INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION
INVESTIGATION NO. 2556
THE LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD COMPANY REPORT IN RE ACCIDENT AT RANSOM,
PA., ON JANUARY 4, 1942
Railroad: Lehigh Valley
Date: January 4, 1942
Location: Ransom, Pa.
Kind of accident: Derailment
Equipment involved: Passenger train : Automobile
Train number: 4
Engine number: 2033
Consist: 14 cars
Speed: 45-50 m.p.h. : Standing
Operation: Timetable, train orders and an automatic block-signal system
Track: Double; 0 degrees 30′ left curve; 0.09 percent descending grade
Highway: Tangent; crosses tracks at right angles; slightly ascending
Time: 2:55 a.m.
Casualties: 1 killed; 19 injured
Cause: Accident caused by a passenger train striking an automobile
which had stalled on a highway grade crossing
INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION
INVESTIGATION NO. 2556
IN THE MATTER OF MAKING ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORTS UNDER THE
ACCIDENT REPORTS ACT OF MAY 6, 1910.
THE LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD COMPANY
February 10, 1942
Accident at Ransom, Pa., on January 4, 1942, caused by a passenger train striking an automobile
which had stalled on a highway grade crossing.
REPORT OF THE COMMISSION 1
On January 4, 1942, there was a derailment of a passenger train on the Lehigh Valley Railroad
after it struck an automobile at a highway grade crossing at Ransom, Pa. The accident resulted in
the death of 1 passenger and the injury of 12 passengers, 1 express messenger, 3 employees off duty
and 3 train-service employees. This accident was investigated in conjunction with a representative
of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Inv-2556 Lehigh Valley Railroad Ransom, Pa. January 4, 1942
Location of Accident and Method of Operation
This accident occurred on that part of the Wyoming Division which extends between Sayre and
Coxton, Pa., a distance of 84.6 miles. In the vicinity of the point of accident this is a
double-track line over which trains are operated by timetable, train orders and an automatic
block-signal system. The main tracks from north to south are No. 1, westward main, and No. 2,
eastward main. The accident occurred on the eastward main track at a point 92 feet west of Ransom
station, at which point the railroad is crossed at grade by Old Ferry Road. As the point of
accident is approached from the west on the railroad there are, in succession, a tangent 1,660 feet
in length and a compound curve to the left 5,947 feet in length, the curvature of which varies from
0 degrees 30′ to 2 degrees 06′. The accident occurred on this curve at a point 4,217 feet east of
its western end where the curvature is 0 degrees 30′. The grade for east-bound trains is,
successively, 0.034 percent descending 4,782 feet, level 3,766 feet and 0.09 percent descending 42
feet to the point of accident and a considerable distance beyond. The highway crosses the tracks at
right angles and terminates just south of the tracks. As the point of accident is approached from
the north on Old Ferry Road there are, in succession, a slight curve to the left 150 feet in
length and a tangent 125 feet to the crossing. The grade for south-bound vehicles on Old Ferry
Road is level throughout a distance of 40 feet to the north rail of the westward main track and
slightly ascending across the tracks. The highway is surfaced with macadam and is 14 feet in width
at the crossing. At a point 1,360 feet east of the crossing a trailing-point turnout to the south
leads off the eastward main track to a spur track serving a paper mill located south of the tracks
and 386 feet east of the crossing.
A highway crossing sign is located in the northwest angle of the crossing. This sign is
rectangular, bears the words “RAILROAD CROSSING STOP, LOOK & LISTEN” in black
letters on a white background, and is mounted on a post 9 feet 6 inches above the ground line.
Crossing whistle signs for east-bound trains are located 1,371 and 761 feet west of the crossing.
The first sign is provided for the crossing involved, and the second is for a crossing located just
east of the paper mill.
Operating rules read in part as follows:
14. Engine Whistle Signals.
Note.–The signals prescribed are illustrated by “o” for short sounds; “—-” for longer sounds.
(1) —— ——- o —— Approaching public crossings at grade. To be prolonged
or repeated until crossing is reached.
