per hour and 20 to 25 miles per hour
at the time the first application was made on the descending grade, which reduced the seed to 18 or
20 miles per hour, and he did not think this speed was increased prior to the second application
just before the collision occurred.

Master Mechanic Jefferson stated that engine No. 380 was inspected and declared in good road
condition immediately prior to being dispatched for service from Coxton on the day of the accident.

About 2 hours and 45 minutes alter this accident occurred, before the equipment of train MG-2 s
moved, an inspection of the brakes was made which disclosed that all retainers ware turned down and
that the brakes were still applied on 38 cars and released on 12 cars. Subsequent inspection and
test of this equipment showed that on the 50 cars piston travel was from 6 to 9 inches and 45
retainers were in proper condition.

Conclusions

This accident was caused by the failure of Engineman Neimeyer, of train MG-2, properly to control
the speed of his train on a descending grade.

The rules provide that when a caution signal is passed the speed of the train must be under control
to approach the next signal if set at danger, prepared to stop. According to the evidence there was
no difficulty experienced with the brakes prior to passing over the summit west of the point of
accident. When Engineman Neimeyer observed distant signal 1542 displaying a caution indication he
made a service application of the brakes and at that time they properly retarded the speed of the
train. He operated the forestalling device of the automatic train stop while passing this signal,
and when he thought the speed of the train had been sufficiently reduced he released the brakes,
which resulted in an increase of speed on the descending grade. When he made another application of
the brakes they appeared to have little Or no effect and after the train traveled a short distance
he made a further brake-pipe reduction, but this still failed to reduce the speed of the train and
he then applied them in emergency; the latter application caused a slight lunch of the train but
did not have the desired emergency effect.

Under special instructions contained in the time-table, freight trains are required to use 75 per
cent of the retainers between Glen Summit and White Haven, in which territory this accident
occurred. The evidence is conflicting as to the number of retainers set up on train MG-2.
Brakeman Firestine maintained that before departing from Mountain Top he set up the retainers on
30 or 35 cars at the head end of the train, and that as soon as the collision occurred he turned
them all down so that another engine could handle the equipment from the scene of accident.
Engineman Neimeyer said he thought some of the retainers were turned up. Brakeman McDonald
stated, however, that immediately after the accident he returned to the point of collision from his
position where he flagged the approaching train, and he observed that all of the retainers on the
forward part of the train were turned down. From the statements of Engineman Neimeyar as to the
manner in which he handled the brakes prior to the accident, as well as the remark Brakeman
McDonald stated he made about “running without retainers”, it is evident that the required number
of retainers were not set in holding position, and that when he made the second application of the
brakes, the air-brake equipment was not fully recharged, resulting in his being unable to stop the
train in time to prevent the accident. This is also evidenced by the fact that the first
application on the descending grade properly controlled the speed, by the results of inspection and
tests of brake equipment after the accident, and by the fact that the equipment of train MG-2 was
handled to its destination and no further trouble was experienced with the air brakes.

The employees involved were experienced mentioned at the time of the accident none of them had been
on duty in violation of any of the provisions of the hours of service law.

Respectfully submitted,

W. P. BORLAND,

Director.
.

Leave your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


2 + five =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Blue Taste Theme created by Jabox