Lattimer Jct., Pa., 07/16/1929

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 LATTIMER
JUNCTION, PA., ON JULY 16, 1929.

November 23, 1929.

To the Commission:

On July 16, 1929, there was a derailment of a freight train on the Lehigh Valley Railroad near
Lattimer Junction, Pa., resulting in the death of one employee.

Location and method of operation

This accident occurred on that part of the Evervale Branch of the Hazleton Division known as the
Lattimer Colliery Branch; This is a single-track line, a mine track extending between Vexit Junction and
Lattimer Junction, Pa., a distance of 1.28 miles and thence from Lattimer Junction to Lattimer Colliery,
an additional distance of 0.7 mile. No directions are specified in the time-table, but it is generally
understood that east is towards Vexit Junction. At Lattimer Junction, proceeding westward toward the
colliery the main track leads off toward the right; at a point 1,380 feet from the junction there is a switch
leading to a storage-yard lead track, which parallels this main track on the right; this is a facing-point
switch for westbound movements, and the accident occurred at the frog of this lead-track switch located 60
feat west of the switch points. Approaching the switch from the east, beginning at Lattimer Jct., the track
is tangent for a distance of 660 feet, and then there is a compound curve to the right, extending beyond the
point of accident; the curvature of the turnout at the point of derailment is 17 degrees. The grade for
westbound trains is slightly ascending.

No scheduled trains operate over this mine track, the only train being an extra freight train,
known as a the “Mine Run”; this train delivers empty cars to the mines, receives loaded cars and does the
necessary mine and colliery switching. No passengers are transported. Trains are operated between Vexit
Junction and Lattimer Junction by train orders, but between Lattimer Junction and Lattimer Colliery they
move without orders, crews protecting themselves.

In the vicinity of the point of accident the track is laid with old 90-pound, relaid rails, with
about 20 ties to the rail-length, tie-plated, single-spiked, and ballasted with a mixture of cinders and mine
slack to a depth of about 124 inches; six-hole rail joints are used, with four bolts to the joint, the bolt
heads being staggered. The track is not well maintained.

The weather was clear at the time of the accident, which occurred at about 10:30 a.m.

Description

Westbound freight train extra 332, which was the Mine Run, in charge of Conductor Warning and
Engineman Kleckner, consisted of engine 332, headed west, with its caboose coupled ahead of it, and it was
shoving 13 loaded oars of unprepared coal through the lead-track switch toward the breaker at Lattimer
Colliery at a speed estimated to have been between 9 and 12 miles per hour when the engine became derailed at
the frog.

Engine 332, together with its tender, came to rest between the main track and lead track, upright,
with the Tear wheels of the tender on the frog; the caboose came to rest almost crosswise the main track,
leaning toward the right. None of’ the other equipment was derailed or damaged. The employee killed was a
trainman, who either jumped or was thrown from the top of the caboose.

Summary of evidence

Engineman Kleckner stated that his first intimation of anything wrong was when the forward end of
the engine was on the ties; the airbrakes applied when the train parted and he applied the independent engine
brake. Engineman Kleckner was certain, that the caboose was derailed after the engine; he noticed no unusual
swaying of the caboose and said that the four-wheel caboose usually rounded curves smoothly when being pushed
by en engine with oars ahead of it. After the accident he examined his engine, but found nothing wrong, and
the day’s work was completed with it. On the day prior to the accident about five or six movements were made
over the track at the point of derailment with the same engine and at about the sane speed as was being made
at the time of the derailment. Engineman Kleckner said that engines of the type of the one involved had been
used on the Lattimer Colliery Branch for the last four years and that cars had become derailed at this
particular location before; on one occasion an engine became derailed, but that derailment was due to a
broken. rail.

Conductor Warning was at Lattimer Junction when the derailment occurred. Subsequent to the
accident the conductor made an examination of conditions in an endeavor to determine the cause of the
accident. After the engine had been derailed and while it was standing with the pony-truck wheels at point
of derailment, he noticed that the left or outside pony-truck wheel did not make contact with the rail, being
raised about one-sixteenth of an inch, and he could see plainly between the wheel and rail. He found nothing
wrong with the engine or caboose and it was his opinion that the derailment was due to the short curve.
Statements of other members of the crew developed nothing further.

