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INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION.
REPORT OF THE CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF SAFETY IN RE INVES-
TIGATION OF AN ACCIDENT WHICH OCCURRED ON THE PHILADEL-
PHIA & READING RAILWAY NEAR WOODMONT, PA., ON DECEMBER
DECEMBER 23, 1921.
To THE COMMISSION:
On December 5, 1921, there was a head-end collision between two
passenger trains on the Philadelphia & Reading Railway near Wood-
mont, Pa., which resulted in the death of 20 passengers, 2 employees
on duty, and 5 employees off duty, and injury to 65 passengers and
5 employees. This accident was investigated in conjunction with
representatives of the Public Service Commission of the Common-
wealth of Pennsylvania.
LOCATION AND METHOD OF OPERATION.
This accident occurred on the Newton Branch of the New York
Division. This branch leads off from the double track of the New
York 'Short Line Branch at Cheltenham, Pa., and is single track from
Cheltenham to Newtown, Pa., a distance of 16.6 miles. The move-
ment of trains is governed by time-table and train orders, eastbound
trains being superior by direction. In addition there is a block sys-
tem, part of which is automatic and part manual; from Cheltenham
eastward to Bryn Athyn, a distance of 5.4 miles, the automatic block
system is used, the signals being of the inclosed-disk type, while from
Bryn Athyn to Newton, the end of the line, a manual block sig-
nal system is in use. There are two telegraph block sections, one
from Bryn Athyn to Churchville, a distance of 5.7 miles, while the
other is from Churchville to Newtown, a distance of 5.5 miles. Be-
tween Bryn Athyn and Churchville there is an intermediate non-
block station, Southampton, where trains frequently meet.
The first station west of Bryn Athyn is Huntingdon Valley,-0.7
mile distant. At this station there are two automatic block signals,
713 for eastbound trains and 713-A for westbound trains. Bryn
Athyn station is located on the south side of the track, the telegraph
office being in the station. Seventy-three feet east of the telegraph
2 INTERSTATE COMMERCE E (COM MISSION.
office, and also located on the south side of the track, is a telegraph
block signal. This signal is a two-position semaplhore signal of the
upper-quadrant type, having one arm; it governs eastlolund trains
only, a flag being ulsle when there are train orders for westbound
trains. About 515 feet east of this signal is the point of a switch which
leads to a spur track extending westward paralleling the main track
on the south and ending near the telegraph block signal; this track
\as used as a passing siding. One hundred and seventy feet east
of the point of the switch is located automatic block signal 716, which
is the first of the automatic block signals governing we.-tlbound trains.
The track circuit controlling signal 713 begins at a point about 1,500
feet east of -ignal 716. Between the point of the switch and signal
716, the track passes over a steel bridge about 50 feet in length, span-
ning a small t srea i. Beginning at Bryn Athyn sta tion and proceed-
ing eastward, there is a 4-d-egrte curve to the left which extends to
thl point of the switch. From the point of the switch eastward the
line is tangent for a considerable dist;ince. Trees located on the
north side of the right of way obstruct the view of signal 716 from
Bryn Athyn station.
The point of collision was about 1.3 miles east of Bryn Athyn, and
0.8 mile west of Woodmont; it occurred in the middle of a rck cut
about 200 feet in length and having a Ina xinlmum depth of 30 feet.
The cut is located on a compound curve to the south about 1,000
feet in length, having a maximum curvature of 7 degrees. On ac-
count of this curve and cut, the range of vision was much restricted,
and there was little opportunity for either engineriian to see the
opposing train. The weather was clear at the time of the naccii1ent,
which occurred at about 7.55 a. m.
We.sthou(nl 1passnger and milk train No. 154, en route from New-
town to Philadelphia, was in charge of Conductor Stout and Engine-
man F. Rook, and consisted of engine 265 and 5 cars. It left New-
town at 6.50 a. m., arrived at Clhircliville at 7.06 a. m., departed at
7.12 a. m., 5 minutes late, and arriivdil at signal 716 at 7.28 a. m. The
train \va, ; brought to a stop at signal 716. because it did not have suffi-
cient time to make Huntingdon Valley, its tilie-talile meeting point,
for superiorr train No. 151, also becnii-e :.ign;il 716 was in the stop po-
sition. A flagumiian i sent ahead and after a few minute-, the train
followingll him, pulled down to Bryn Athyn station and inlo:idedl
pl.-ileer-. While at the station tlhe crew received form 19 train
order No. 9, 1 eding as follows:
Disregard -i. il 710( and run carefully. Complete 7.:1 8. m.
