Vexit Jct., Pa., 08/09/1937

INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION WASHINGTON

REPORT OF THE DIRECTOR BUREAU OF SAFETY

ACCIDENT ON THE LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD

VEXIT JUNCTION, PA.

AUGUST 9, 1937

INVESTIGATION NO. 2194

SUMMARY

Railroad:      Lehigh Valley

Date:      August 9, 1937

Location:      Vexit Junction, Pa.

Kind of accident:      Derailment

Train involved:      Freight

Train number:      Extra 429 East

Engine number:      429

Consist:      27 cars, caboose

Speed:      10-15-m.p.h

Track:      11 degrees curve; 0.5 percent ascending grade

Weather:      Dark, cloudy

Time:      10:20 p.m.

Casualties:      2 killed: 1 injured

Cause:      Block of wood on rail

September 26, 1937.

To the Commission:

On August 9, 1937, there was a derailment of a freight train on the Lehigh Valley Railroad near
Vexit Junction, Pa., which resulted in the death of two employees and the injury of one employee.

Location and method of operation

This accident occurred on. the Ebervale Branch of the Mahanoy and Hazelton Division, extending
between Harleigh Junction and Pink Ash Junction, Pa., a distance of 7.64 miles; in the vicinity of
the point of accident this is a single-track freight line over which trains are operated by timetable
and train orders, no block-signal system being in use. The derailment occurred at a point about 1/2
mile west of Vexit Junction and 25 feet east of the center line of a state highway crossing known as
Harleigh crossing. Approaching the point of accident from the west the tract is tangent for a
distance of 534 feet, then there is a compound curve to the left 1,056 feet in length with a maximum
curvature of 14 degrees, the accident occurring on this curve at a point 846 feet from its western
end, where the curvature is 11 degrees. The prevailing grade is 0.5 percent ascending eastward.

At the point of accident the track is laid with 136-pound rail, with an average of 18 ties to the
rail length, fully tie-plated, double-spiked, equipped with anti-creepers and ballasted with ashes;
the track is fairly well maintained. The maximum authorized speed is 20 miles per hour.

At a point 46 feet east of the center line of Harleigh public-road crossing there is a facing-point
switch for eastward movements leading off the main track toward the southeast to Jeddo No. 7
colliery siding.

A drizzling rain had been falling and it was dark and cloudy at the time of the accident, which
occurred about 10:20 p.m.

Description

Extra 429 East consisted of 27 loaded cars and a caboose, hauled by engine 429, and was in charge as
Conductor D. J. Dolan and Engineman Kreiger. This train left Harleigh Junction at 9:30 p.m.,
according to the train sheet, doubled the hill between that point and Oakbur Junction, 0.4 mile
beyond, passed Lattimer Junction, 2.2 miles farther on, and was derailed just after passing over the
Harleigh public-road crossing while traveling at a speed estimated to have been between 10 and 15
miles per hour.

Diagram

Inv. No. 2194 Lehigh Valley R.R. Vexit Jct. Pa. Aug. 9, 1937

Engine 429 stopped on its left side nearly reversed with its forward end on Jeddo No. 7 siding and
its rear end on the slain track, 176 feet east of the initial point of derailment; the tender
remained coupled to the engine and stopped on its left side north of and parallel to the main track.
The first car was derailed, but remained upright, and the forward truck of tie second oar was
derailed, The employees killed were the engineman and head brakeman, and the employee injured was
the fireman.

Summary of evidence

Fireman Cassler stated that while ascending the grade approaching Harleigh road crossing the speed
was between 10 and 15 miles per hour. He was on his seat box looking ahead, the head brakeman was
sitting in front of him and the engineman was on the seat box on the right side of the cab. On
reaching the crossing the driving wheels slipped, following which the engine lurched, was derailed
and turned over. Fireman Cassler did not know whether steam was being used at the time or whether
the engineman had, applied the brakes, or what action was taken, nor could he see any obstruction on
the rail although the headlight was burning. The engine was in good condition and he did not notice
anything unusual with the way it handled or its riding qualities on route prior to the accident. He
did not notice any trespassers in the vicinity.