Master Mechanic Conahan made a careful examination of engine 332 at the scene of the accident, but
found no defect that would have caused or contributed to the derailment. After the engine was rerailed it
was operated forward and backward over the frog and it tracked all right; on being brought to a stop with the
pony-truck wheels at the point of derailment the left wheel was one-fourth of an inch above the rail.,
enabling him to pass his rule between the wheel and the top of the rail. The wheel flange was tight against
the rail and the right wheel rested on the rail properly.

Superintendent Mitten in his report, stated that-the right pony-truck wheel crossed over the guard
rail 2 feet in advance of the point of frog, and that the flange on the opposite wheel took the wrong side of
the frog point and followed in the frog groove, resulting in the derailment. He further reported that after
a thorough inspection on the ground with this same engine the indications were that the derailment was due to
a No. 10 frog set in a 16 degrees curve, which condition, with the long wheel base of this class of engine,
permitted the pony-truck wheel to raise- sufficiently to cross over the guard rail.

The first mark of derailment was a light flange mark which appeared on top of the north guard rail,
22 inches in advance of the point of frog; this mark crossed, the guard rail diagonally for a distance of 30
inches, where it dropped off on the south side. Deep flange marks appeared on the ties, 12 inches inside of
the right rail, commencing with the fifth tie beyond the point of frog, and continuing to where the
pony-truck wheels stood when the engine came to rest. By the time the thirty-third tie was reached the
derailed wheels had crossed to the left far enough to encounter and overturn the: left rail. There were
corresponding marks by the wheels on the left side of the engine. The first marks made by the wheels of the
caboose appeared on the forty-eighth tie beyond the point of frog, the indications being that the caboose was
pulled off the track by the derailed engine.

Engine 332 is of the 2-8-2 type, class N-2; with a total weight, engine and tender loaded, of
477,200 pounds. The weight is distributed as follows: pony-truck, 39,000 pounds; No. 1 driving wheels,
58,000 pounds; No. 2 driving wheels, 58,400 pounds; No. 3 driving wheels, 60,000. pounds; No. 4 driving
wheels, 58,600 pounds; trailer wheels, 48,000 pounds. The engine wheel-base is 35 feet 2 inches, the rigid
driving wheel-base 16 feet 6 inches, and the total wheel base, engine and tender, 67 feet 111 inches. Engine
332 received class 2 repairs in June, 1927, and class 5 repairs in November, 1928. It is designed to
operate over a main-track curvature of 16 degrees and over wye tracks and sidings with a curvature of 18
degrees. This particular engine has been used at various times on the Lattimer Colliery Branch for the
octet several years, while engines of this class have been used regularly on this branch for the past four
years. The pony-truck wheels gauged 53 1/8 Inches at four points; the flanges were only slightly worn and
were well within the allowed limits, while the wheels swung free on the center pin and bearing. Careful
inspection of the engine failed to disclose any defect that would have caused or contributed to the accident.

In the vicinity of the point of accident there is a large mine-refuse pile, and water constantly
seeps from this pile into the track ditch on the north side of the track, standing therein from 2 to 3 inches
deep and at the level of the bottoms of the ties. The track is out of gauge and has an uneven curvature,
while the elevation varies and is not proportionate to the curvature. On the curve there were 32 loose
bolts. The rail heads are badly worn; in one rail there is an old split in the head, one-half inch wide at
the open end and 9 inches long, which apparently extends deep into the head; about 1 1/2 inches of unbroken
head. remains above the split. About 40 per cent of the spikes are pulled from 1/8 to 1 inch, however, the
spikes still hold firmly in the ties. There is some wave motion in the track under a moving train; where the
spikes are partly pulled, the rails lift under the spike heads and where the spikes are firmly holding the
rail on the ties, the ties lift up from the ballast.