After dischargilng p;.-enge'rs and receiving the train order, a
fl;iu'ii:n was -cilt b aick. and train No. 154 backed up to a point moutit
Newtown (Block Station)
Churchville (Block Station)
Point of Accident
Point of Switch
Manual Block Signal
Byrn Athyn (Block Station)
Huntingdon Valley;Signal 713
Not to Scale.
DIAGRAM SHOWING RELATIVE LOCATION OF STATIONS, SIGNALS, ETC.,
TO POINT OF ACCIDENT.
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries with support from LYRASIS and the Sloan Foundation
ACCIDENT NEAR WOODMONT, PA.
100 feet east of signal 716 in order that train No. 151, upon arrival,
might pull up and back into the spur track to meet train No. 154,
the track not being long enough to hold the latter train. After
train No. 151 had arrived and backed in on the spur track, train No.
154 proceeded and passed Bryn Athyn station without stopping, ac-
cording to Operator Clayton's block record, at 7.46 a. m.; the dis-
patcher's train sheet, however, showed the train departing at 7.44
a. m., this time having been changed from 7.54 a. m.
Westbound passenger train No. 156, en route from Newtown to
Philadelphia, in charge of Conductor Smith and Engineman J.
Rook, was made up in the following order: Engine 278, coaches 833,
925, 1026, and 970, and combination coach and baggage car 490, all
of wooden construction. The train left Newtown at 7.30 a. m.
and at 7.41 a. m. arrived at Churchville, where the manual block
signal was in the stop position. The conductor went to the telegraph
office and received form 31 train order No. 11, reading as follows:
No. 151 will meet No. 156 at Bryn Athyn. No. 151 take siding. Com-
plete 7.44 a. m.
The conductor delivered a copy of the order to the engineman,
who read it; the block signal was cleared and the train departed,
as shown by the records, at 7.45 a. m. It passed Woodmont and
while running at a speed estimated to have been between 30 and 35
miles an hour it collided with eastbound train No. 151.
Eastbound passenger train No. 151, en route from Philadelphia
to Newtown, was in charge of Conductor Evans and Engineman
Yeakel. It was hauled by engine 167 and consisted of combination
baggage and passenger car 489, of wooden construction, and coaches
1093 and 1071, of steel-underframe construction. It left Philadel-
phia at 6.48 a. m., and passed Fox Chase, 3.3 miles west of Hunting-
don Valley, at 7.20 a. m., on time. At Huntingdon Valley, a non-
telegraph station and its time-table meeting point with train No. 154,
it found automatic block signal 713 in the stop position. A flag-
man was sent ahead and after waiting a few minutes the train fol-
lowed him to Bryn Athyn, arriving, the train sheet record shows, at
7.42 a. m. Upon arrival at Bryn Athyn the telegraph block signal
was found in stop position, while train No. 154 was standing on the
main track east of signal 716. Conductor Evans sent word to his
engineman to pull up and back in on the siding, but the engineman
insisted that they get an order to do so. Conductor Evans went to
the telegraph office and received form 31 train order No. 11, read-
ing as follows:
No. 151 will meet No. 156 at Bryn Athyn. No. 151 take siding. Complete
7.46 a. m.
After receiving the train order, Conductor Evans returned to his
train and delivered a copy of the order to the engineman, while the
INTEP.STATE COMMERCE CO3M MISSION.
opeirtor n('me out on the platform and assisted in handling bag-
gange; the train then pulled ahead under flag protection and backed
in on the siding. When the ,witch was closed, train No. 154 de-
pairted; then the switch was again opened and train No. 151 pulled
out, departing, as shown by the records, at 7.46 a. m. A stop was
made at Paper Mills station, 0.7 mile east of Bryn Athyn, to let off
somer trackmen, after which the'train proceeded and had gone alout
0.5 mile when, while running at a speed estimated to have been 25
or 30 miles an hour, it collided with train No. 156.
