INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION
REPORT OF THE CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF SAFETY IN RE INVESTIGATION OF AN
ACCIDENT WHICH OCCURRED ON THE LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD NEAR GLEN ONOKO, PA.,
ON OCTOBER 19, 1922.
November 20, 1922.
To the Commission:
On October 19, 1922, there was a rear-end collision between a passenger train and a freight train
on the Lehigh Valley Railroad near Glen Onoko, Pa., resulting in the death of 1 employee, and the injury
of 1 employee.
Location and method of operation.
This accident occurred on that part of the New Jersey and Lehigh Division extending between
Hokendauqua and Penn Haven Junction, Pa., a distance of 32.8 miles; in the vicinity of the point of
accident this is a double-track line over which trains are operated by time-table, train orders, and an
automatic block-signal system. The accident occurred approximately 7,000 feet of Glen Onoko, according to
time-table direction; approaching this point from the east there are several sharp curves and short tangents,
followed by a compound curve to the left 1,852 feet in length, the accident occurring on this curve at a
point 1,123 feet from its eastern end, where the curvature is 1 degree 27′. The grade is 0.752 per cent
ascending for westbound trains for a considerable distance seat and west of the point of accident. In this
vicinity the main tracks of the Central Railroad of New Jersey lie between the Lehigh River and the main
tracks of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, the tracks of both roads paralleling the river; the eastbound main
track of the Central Railroad of New Jersey is immediately adjacent to the westbound main track of the
Lehigh Valley Railroad.
The automatic block signals are of the three-position, upper-quadrant type, normally displaying
stop indications; the night indications are red, yellow, and green, for stop, caution and proceed,
respectively. Westbound signal 1261 is located 571 feet east of the point of accident, while 6,495 feet
farther east is located signal 1251. Under the rules, when an automatic block-signal displays a caution
indication, trains must approach the next home signal prepared to stop; they also provide that block signals
control the use of the blocks, but, unless otherwise provided, do not supersede the superiority of trains,
nor dispense with the use or the observance of other signals whenever and where ever they may be required.
Although in the immediate vicinity of the point of accident there are large cliffs, the tracks passing
through the valley, an unobstructed view can be obtained of signal 1261 for a distance of approximately 2,300
feet. The weather was clear at the time of the accident, which occurred at about 11.55 p.m.
Westbound freight train extra 2147 consisted of 43 cars and a caboose, hauled by engine 2147, and
was in charge of Conductor Dunn and Engineman Fisher. This train passed Mauch Chunk, the last open office
and 2.3 miles east of Glen Onoko, at 11.03 p.m., and on reaching a point approximately 1.3 miles west of
Glen Onoko it was brought to a stop with the rear end of the caboose 571 feet west of signal 1261, on
account of the automatic stoker being out of order; it was standing at this point when struck by train No.
Westbound passenger train No. 5 consisted of 1 mail car, 2 coaches, 1 club car, and 5 Pullman
sleeping cars, in the order named, of all-steel construction, hauled by engine 2030, and was in charge of
Conductor Mack and Engineman Coyle. This train left Mauch Chunk at 11.48 p.m., on time, passed signal
1251, which was displaying a caution indication, passed signal 1261, which was displaying a stop indication,
and while travelling at a speed of about 10 or 12 miles an hour collided with extra 2147.
The caboose was telescoped practically its entire length, the superstructure coming to rest over
the boiler of engine 2030; the car ahead of the caboose was derailed. None of the other equipment in either
train was derailed or materially damaged. The employee killed was the head brakeman of extra 2147, who was
riding in the caboose at the time of the accident.
Summary of evidence.
Immediately after extra 2147 came to a stop west of signal 1261, Flagman Schatzle went back to
flag, taking a position opposite signal 1261, while Conductor Dann endeavoured to repair an air leak on the
car next to the Caboose. Being unable to accomplish his purpose, Conductor Dunn started to bleed the air
off this car, and while so doing Engineman Fisher sounded several blasts of the engine whistle. Five blasts
is the signal which would have been given to call in Flagman Schatzle, and six blasts is the customary
signal when it is desired that the conductor come to the head of the train. Thinking he had been called in,
Flagman Schatzle placed two torpedoes on the rail just west of signal 1261, and started walking toward the
caboose. When within 4 or 5 car-lengths of it he shouted to Conductor Dunn that he had been called in,
having understood the signal given to be five blasts of the whistle. Conductor Dunn was confused as to the
signal given, and as the train did not start, the conductor went forward, while the flagman again went back
and had reached signal 1261 when he heard train No. 5 approaching; although it was a considerable distance
away, he made no attempt to go back any farther, being of the impression this would accomplish noting, but
flagged it from signal 1261. He said no response was received to his flag signals until the train was about
an engine-length away, at which time steam was shut off, and the air brakes applied in emergency, the
collision occurring immediately after. Flagman Schatzle admitted there was ample time at his disposal to
have gone back a greater distance than he did on this occasion, and had he done so and then placed torpedoes
on the rail, the attention of Engineman Coyle would probably have been attracted in time to have averted the
accident. Conductor Dunn had gone forward about half the length of his train when the accident occurred; on
reaching the engine he was informed that six blasts of the engine whistle had been sounded. He was aware
extra 2147 was occupying the westbound main track close on the time of train No. 5; but although he saw
Flagman Schatzle start back the second time, which was just after he had shouted about being called in, he
did not know how far back he went, as they started in opposite directions simultaneously and on account of
walking forward on the right side of the train the cars standing on the curve to the left soon hid them from
each other’s view. Conductor Dunn also stated that as Head Brakeman Price had complained of not feeling
well, he permitted him to lie down in the caboose.