The frog involved is an old No. 10, 90-A, solid manganese frog. It was a relaid frog when placed
in the track following an accident which occurred on March 16, 1927; it is 11 feet 7 inches in length,
extends over five ties, rests on tie-plates, and is single-spiked; several of the spikes have been pulled by
the wave motion of the trick. On the tie at the toe of the frog the spike on the left or main track side was
pulled 3/8 inch and the spike on the right or lead track side was pulled 1/4 inch; the spikes on the second
and third ties were pulled in a similar manner; both spikes on the fourth tie were pulled 1/4 inch; on the
fifth tie, under the heel of frog, the spike heads were down firmly on the base of the rail. The frog was
secured to the main rails by six-hole rail joints, fully bolted The first 2 inches of the point of frog had
been battered and broken until there was no bearing surface, and a small freshly-chipped piece of the point
was found after the accident. The tongue, near the point, was worn down 3/8 inch below the unworn surface of
the wing rails; the wing rails had been worn from 1/16 to 1/4 inch by the treads of wheels. There were thin
cracks along each side of the point of frog, at the bottoms of the flangeways; the cracks started at the
point and were 9 inches long on the right side and 8 3/4 inches long on the left side. The point had been
forced over to the left and was 3 inch nearer the left wing rail than it was to the right wing rail, the
flangeway at the point of frog on the right side measuring 2 1/4 inches and on the left side 1 1/4 inches.
The gauge of the track was standard at the point of frog and at a point 22 inches in advance thereof; at the
toe of frog it was 5/16 inch open; the elevation of the outside rail at these locations was 1 9/16 inches, 1
3/4 inches and 1 7/8 inches. Under the weight of a train the frog settled 3/4 inch at the point of frog and
5/8 inch at the heel.

The guard rail opposite the frog is 15 feet long and extends over 11 ties; it is supported by four
rail braces and is connected to the right lead-track rail with two rail clamps. The guard-rail flangeway
opposite the point of frog was 2 inches wide and extended for a length of 4 feet; the guard rail bends out at
each end, toward the opposite side of the track. The top of the guard rail was 5/8 inch higher than the top
of the main rail. Under the weight of a train the guard rail and main rail settled 1/4 inch.

On July 29, a test was made with engine 321, which is of the same class as engine 332. With the
engine standing so that the pony-truck wheels rested at the point of derailment, the left wheel had a full
bearing on the rail; at 2 miles per hour it still had a full bearing; at 4 miles per hour there appeared to
be uneven pressure, with the greatest pressure at the inside edge of the rail; at speeds from 6 to 10 miles
per hour the wheels passed by without making any impression on a small pad composed of six sheets of paper,
although the amount of lift was not noticeable to the eye. In all of these tests, the right wheel held to
the rail, and appeared to have full bearing. This tendency of the left wheel to clear the rail was the same
as that noted by the Master Mechanic with engine 332 on the day of the accident.

The derailment on March 16, 1927, previously mentioned, involved engine 305, of the same type as
engine 332; that derailment was attributed to the engine truck having mounted the point of frog on the sharp
curve. Engine 321, also of the same type, was operated over the frog on the afternoon of the day of that
derailment, but did not become derailed. The division engineer, in his report covering the 1927 accident,
said, it was difficult to drain the turnout, owing to the amount of water coming down from the breaker, and
with the frost coming out of the ground at that time of the year, conditions must have been such that the
engine truck mounted the frog. It was after that derailment that the frog was changed from a No. 8 to a No.
10.

Conclusions

This accident was caused by poor track conditions. The track on the curve was not maintained in
good condition; the roadbed did not provide a firm foundation for the track, the surface was not well
maintained, and the elevation of the outside rail was not proportionate, or sufficient, to compensate for the
curvature. The failure to provide sufficient widening of gauge to compensate for the sharp curvature allowed
the wheels to crowd against the outside rail and increased the tendency to climb the rail; it also prevented
the guard rail from fully serving its intended purpose of keeping the wheels away from the outside rail and
thereby preventing extreme lateral pressure against the gauge side of the outside rail and permitting free
movement of the wheel to follow the curvature of the track. The derailing tendency due to the excessive
curvature was greatly increased by the bad track conditions and the worn condition of the frog. While all
these conditions are probably no worse than is general to many mine tracks on this and other railroads, yet
it is obvious that they do not provide a sufficient margin of safety. Steps toward remedying such
conditions, not only at this particular point but at other points where a similar situation may exist, should
be taken immediately.

All of the employees involved were experienced men and at the time of the accident none of them had
been on duty contrary to any of the provisions of the hours of service law.

Respectfully submitted,

W. P. BORLAND,

Director.

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