Mauch Chunk, Pa., 12/01/1929

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 MAUCH CHUNK, PA.,
ON DECEMBER 1, 1929.

February 26, 1930.

To the Commission:

On December 1, 1929, there was a head-end collision between a freight train and a light engine on
the Lehigh Valley Railroad near Mauch Chunk, Pa., which resulted in the injury of two employees.

Location and method of operation

This accident occurred on the Jew jersey end Lehigh Division extending between Greens Bridge, N.
J., and Penn Haven, Pa., a distance of 66.2 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
and train control system. The accident occurred at a point 1,300 feet east of a triangle-point crossover,
located approximately 1 mile west on Mauch Chunk. Approaching the point of accident from the east the track
is tangent for a distance of 1, 470 feet, followed by a 2 degree 30′ curve to the right 1,000 feet in length,
the accident occurring on this curve at a point 390 feet from its eastern end. Approaching from the west the
track is tangent for a distance of 600 feet, followed by the curve on which the accident occurred. There is
a returning wall and an embankment on the inside of the curve on which the accident occurred which restricts
the range of vision from trains approaching in either direction. The maximum speed authorized for freight
trains in the vicinity of the point of accident is 20 miles per hour.

The signals involved are signals 1231 and 1241 and are of the three-position upper-quadrant type;
signals 1231 is located 4,110 feet east and signal 1241 is located 1,170 feet west of the point of accident.

The weather was clear at the time of the accident, which occurred at about 7.10 a.m.

Description

Light engine 1665, headed west, was in charge of Conductor Begel and Engineman Weiss. This engine
departed from Mauch Chunk at 6.58 a.m., en route to Glen Onoko, a station 2.3 miles west of Mauch Chunk,
to assist an eastbound train which was disabled at that point. Shortly after arriving at Glen Onoko this
engine started eastward on the westbound main track, it being intended to proceed as far as the crossover but
before reaching that point it collided with extra 2111 while traveling at a speed estimated at 10 miles per
hour.

Westbound freight train extra 2111 consisted of 32 cars and a caboose, hauled by engines 376 and
2111, and was in charge of Conductor Daley and Enginemen Clark and Newman. This train left Packerton, 2
miles east of Nauch Chunk, at 7.00 a.m., passed Much Chunk at 7.08 a.m., and collided with engine 1665
while traveling at a speed estimated to have been between 5 and 10 miles per hour.

Engine 1665 was not, derailed but was separated from its tender by a distance of about 235 feet.
The tender was considerably damaged and had one pair of wheels derailed. Engine 373 was damaged to some
extent end had the rear tender truck derailed while engine 2111 was only slightly damaged and was not
derailed. The employees injured were the engineman and a brakeman of the light engine.

Summary of evidence

Engineman Weiss, of engine 165, stated that while at Mauch Chunk his conductor instructed him to
go to Glen Onoko to ascertain whether a freight train at that point, which was disabled, needed assistance,
and to leave a flagman at the crossover between these points. A few minutes alter arriving at the latter
point the conductor instructed him to return to the crossover and notify the flagman not to open the
crossover switches, and then, return to Glen Onoko. He immediately started a backup movement on the
westbound track and was moving at a speed of about 10 miles tar hour when he noticed the exhaust of steam
from an approaching engine which was then out 10 car-lengths distant; at that time he thought it was an
engine on an adjoining track, as he understood the return movement to the crossover would be protected by the
flagman whom they had left at that point. Ha did not discover that the other engine was on the westbound
track until its whistle was sounded and it was then within four car-lengths of his own engine; immediately
applied the brakes, reversed the engine and opened the throttle. He said that he did not hear the
instructions given by the conductor to the flagman who had been dropped off at the crossover, and was of the
impression that this flagman would have the crossover switches open which would cause the signals to function
and protect the movement against the current of traffic.

Fireman Geiger, of engine 1665, stated that he did not see the opposing train until it was called
to his attention by the engineman and at that time the engines were about two car-lengths apart.

Conductor Begel, of engine 1665, stated that he received orders from the yardmaster at Mauch Chunk
to proceed to Glen Onoko to determine what was delaying an eastbound train there, and to leave a flagman at
the crossover. He instructed this flagman, who got off near the east switch, to hold all trains until the
engine returned and not to open the crossover switches until 7.15 a.m. Upon arrival at Glen Onoko he
learned that the disabled train was about ready to proceed and after notifying the dispatcher to this effect
he instructed the engineman to return to the crossover and instruct the flagman not to open the switches; he
remained at Glen Onoko to keep the dispatcher advised as to the movement of the eastbound train. He said
that he realized afterwards he should have left the flagman about 30 car-lengths east of the crossover and
another man at the crossover to provide full protection for the reverse movement but did not do so for the
reason that he did not think of it at the time, as well as the f act that a train seldom follows an engine en
route to assist a disabled train. His purpose in not having the flagman open the switches until 7.15 a.m.
was to keep from holding the eastbound train that he was going to assist at the signal west of that point.

Flagman Hollenbach, of engine 1865, stated that he was instructed by the conductor to get off at
the crossover west of Mauch Chunk and to flag all trains and leave the crossover switches closed until 7.15
a.m. He got off, unlocked the switches and then walked eastward and upon reaching a point about 10
car-lengths from the east switch he observed extra 2111 approaching. He gave warning signals with a red
lantern from the engineman’s side of that train but these signals were not acknowledged, the train passing
him at a speed of about 35 or 40 miles per hour, and it appeared that the leading engine was still working
steam. He did not place torpedoes on the rails as he was anxious to get back as far as possible and said he
lost no time in doing so after unlocking the switches.

