In re Investigation of accident on the Lehigh Valley Railroad,
near Slatington Pa., on July 27, 1913.
September 2, 1913.
On July 27, 1913, there was a rear-end collision between two freight trains, and passenger train ran into
the Wreckage, on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, near Slatington, Pa., resulting in the death of 1 employee
and the injury of 27 Passengers and 4 employees.
After investigation of this accident the Chief Inspector of Safety appliances submits the
Where this accident occurred the Lehigh Valley Railroad is a double track road, operated under the
automatic block signal system, disk signals being used. At the point where the accident occurred there is a
slight descending grade toward the east, and the track is on a thirty-foot fill. Approaching from the west,
signal No. 1072 can be seen for a distance of nearly a mile before it is reached. Proceeding eastward from
this signal, there is a five-degree curve. 1480 feet in length. which is followed by a tangent of 1032 feet,
and then there is a four-degree curve 750 feet in length, extending to signal No. 1062. The collision
occurred about 100 feet east of this signal. At the time of the accident there was a light mist rising from
the river near by, but signal lights could be seen plainly.
Eastbound freight train Extra 1351, consisting of an engine, 46 cars and caboose, with Conductor
Hoeppel and Engineman Miller in charge, left Mahoning yard at 11:15 p.m., July 86, en route to Easton, Pa.
When this train approached signal No. 1068, about ten and the train come to a stop as required by the rules.
Extra 1581 then moved forward and again came to a stop at 12:15 a.m., July 27, the caboose standing about
100 feet east of signal No. 1062. While standing at that point it was struck by extra 1684.
Eastbound freight train extra 1684, consisting of an engine, 20 cars and caboose, with Conductor
Witterline and Engineman Malok in charge, left Mahoning yard at 11:59 p.m. July 26, on route for Jorsey
City, N.J. When this train approached signal No. 1072, that signal was in the caution position, indicating
that the block, ahead was occupied. Extra 1684 passed that signal, ran over two torpedoes, passed the
flagman of extra 1381, and signal No. 1062 which was in the danger position, and collided with the rear end
of extra 1381 at about 12:22 a.m., July 27, while running at a speed of approximately 10 miles per hour.
Conductor Woeppal who was in the caboose of extra 1381 at the time of the collision was killed.
A refrigerator car and the caboose fouled the westbound track, and westbound passenger train No. 5
collided with wreckage of those cars, not being warned of the danger in time to permit of a material
reduction of its speed. The passenger train consisted of an engine, I smoking car, I coach, I club car, 3
sleeping cars and 3 coaches. This train was running at a speed of about 45 miles per hour when it collided
with the wreckage, at about 12:24 a.m. The engine was derailed and the tender, smoking car and first coach
were thrown down the embankment.
Engine Miller of Extra 1381 stated that he brought his train to a stop just west of signal No.
1062. which was in the stop position, and then started in ahead slowly, bringing it up nearly to a proceeding
train. Extra 1381 stood there about five minutes; just as be was ready to start the train, the air gauge
showed that the pressure was falling; he thought a hose and bursted and he told the head brakeman to examine
the hose. Just after the head brakeman started back, train No. 5 went past.
Flagman Eddinger of extra 1381 stated that when his train stopped for signal No. 1062 he places
one torpedo on the rail about one rail-length behind the caboose, and when the train started again he put
down another torpedo two rail lengths from the first one. The train moved up beyond signal 1082, the rear
and being about three car length from that signal when it stopped the second time, and the flagman started to
walk back as soon as the train stopped. He thought he had gone back about 20 car lengths when extra 1684 cam
up. He stated that the engineman did not acknowledge his signal until about the engine struck the torpedoes;
he thought that steam had been about off then and when the engine passed him, fire was flying from the
driving wheels, as if the brakes were set. The speed of the train at that time was about ten miles per hour.
He saw the brakeman jump off from the engine, the brakeman told him to go flag No. 5 and he started
immediately, but had gone only a abort distance beyond the break when No. 5 passed him.