The impact forci.l both engines upward, engiiie 167, of train No.
151, co( ,iing to rest bottom up, headed west and on top of its own
tender, while engine 278, of train No. 156, was on top of engine 167.
The cmiiiiiition car of train No. 151 was ):partially teletlcuped by the
tender of engine 167. The forwn\\ed end of the second car of train No.
151 was also partially tele-coped by the rear of the combination car,
while the rear car reminaiied on the rails and was only slightly dam-
age1. The first coach of train No. 156 was completely telescoped by
the tender of engine 278. The next car was partially telescoped at its
forward end by the wreckage, while the rear truck remained on the
rails. The third, fourth, and fifth cars of train No. 156 were practi-
cally unilamaged by the collision. The wreckage took fire immedi-
ately, the first car of earc train being completely destroyed. The fire
spread quickly and (ldetroyedl the superstructures of the second and
third coaches of train No. 156 and of the -second coach of train No.
151. It is probablle that many of the deaths were the result of the
fire that followed the collision. The employees on duty killed were
the firemen of each train.
SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE.
Conductor Eva ns, of train No. 151, stated that upon arrival at
Bryn Athyn he went to the telegrapli office and signed and received
train order No. 11. He read it in a low tone of voice and was under
the impression that it was an order to meet train No. 154 at Bryn
Athyn. After receiving the order he walked to the engine and
delivered a copy of it to the engineman, neither of them reading it
to the other or making any comment whatever. His, train then pulled
down and backed in on the siding; after train No. 154 had departed
the switch was opened, the train pulled out of the siding and pro-
ceeded without a cle ran ce card or other permission from the operator
at Bryn Athyn, although the block signal was in the stop position.
He stated it was his understanding that a train order was sufficient
authority for a train to pass a block or train-order signal in the
stop position without a. clearance card. He did not show his copy
of the train order to his trainmnen, as they were both attending to the
AC('IIE'NT NEAR WOOD1MONT, PA.
switches at the time, but he put it iiiunder the 1;Iggageiii;i-t.r's )box in
the baggage car, as was his custom, ,so that the lugga;g .ist
Engilnemain Yeakel stated that when Condu ctor Evans handed him
the order he gllanrced at it and got the impres.nion that it was an order
to meet train No. 154 at Bryn Athyn. He held the order in his hand
until his train was in on the siding ; later he put it into his pocket.
THe saw the oPlping train just as the collision oriiirretl, but did not
havr time to apply the brakes.
The stateieniits illIlde by Operator Clayton, on duty at Bryn
.Atlyn, are conflictinii, and v;i'ill:ltilg. He suited that when train
No. 151 arrived at Bryn Athyn the conductor came into the tele-
gralph office and signed train order No. 11. He transmitted the
sil;lgnatre to the train dispatcher, rreived "complete" from him at
7.46 a. m., and deli\l-vir- the order to Conductor Evans, who rn;ild it
to hiim elf; Operni;or Clayton said he overheard him read it and said
he read it correctly. Following this, Operator Clayton went out
on the platform and a.--ited in unloading baIgai~.i from train No.
151. Operator Clayton's first staltementt. was to the effect that lie
did itnot report train No. 154 clear of the block to Churchville and
that the operator at Churchville did not secure his permission to let
train No. 156 enter the block. He also stated it was his underst;al d-
ing that the block was between Bryn Athyn and Churchville. Upon
lsubsequent exaiminat;tion, however, Operator Clayton stated that he
cleared the block to Churchville as soon as the rear of train No. 154
had crossed the bridge just west of signal 716 and that he gave the
operator at Churchville permission to let train No. 156 proceed on
a clear block, considering that the block for westbound trains ended
at automatic signal 716. After train No. 154 had departed, he
went out on the station platform to bring in a fla;i which he had
used for a train-order -sign;l. and it was at that time he discovered
train No. 151 pulliln out of the siding. He made an effort to signal
the train to stop but wa\s unsuccessful. Operator Clayton stated that
1haid he waited until the rear of train No. 154 had actually passed his
t ati in before clearing the block to Churchville, he would probably
have discovered that train No. 151 had departed contrary to their
(orders. and ,would then have refused to give the block to the operator
at Churchville for train No. 156 to proceed and thlus would have
prevented the accident. Tlhe block record at Bryn Atliyn clearly
inllichtes that the entries relative to trains Nos. 151 and 154 had
been altered. Operator Clayton was unable to explain these altera-
tions except on the ground that he was busy selling tickets at the
time and that the entries were not made at the time of the occurrenlle.