The Vehicle Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania reads in part as follows:
Section 1002, Restrictions as to Speed. –
3. Twenty (20) miles an hour speed limit:
All vehicles *** when approaching within two hundred (200) feet of a railway grade crossing where
official signs erected by the proper authorities are displayed.
In the vicinity of the point of accident the maximum authorized speed for passenger trains is 70
miles per hour and on the curve involved, 50 miles per hour.
Description of Accident
No. 4, an east-bound first-class passenger train, consisted of engine 2033, of the 4-6-2 type,
three baggage cars, one express car, one baggage-mail car, one passenger-baggage car, three
coaches, one club car and four Pullman sleeping cars, in the order named. The first and third cars
were of steel-underframe construction, and the remainder were of steel construction. At Sayre,
80.4 miles west of Ransom, a terminal air-brake test was made, a running test was made on departure
and the brakes functioned properly en route. This train passed Athens, 79.1 miles west of Ransom,
at 1:10 a.m., according to the dispatcher’s record of movement of trains, 28 minutes late, passed
Tunkhannock, 16.4 miles west of Ransom and the last open office, at 2:39 a.m., 35 minutes late, and
while moving at an estimated speed of 45 to 50 miles per hour it struck an automobile on a highway
grade crossing, and was derailed.
The automobile involved was a 1935 Ford coupe, which bore Pennsylvania license plates 54CF6, and
was owned and being driven by a man, sole occupant, who held operator’s license No. 2231880. The
automobile moved southward on Old Ferry Road, entered upon the crossing, passed over the westward
main track and was passing over the eastward main track when the right rear wheel slipped off the
west edge of the macadam surface caught against the gage side of the south rail, and the automobile
stalled. Between 25 and 35 minutes later the automobile was struck by No. 4.
Because of track curvature and the cut at the foot of the mountain, a view of the crossing, under
the most favorable weather conditions, can be had from the left side of an east-bound engine a
distance of only 800 feet, and from the right side only 321 feet. Falling snow at the time of the
accident restricted visibility.
The automobile was demolished and most of its wreckage was thrown to a point 285 feet east of the
crossing and just south of the tracks. The right half of the rear axle and its housing were found
at a point 986 feet east of the crossing and on the south side of the tracks. These portions of the
automobile bore abrasions indicating that they had slid on the rails after they became lodged
beneath the front pair of engine-truck wheels.
The front wheels of the engine truck were derailed to the right at a point 320 feet east of the
crossing. From this point eastward throughout a distance of 1,040 feet to the trailing-point switch
of the paper mill spur-track, light flange marks appeared on the ties inside the gage side of the
north rail and outside the south rail. At this switch the south rail was forced out of position,
and the general derailment occurred. Eastward from a point 52 feet east of the switch the eastward
main track was destroyed throughout a distance of 615 feet. Engine 2033 was derailed, stopped at a
point 2,020 feet east of the crossing and leaned to the south at an angle of about 45 degrees, with
the right driving wheels near the center of the eastward main track and the left side of the engine
fouling the westward main track. The engine truck was badly damaged and the engine pilot was
broken. The drawbar between the engine and tender was broken. The tender was derailed to the south
and stopped, badly damaged, on its right side at the rear of the engine and on the roadbed. The
first 10 cars were derailed toward the south. The first car, considerably damaged, stopped 40 feet
west of the tender, and leaned to the right at an angle of 75 degrees. The second car, considerably
damaged, stopped on its right side, with its front end against the first car. The third car, badly
damaged, leaned to the right at an angle of 75 degrees, with its front end against the second car.
The fourth car, considerably damaged, leaned to the right at an angle of 15 degrees, with its front
end against the third car. The fifth car, badly damaged, leaned to the right at an angle of 15
degrees, with its front end at the edge of the ties and its rear end about 35 feet south of the
track. The sixth car, badly damaged and reversed in direction, stopped against the north side of
the fifth car and leaned at an angle of 15 degrees. The seventh car was practically destroyed and
it stopped across both main tracks. The eighth car, badly damaged, stopped across both tracks and
leaned to the right at an angle of 15 degrees. The ninth car, considerably damaged, stopped almost
upright, with its front end just south of the eastward main track and its rear end on the track.