Engineman Coyle stated at the time train No. 5 passed signal 1251 a caution indication was
displayed, at which time he estimated the speed of his train to have been between 40 and 45 miles an hour.
As he knew this block was unoccupied and the train could be brought to a stop in a comparatively short
distance, owing to the ascending grade which extended the entire length of, and for a considerable distance
west of this block section, he did not shut off steam at this time, intending to do so in ample time to stop
before reaching signal 1261 in the event it was displaying a stop indication. However, on reaching a point
approximately 1,500 feet west of signal 1251, there was a train standing on the eastbound main track of the
Central Railroad of New Jersey, with the headlight burning brightly, and owing to the close proximity of
the tracks at this point, Engineman Coyle drew his head inside the cab window. At this juncture his
attention was diverted to the water glass, and he temporarily forgot he was running under a caution signal.
Fireman Blank had been working on the fire during this time, but, when about 200 feet east of signal 1261 he
stepped to the left side of the gangway to get a breadth of fresh air, at which time he saw signal 1261 was
displaying a stop indication, and just as he called its indication, Engineman Coyle also saw it. Engineman
Coyle immediately shut off steam, opened the sanders, and made an emergency application of the air brakes,
after which the torpedoes were exploded and he then saw Flagman Schatzle. He stated that Flagman Schatzle
was about half way between the rear end of the caboose of extra 2147 and signal 1261, and estimated the speed
of his train at the time of the accident to have been about 10 miles an hour.
The air brakes on train No. 5 had been working property and nothing unusual was noticed in making
the various stops en route.
This accident was caused by the failure of Engineman Coyle, of train No. 5, properly to observe
and be governed by automatic block signal indications, and the failure of Flagman Schatzle and Conductor
Dunn to provide proper protection for the rear of extra 2147.
Had Engineman Coyle operated his train as required by the rules and maintained a proper lookout
when he approached signal 1261 he would have been able to bring his train to a stop in time to avert the
accident not withstanding the lack of adequate flag protection, but according to the evidence his attention
was diverted from the track ahead to some part of the engine. Engineman Coyle admitted he should have seen
the stop indication of signal 1261 from a much greater distance, and that he should have approached this
signal prepared to stop.
Rule 99 of the rules for the government of the operating department, reads in part as follows:
“When a train stops or is delayed, under circumstances in which it may be overtaken by
another train, the flagman must go back immediately with stop signals and proceed rapidly to a
distance sufficient to insure full protection, where he must remain until called in, or if an
approaching train is within sight or hearing, until it has stopped.”
Although there is some conflict in the testimony as to just how far back Flagman Schatzle actually
was when train No. 5 passed him, according to his own statement he was back less than 500 feet; he admitted
there was ample time at his disposal to have gone back a much greater distance. He considered, however, that
he was back a sufficient distance in view of the range of vision to be had by an approaching engineman. Had
he gone back a sufficient distance then placed the torpedoes on the rail, as required by the rules, even
though Engineman Coule temporarily forgot the caution indication displayed at the time train No. 5 passed
signal 1251, and was not keeping a proper lookout ahead for the indication of signal 1261, when the torpedoes
were exploded it would undoubtedly have given warning of danger ahead in ample time to have averted the
accident. Conductor Dunn was fully aware extra 2147 was occupying the westbound main track close on the time
of train No. 5, therefore, he should have ascertained beyond doubt that ample protection was afforded to the
rear of his train.
This accident again directs attention to the necessity for the use of automatic train control
devices which will intervene to stop a train whenever for any reason an engineman fails to see or to heed a
stop signal. Had an adequate automatic train control device been in use at this point, this accident would
no doubt have been averted.
Engineman Coyle entered the service of this railroad in February, 1881, as a trainman, was
promoted to fireman in December, 1893, and engineman in 1896, while Conductor Dunn was employed as a
trainman in December, 1895; Flagman Schatzle entered the service as a trainman in 1904, and qualified for
the position of conductor in March, 1917. Their records were good. Engineman Coyle had been on duty less
than 21/2 hours, after having been off duty for approximately 50 hours, while Conductor Dunn and Flagman
Schatzle had been on duty about 3 hours, after having been off duty 81/2 hours.
W. P. Borland,
Chief, Bureau of Safety.