Engineman Walck of extra 1684 stated that on the night of the accident the air brakes were reversed
to be working on 27 of the 30 cars of his train; he did not made a running test of the brakes to do so at
Treichler, a station 16 miles from Mahoning. He had no occasion to use the brakes between Mahoning and the
point where the collision occurred. The rules required that trains should not exceed a speed of 20 miles per
hour at a road crossing at Slatington, the last station west of the scene of the accident. Engineman Welck
stated that he shut off steam and let the engine drift at that point at a speed of about 25 miles per hour.
He then began to use steam again, shutting off when he first saw the caution signal; when the engine had
passed signal 1072 he made a 10 or 12 pound reduction; when the train had proceeded 15 or 20 car lengths
beyond that signal his engine ran over two *** and he saw the danger signal, the flagman and the read end of
extra 1381; he made a further reduction of 12 to 15 pounds, *** when he saw the train was not going to be
stopped in time be applied the brakes in emergency, without releasing, reversed the engine and use steam. He
stated that the brakes did not hold as he expected them to. He estimated the speed of his train when it
passed the danger signal at 6 or 8 miles per hour. The sand pipe on his engine was clogged up so that the
sender could not be used. He thought that if the brakes and sander had operated properly the accident might
have been averted. He made no examination of the brakes after the collision although the collision did not
damage the brake equipment on his train.
Head Brakeman Ditterline of extra 1684 stated that he rode on the left side of the engine cab from
Mahoning to the point where the accident occurred. Approaching that point he saw and called the caution
signal, and the engineman shut off steam. When the engine ran over the torpedoes which he thought were about
midway between the two block signal, he again called to the engineman, who applied the brakes. Soon
afterwards he saw the rear and of extra 1381; he called to the engineman again, and as his train approached
the standing train he jumped off. After the collision occurred he saw the flagman of extra 1381 and told him
to go flag No. 5.
Conductor Bitterline of extra 1684 stated that as the train approached the point where the accident
occurred he noticed that the engineman shut off steam, the speed at that time being about 30 miles per hour,
and soon afterwards the brakes were applied. He did not notice any further application of the brakes. He
stated that he did not attempt to ascertain the reason for slowing down as trains ordinarily stopped for
water at Rockdale, the next station, and it was not unusual to be delayed at that point. He thought the
speed of his train at the time of the collision was 10 or 12 miles per hour.
Fireman Mothestein of extra 1684 stated that just before the collision occurred he jumped off; he
had a torch in his hand and he immediately started out to flag train No. 5.
Engineman Krumannocker of train No. 5 stated that as his train approached the scene of the
accident he saw a man with a white light and a man with a torch signalling him to stop; he applied the brakes
in emergency, but his train almost immediately collided with a car which obstructed the westbound track. He
stated that train No. 5 was running at about 45 miles per hour and that the brakes were in good condition.
Foreman Dittmer of the car inspectors at Mahoning yard stated that when the brakes of a train have
been examined a car is given to the engineman showing the number of brakes working and the number not
working. He stated that brakes are examined to see whether all of them are working and that the piston
travel is properly adjusted, and for leaks. His report to the engineman of extra 1684 a towed that there
were 30 cars in the train; on 27 the brakes were working and on 3 they were not working.
This accident was caused by failure of Engineman Walck to obey signal indications. Had Engineman
Walck applies the brakes on his train in time to insure that the train would be under complete contro: as it
approached signal No. 1062, the collision no doubt would have been averted. Engineman Walck had ample
warning in this case, as the caution signal could be seen for nearly a mile and that signal was located more
than 3000 feet from the signal which indicated danger.
The rules of this railroad require that running test of the brakes should be made when this train
left Mahoning yard. Had such a test been made the engineman would have been informed regarding the
efficiency of the brakes on his train and would have been better prepared to operate the brakes properly at
the point where the collision occurred. However, in this case the brakes appear to have been in operating
condition; the examination made before this train left Mohoning yard showed that there were 27 brakes in the
train which applied and released properly; and after the accident a further examination of the brakes was
made and then the train was hauled to its destination without any repairs to the brakes being made. It is
believed, therefore, that had the engineman used the brakes properly there would have been no difficulty in
controlling the speed of the train and stopping the train before it engine was clogged, but the engineman was
aware of this fact as he had worked on this sand pipe before leaving Mahoning yard, and he should have been
prepared to stop without using sand.
Engineman Walck had been in the employ of this company for seven years as a fireman and for about
one year as an engineman. His record was clear.