Dryden, N.Y., 06/12/1927


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 DRYDEN, N. Y.,
ON JUNE 12, 1927.

July 21, 1927.

To the Commission:

On June 12, 1927, there was a derailment of a passenger train on the Lehigh Valley Railroad near
Dryden, N. Y., resulting in the death of two employees.

Location and method of operation

This accident occurred on that part of the Auburn Division extending between Sayre, Pa., and
Auburn, N. Y., a distance of 85.3 miles; in the vicinity of the point of accident this is a single-track
line over which trains are operated by time-table and train orders, no block-signal system being in use. The
accident occurred at a point 1,480 feet west of mile post 320, at a switch which leads off the rain track to
the north to what is known as the Borden Milk Station siding; approaching this point from the east the
track is tangent for a distance of 4,500 feet, then there is a 2 degree curve to the left about 600 feet in
length, followed by about 150 feet of tangent to the point of the switch. The grade for westbound trains is
0.767 per cent descending.

The switch is a facing-point switch for westbound trains and the switch stand is of the high Ramapo
type; the turnout is a No. 10. Main-line switches are equipped with what is known as a tumbler lock, a
safety device to which the switch lock is attached by chain, as an additional precaution to prevent switch
points becoming opened when the switch is closed. The view of the switch target is restricted to about 480
feet from the cab of a westbound engine.

The weather was clear at the time of the accident, which occurred at about 5.55 p.m.

Description

Westbound passenger train No. 293 consisted of one coach, one combination baggage and smoking car,
and one milk car, in the order named, hauled by engine 1153, and was in charge of Conductor West and
Engineman Barnes. This train left Richford, 12.1 miles east of Dryden, at 5.34 p.m., one minute late, and
was derailed on encountering the switch leading to the Borden Milk Station siding while traveling at a
speed estimated to have been from 315 to 40 miles per hour.

The entire train was derailed after entering the siding. Engine 1153 turned over to the right,
damaging some of the buildings adjacent to the siding, while the tender came to rest bottom up crosswise the
track. The first two cars were partly overturned and the last car remained upright. The employees killed
were the engineman and fireman.

Summary of evidence

Conductor West stated that the air brakes were applied just after the engine passed the highway
crossing, about 400 feet east of the switch. Immediately after the accident he examined the switch; it was
lined for the siding and the switch lever was in the socket far enough to be held in position but had not
been pushed all the way down. The switch points were fully open and the switch target was showing red and
the tumbler rod of the safety device that locks the switch points after the switch is lined for the main
track was lying on the ground, while the switch lock, attached by a chain to the lock rod was open.
Conductor West further stated that the air brakes had been tested and had worked properly, no trouble having
been experienced in making the various stops en route. He estimated the speed of the train to have been
about 35 miles per hour at the time of the derailment. With the exception of Brakeman Wride, who stated
that he felt the air brakes applied before reaching the switch, but that he did not know how far from the
switch this application was made, the statements of the other members of the crew brought out nothing
additional of importance; their estimates of the speed at the time of the accident, ranged from 35 to 40
miles per hour.

Conductor Moore of eastbound train No. 286 which left Dryden several hours prior to the accident,
stated that his train picked up two cars of milk at the siding. He said that five cars in his train were
left standing on the main track west of the switch while the engine and three cars went in on the siding and
picked up the two milk cars; after pulling these cars out on the main track it was necessary to close the
switch in order to back against the train before proceeding eastward. He was standing on the ground about
four or five car-lengths from. the switch while this work was performed, and he said that he saw Brakeman
Bowe, who operated the switch, close it and pull up on the tumbler rod. Conductor Moore, also, said that he
was standing on the rear end of the train when it passed the switch and he saw that it was locked. Trainman
Corcoran also said that he saw Trainman Bowe close the switch, reach down and pull up the tumbler rod and
put the lock in its place. Although he had every reason to believe that Trainman Bowe properly locked the
switch he could not definitely state this to be the case as he said that he was standing too far away to
determine whether it was actually locked. Trainman Bowe was positive that he properly closed and locked the
switch, saying that he pulled up the safety lever and jerked on the chain to make sure that the lock was
fastened; he also said that he looked at the switch points.

Engineman Considine, of eastbound extra 1140, whose train departed from Freeville, 2.9 miles west
of Dryden, at 3.55 p.m., according to the train sheet, stated that he reduced speed approaching the high-way
crossing located just east of Borden siding. He was watching the crossing and at the same time he could see
the switch and the switch points. The switch target was green and he noticed no unusual noise while passing
over the switch. The switch was also passed by westbound extra 814 after it had been used by the crew of
train No. 286.

After the investigation had been held the Commission’s inspectors were advised by an official of
the railroad that a signed statement had been obtained from a boy, 13 years of age, admitting that he opened
the switch but the boy claimed that he found the switch unlocked.

Conclusions

This accident was caused by an open switch, due to its having been tampered with by a 13-year old
boy.

While Trainman Bowe, of eastbound train No. 286, said he properly closed and locked the switch,
and jerked on the chain to make sure that the switch lock was fastened, in which contention he is supported
by Conductor Moore and also by the fact that the crews of subsequent trains noticed nothing wrong, yet
according to the signed statement obtained from the boy who admitted opening the switch, the switch was
unlocked. It was not determined when or by whom the switch was left with the look open.

Had an adequate block-signal system been in use on this line, this accident probably would not have
occurred; an adequate automatic train stop or train control device would have prevented it.

All of the employees involved were experienced men and 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.

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