December 12, 1912,
In re Investigation of Accident on the Lehigh Valley
Railroad, at Homet’s Ferry, Pa., on October
On October 27th, there wan a rear end collision between two freight trains on the Lehigh Valley
Railroad, at Homet’s Ferry, Pa., resulting in the death of one employee and the Injury of one trespasser.
After investigation I beg to submit the following report:
At Homet’s Ferry the Lehigh Valley Railroad in a double track line east and west along the
northern bank of the Suscuehonan Hiver, the grade being practienlly level. The collision occurred almost
opposite the station at Home’s Perry, on a forty-minute curve.
On this line trains are operated under tie block System, and a home automatic black-signal of the
two-arm, lower quadrant, semaphore type is located 1122 foot east of the point where the accident occurred A
distant signal of the disk type is located about one mile east of the home signal.
West-bound fright train extra 1687, symbol train IV-1 left packerton, Pa., at 12:35 a.m., on the
date of the accident, with Conductor Gallagher and Engineman Daughter in charge, the train consisting of an
engine and 24 loaded cars.
This train stopped for water and’ to make tome repute to the engine at Falls, Pa., and while it
was there went-bound freight train extra 1686, symbol train Advance JS-1, consisting of an engine and 26
care, With Conductor O’Donovan and Engineman Pierce in charge, came up was fagged by Flagman Bollinger of
extra 1687. Extra 1687 arrived at Laceyville, 30 miles west of Falls, at 5:57 a.m., and stopped for water.
Here a hot journal/on the fifth can from the rear was discovered and the Journal box was repacked. This
train was also overtaken at Lacoyville by extra 1686. Extra 1687 left Laceyville at 5:57 a.m. Shortly
afterwards Conductor Gallagher found that the journal was again hot, and he decided to set out the car at
Homet’s Ferry, a station 15 miles west of Laceyville. There was a dense fog, and knowing that the engineman
would be unable to see a signal from the cabooze, Conductor Gellaghor applied the brakes from the rear and
of the train. As the train slowed down Flagman Bollinger cropped off and started back to protect the train.
When the train came to a stop just west of the station, the Conductor went forward to set cut the
car with the hot Journal. This car was about opposite, the entrance to the side-track, and in order to place
it on the siding it was necessary to back the train a short distance. The head trainman, who had been riding
on the engine, started toward the rear end of the train to find out the reason for the stop, and when he came
within speaking distance the conductor informed him of what bud occurred and told ht-a to signal the
engineman to back up. The train was backed a short distance and the conductor was about to make the cut when
the collision occurred, Conductor Gallagher stated that about six minutes elapsed between the time when the
train first stopped at Homet’s Ferry and the time, when the collision occurred. Conductor Oaliagher stated
that he noticed that the steam ms shut off’ as 1686 app approached, and he heard a short bust of the Whistle
just before the collision Occurred.
Flagman Bollinger stated that after the conductor had applied the brakes he dropped off, at 6:30
a.m. by his watch, before the train stepped, and started back to flag, carrying torpedoes and one red and one
unite lantern. He stated that on account of the sense fog he was unable to see extra 1639 and on account of
this noise fog he was unable to see extra 1636 and on account of the noise from an east-bound freight train
which was passing he did no hear the approaching train. He stated that when he dropped off from the caboone
he started to run back in the middle of the track, and shown he reached a point about opposite the home
signal he saw extra 1636 only a short distance away and rapidly approaching. He stated he did not have time
to place torpedoed on the rail, but he among his lantern and jumped to one side of the track. He did not see
the engineman and his signal was not acknowledged. As the engine passed his, Flagman Bollinger threw his
white lantern up in front of the engine end, and he saw the door fly open. He stated that the home signal
indented stop. Engineman Pierce of extra 1686 did not recognize or heed this signal.
The collision occurred at about 6:35 a.m. Engine 1686 was the overturned, and the caboose of extra
1687 and several cars in trains extras 1687, 1696 and 743 east which was passing at the time of the collision
as well as a car which stood on a station siding, were destroyed by the collision and by a fire which
Engineman Pierce of extra 1686 was Pinned in the wreckage for about 3 hours. Engineman, Dougher
stated that after the collision occurred he went back and endeavoured to extricate Engineman pierce, and
talked with him under the engine for about two hours. He stated that engineman pierce said he had fallen
asleep just before the collision. Conductor O’Donovan estimated the speed of extra 1686 at 25 to 30 miles
per hour. The Conductor and Flagman of this train stated that after leaving Laceyville they heard engineman
pierce give the whistle signal for a highway crossing about 1-3/4 miles east of the point where the accident
occurred, but they noticed no reduction in speed and felt no application of the brakes until before the
collision, when they thought the engineman shut off steam.
Head Trainman Birmingham of extra 1686 rode in the engine on the left side of the cab from
Laceyville to Homet’s Perry. He stated that the distant signal was at caution and the home signal just east
of Homet’s Ferry was at danger. He stated that engineman pierce did not recognize either of these signals,
and he made no effort to ascertain the reason therefor. He stated that he saw Flagman in the middle of the
track just opposite the home signal, and he called to the engineman; the Engineman shut off steam and
applied the brakes after passing the flagman but was able only to reduce the speed from about 35 miles on
hour to between 20 and 30 miles an hour when the collision occurred.
The engine hauling extra No. 1686 was of the Hatherhubbard type and the fireman on this type of
engine cannot communicate with the engineman without going from the rear of the engine to the engineman’s
cab, which is nearly up to the front end of the locomotive. (Some locomotives of this type equipped with
speaking tubes) Fireman Blank of extra 1686 stated he saw the first signal after leaving Laceyville and it
was clear. He stated that he did not look for other signals as he was busy with his fire until the collision
occurred. He stated that engineman pierce sounded the whistle for the highway crossing east of Homet’s
Ferry and that the Engineman shut off steam just before the collision occurred, but he did not notice any
application of the brakes.
None of the employees involved in this accident was on duty contrary to any of the provisions of
the hours of service law. Engineman pierce had been on duty 7 hours and 20 minutes, after a period off duty
of 41 hours and 15 minutes.
This accident was caused by the failure of engineman pierce of extra 1686 to observe and obey the
indications of the automatic signals, and to his failure to obey rule 517, requiring that “in foggy of stormy
weather, when signal can- “not be seen plainly, the signals must be approached cautiously so that engineman
and trainmen can see and interpret them correctly, always bearing in mind that safety is of greater
importance than making time” Engineman Pierce stated himself that he had fallen asleep.
The accident might have been averted in spite of Engineman Pierce’s dereliction of duty had Head
Trainman Birmingham properly performed his duty. A proper regard for the safe operation of the train should
have prompted Trainman Birmingham to call Engineman Pierce’s attention to the caution and stop signals
which he passed without recognising, and had he communicated with Engineman pierce when he passed the
caution signal he might have aroused him in time to avert the accident.
The evidence indicated that Flagman Bollinger had gone back only about as far as the home signal,
1122 feet from where the collision occurred. According to conductor Cellagher’s statement, six minutes
elapsed between the time when the train came to a stop and the time when the collision occurred. If Flagman
Bollinger had gone back as far as he might have gone in this period of time before extra 1686 passed him,
and used torpedoes as required by the rule, he might have aroused the Engineman in time to avert the
This accident again calls attention to the necessity for the use of some automatic train control
device that will intervene to prevent an accident of this character when an Engineman fails to perform his