Engineman Clark, of helper engine 376, stated that when signal 1231 first came into view it was
displaying a clear indication but before his engine reached that point he noticed it was displaying a caution
indication and he acknowledged it by operating the automatic train stop acknowledging valve. The speed of
his train at that time was about 35 or 40 miles per hour and he partly closed the throttle and the engineman
on the second engine shut off steam. While his train was approaching the crossover he observed a flagman
standing on track 3, which parallels the westbound track on the north, flagging him in the ordinary manner.
This flagman was about 8 or 10 car lengths east of the east crossover switch and was not more than 2
car-lengths ahead of the engine when he was first seen. Engineman Clerk immediately shut off steam and made
a heavy service application of the brakes, and after the train travelled a distance of about 15 car-lengths
he noticed engine 1665 approaching and he applied the brakes in emergency but this had very little effect due
to having previously made a service reduction; he thought the speed was reduced to about 5 miles per hour at
the time of the accident. He said he did not apply the brakes in emergency as soon as he saw the as he did
not know the westbound track was being used for a reverse movement and the service application of the brakes
would have brought the train to a stop before it passed signal 1241 which he expected to find in the stop
position. He thought the reason he was being flagged was that some crew intended to set out a train on track
3 and the west switch of which is located beyond signal 1241. It was his opinion that if it was intended to
use the crossover the flagman should have been located at a much greater distance east of where he was
actually standing as it would have been impossible even by an emergency application of the brakes to stop the
train short of the crossover between the point where he could see this flagman and the east crossover switch.
He also thought that the switches should have been opened and this would have caused signal 1231 to display
a stop indication. He was familiar with the rule restricting the speed to 20 miles per hour between Penn
Haven Junction, and Mauch Chunk but did not think it applied to westbound trains.

Engineman Newman, of the second engine of extra 2111, stated that before leaving Packerton an
inspector gave him an air-brake test form which indicated that the brakes were working on all of the cars
except one. When his engine reached a point about four or five car-lengths east of signal 1231 he noticed
that it displayed a caution indication and he shut off steam but did not notice at that time whether steam
was shut off on the leading engine although he was positive that it was shut off within 10 car-lengths beyond
that signal. He did not see the flagman east of the crossover as the stoker had become stalled and he was
working on it when his engine passed that point. He returned to his engine cab after passing the crossover,
or about 600 feet from the point of accident, and at that time the speed was about 25 miles per hour. He did
not know at what point the brakes were applied but they took proper hold and reduced the speed to about 15
miles per hour when the opposing engine came into view and this speed was further reduced to about 10 miles
per hour at the time of the accident. He noticed fire flying from beneath engine 1663 while it was
approaching and estimated the speed of that engine at 15 miles per hour.

Conclusions

This accident was caused by the failure to provide proper flag protection for a movement against
the current of traffic, for which Conductor Begel and Flagman Hollenbach are responsible.

The rules provide that conductors must carefully instruct flagman as to the safe performance of
their duties. A flagman must be sent in the direction of opposing traffic a sufficient distance from a
detour crossover to insure full protection, with instructions to stop and hold all trains. In automatic
signal territory, crossover switches at each end of single track section will be operated so as to hold
automatic signals at stop.

Conductor Begel did not instruct the flagman to back to insure protection, although he did tell him
to hold all trains at the crossover. He also failed to arrange for the opening of the crossover switches to
provide automatic signal protection, hut instead he specifically instructed the flagman to leave them closed
until 7.15 a.m., which he said was for the purpose of allowing the eastbound train to proceed without
stopping at the signal west of the crossover. He admitted, that had he arranged to have the crossover
switches opened before his engine departed from that point on its westbound, trip the accident would have
been prevented. He also said that he should have dropped another flagman of about 30 car-lengths east of the
crossover but did not think of it at the time.

The rules further require that the flagman must go back immediately and proceed rapidly to a
distance sufficient to insure full protection and on reaching the required distance or on the approach of a
train to display stop signals and in addition place two torpedoes on the rail. Flagman Hollenbach said that
as soon as he got of at the crossover he unlocked the switchen then started eastward, and when he reached a
point about 10 car-lengths from the crossover he observed extra 2111 approaching. He gave the required stop
signals but did not place torpedoes as he said he did not have time. The train sheet shows that engine 1665
left Mauch Chunk at 6.58 a.m., and arrived at Glen Onoko at 7.02 a.m., which would indicate that it passed
the crossover at about 7.00 a.m. As Flagman Hollenbach under his instructions was expected to be at the
crossover to open the switches at 7.15 a.m., he had 7 1/2 minutes in which to provide protection in
accordance with this rule and during that interval he should have reached a greater distance from the
crossover than he actually did at the time extra 2111 passed him.

Engineman Clark, who was operating the leading engine of extra 2111, said that his train was
traveling at a speed of between 35 and 40 miles per hour when it pissed signal 1231 which was displaying a
caution indication. He partly closed the throttle at that time and when he observed the flagman he
completely closed the throttle and made a heavy service application of the brakes with the intention of
bringing the train to a stop short of the next signal in advance; while he did not know that a reverse
movement was being made he was not justified in assuming, after being flagged, that the block was not
occupied or obstructed. The maximum speed permitted for freight trains between Penn Haven Junction and
Mauch Chunk as prescribed by time-table is 20 miles per hour, but Engineman Clark was of the opinion that
this rule did not apply to westbound trains. The investigation developed that the speed restriction of 20
miles per hour between Penn Haven Junction and Mauch Chunk is being exceeded as a matter of common
practice. A check of the train sheets for the two days preceding the date of the accident disclosed that out
of a total of 73 freight trains 49 of them exceeded the speed limit between these points.

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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