Conductor D. J. Dolan, Trainman Troy and Flagman Flexor were in, the caboose approaching the
scene of the accident; the train was moving at a speed of about 15 miles per hour and the first they
knew of anything wrong was when it suddenly stopped. The conductor at first thought that the train
had parted on the ascending grade; he and the trainman walked ahead and found the engine overturned.
Shortly thereafter Flagman Flexer went forward and found a block of wood, lying on the south side
of the track, parallel to and outside the high rail of the curve, about half-way between the highway
crossing and Jeddo switch No. 7; the block was crushed, as though it had been run over, and there
were splinters on both sides of the rail. The conductor also saw the block of wood and, described it
as being about 15 by 5 by 2 1/2 inches. In the opinion of the conductor and flagman the block of
wood on the rail caused the derailment.

Trainmaster Brewer arrived at the scene of the accident at 10:36 p.m., 16 minutes after its
occurrence and examined the track in company with Road Foreman of Engines J. L Dolan and
Conductor D. J. Dolan. The trainmaster saw the block of wood lying between the crossing and Jeddo
No. 7 switch parallel to and about 3 or 4 inches outside the high rail of the curve. There were
splinters on each side of the high rail where the block was knocked oft the track and marks on the
spike heads outside the high rail of the curve appeared a few feet east of where the block was found.
Examination of the engine and derailed cars disclosed no condition that would have caused or
contributed to tile accident. The switch was properly lined and locked for the main track with the
tumbler or safety lock in proper position. Trainmaster Brewer was of the opinion that the derailment
was caused by the block of wood on the outside rail of the curve.

Supervisor of Track Shimer stated that the small pieces and splinters of wood on the ground 25 feet
east of the center line of Harleigh road crossing plainly indicated where the block had been, and
the indications were that it was run Over by the pony truck wheels; 5 feet east of that point there
were indications on the outer edge of the high rail which showed where the wheel had dropped off.
For a distance of several feet beyond that point, the spike heads were struck by the flange of the
wheel. At a point 15 feet east of the switch point of Jeddo No. 7 switch, or 36 feet east of the
point of derailment, marks on the right-hand switch rail showed where the pony truck wheel was pulled
across that rail and then dropped to the inside of the rail. Flange marks appeared on the switch
ties inside the lead rail. Beyond the frog the rails on both main line and siding were torn out. A
check of the gauge and superelevation en the curve at the point of accident showed then to be in
accordance with the requirements of the railroad. It was the opinion of Supervisor of Track Shiner
that the derailment was caused by the block of wood placed en the high rail of the curve.

John Rodgers and Tony Tramma, automobile bus drivers, stated that bus passengers are often picked
up at Harleigh crossing when the required crossing stop is made. On numerous occasions the bus
drivers had observed, passengers sitting on blocks of wood, placed upon the rails to avoid sitting
directly on the rail, Occasionally some of the passengers would get up and start toward the bus,
following which they would hastily return to the track and remove from the rail whatever object they
had been sitting on.

Inspection of the track by the Commission’s inspectors disclosed conditions to be practically as
described by Supervisor of Track Shinier. There was no evidence of dragging equipment or any marks
of derailment west of the initial point of accident. The block of wood involved was a piece of
hemlock, 15 inches long, 4 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches thick; it was plainly evident that it had
been run over by a wheel. Inspection of engine 429 subsequent to the accident failed to disclose any
condition that would have caused or contributed to the derailment.

Discussion

The investigation disclosed that track conditions were all right in the vicinity of the point of
accident, and the superelevation and gauge of the curve involved were in accordance with the
requirements of the railroad. No indication of dragging equipment or any marks of derailment were
found west of the initial point of accident. Nothing was found about the condition of the engine
that would have any bearing on the accident. No trespassers wore observed in the vicinity. After the
accident a block of hemlock wood, measuring 15 by 4 by 2 1/2 inches, was found lying about 3 or 4
inches outside of and parallel to the south or high rail of the curve and it was plainly evident that
this block of wood had been run over by a wheel, there being splinters on each side of the rail. Two
automobile bus drivers testified that passengers board the bus when the required stop is made for the
crossing and on numerous occasions the bus drivers had seen passengers sitting on blocks of wood
placed on the rail while awaiting the arrival of the bus.

Conclusion

This accident was caused by a block of wood on the high rail of a curve.

Respectfully submitted,

W. J. PATTERSON

Director.
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