The tenth car, slightly damaged, stopped upright on the roadbed. The front wheels of the front
truck of the eleventh car-were derailed.
It was snowing at the time of the accident, which occurred about 2:55 a.m.
The train-service employees injured were the conductor and two trainmen.
During the 30-day period preceding the day of the accident, there was a daily average of 35.36
trains over the crossing involved. During the 24-hour period beginning at 7 a.m., January 7, 1942,
4 trucks, 4 automobiles, 36 trains and 2 track motor cars passed over this crossing.
The automobile involved had been obstructing the eastward main track at the grade crossing involved
from 25 to 35 minutes prior to the approach of No. 4, an east-bound train. During this period the
driver of the automobile first tried to lift the right rear wheel over the south rail but was
unable to do so and then went to a paper mill about 400 feet east of the crossing and tried to
obtain help to remove the automobile from the crossing. He was unable to get anyone there to help
him, but one of the employees of the mill made arrangements by telephone for a man to drive a
towing car to the crossing to pull the stalled car clear of the track and the driver was told to
return to his automobile and wait for the arrival of the towing car. The driver was waiting for the
towing car to arrive when he saw the headlight of No. 4 a few hundred feet distant. Immediately
after the employee telephoned for the service of the towing car, another employee of the mill
telephoned the telephone operator at Coxton, 4.2 miles east of Ransom, and informed her that an
automobile was stalled on the crossing involved. The telephone operator informed the towerman at
Pittston Jct., 5.3 miles east of Ransom, who informed the dispatcher at Wilkes-Barre. Since the
dispatcher at Wilkes-Barre did not have charge of the territory involved, he gave the information
about 2:40 a.m. to the dispatcher at Sayre, who immediately called the operator at Tunkhannock,
16.4 miles west of Ransom and the last open office, to stop No. 4 but the train had passed that
station at 2:39 a.m. The dispatcher at Sayre immediately called the section foreman at Falls, 5.2
miles west of Ransom, to flag No. 4. The section foreman proceeded toward the track as soon as
possible but No. 4 passed at 2:53 a.m., just before he reached the track. At 2:47 a.m. a yard
engine was dispatched westward from Falling Springs, 4 miles east of Ransom, to flag No. 4 west
of Ransom, but the accident occurred before this engine reached Ransom. At 2:52 a.m., the
dispatcher at Wilkes-Barre appealed to employees at the paper mill to flag No. 4 before it would
reach the crossing. An employee of the mill was sent out to flag the train but the accident
occurred before he reached the crossing. The crew of No. 4 had no warning of the obstruction on
the track. The headlight was burning brightly but because of the track curvature being to the left
the engineer could not see an object on the crossing a greater distance than 350 feet and because
of falling snow visibility was further reduced. The first the engineer knew of the obstruction was
when he saw an object flying from the front of the engine. He immediately applied the brakes in
emergency. The fireman did not see the automobile, as he was just returning from the tender to his
position on the left side of the cab when the automobile was struck.
The driver of the automobile was not familiar with the crossing involved. He had been visiting
near Ransom and was returning to his home in Scranton. On account of several inches of newly
fallen snow, no skid chains being used, and one tire being smooth, his automobile was unable to
climb a hill on the highway leading to Scranton. He started on another route, became lost and
stalled his automobile on the crossing involved. The automobile had been inspected recently, the
driver had about 8 years’ experience in driving automobiles and he had an operator’s license in his
possession. The driver said that it did not occur to him to flag No. 4.
It is found that this accident was caused by a passenger train striking an automobile which had
stalled on a highway grade crossing.
Dated at Washington, D. C., this tenth day of February, 1942.
By the Commission, Commissioner Patterson.
(SEAL) W. P. BARTEL,
1 Under authority of section 17(2) of the Interstate Commerce Act the above-entitled proceeding
was referred by the Commission to Commissioner Patterson for consideration and disposition.