but froiinmemory about an hour afterwards, at which time he was
very much excited and disturbed.
6 INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION.
Operator Tomlinson, on duty at Churchville, also made statements
on two occasions which are conflicting. In his first statement Opera-
tor Tomlinson said he permitted train No. 156 to proceed from his
station, giving them a clear block signal, and at that time train No.
154 had not been actually cleared of the block by the operator at
Bryn Athyn, but that he had an understanding with the operator at
Bryn Athyn that train No. 154 stood at Bryn Athyn station ready
to go. On the second occasion, Operator Tomlinson stated that upon
the arrival of train No. 156 the conductor came to the office and
signed train order No. 11, and that he transmitted the signature to
the train dispatcher and received complete from him at 7.44 a. m.
He immediately communicated with the operator at Bryn Athyn and
ascertained that train No. 154 was clear of the block at Bryn Athyn;
the conductor of train No. 156 left the telegraph office, went to the
engine and delivered a copy of the order to the engineman; while
thus engaged, Operator Tomlinson cleared the train-order signal and
the train departed immediately.
At the investigation Operator Tomlinson produced a record which
he identified as the original block record kept at his station. This
record showed that train No. 154 cleared the block at Bryn
Athyn at 7.45 a. m.; the figure "5," however, bore indications
of alteration and, upon questioning, Operator Tomlinson ad-
mitted that he had changed the clearing time from 7.46 a. m.
to 7.45 a. m. for the purpose of making the record 7.45 a. m. on
the book. The block record produced by Operator Tomlinson
was contained in a new record book, the first entry being for
December 1. Operator Tomlinson was later required to produce
the book containing the record previous to December 1, and upon
examination of that record it was apparent that several pages of
the book subsequent to November 30 had been removed. In the old
record book only three columns were filled in, the train number, and
the arriving and departing time of trains, while in the new book the
columns headed Train No.," Signals displayed," Entered block
in rear," "Arrived," Entered block," Reported to block station
in advance," Clear block reported to station in rear," and "Advance
block reported clear," were all filled in. Upon further examination,
Operator Tomlinson admitted that the book which he had identified
during his previous examination as the original record was not the
original, but a copy which he made for the purpose of this investiga-
tion, and that the copy contained additional information not shown
by the original record and that the original record had been de-
stroyed by him. He assumed full responsibility for making these
changes and for destroying the original record, stating that he acted
entirely upon his own initiative and without suggestion or instruc-
tion from any person. Operator Tomlinson stated that his office
ACCIDENT NEAR WOODM)ONT, PA.
was closed when standard time was tran.imiitted by telegraph and
as a result he seldom received standard time; he did occasionally
compare his watch with trainmen who lihad standard time. He was
unable to say whether his watch was correct on the (day of the
Conductor Stout, of train No. 154, stated that his train passed
Bryn Athyn station n at about 7.48 a. m. He also stated it was his
understanding that, the block for westbound trains ended at Bryn
Athyn station. However, upon cross-examination by General Super-
intendent Fisher, he retracted this statement and said the block
ended at signal 716. Engineman F. Rook, of train No. 154, stated
it was his understanding that the rear of a wetlund train would
have to pass Bryn Athyn station before the block could properly be
cleared to Churchville.
Engineman J. Rook, of train No. 156, stated that the block signal
at Churchville was cleared as the conductor was walking down the
platform with the train order. He did not recall the time his train
left Churchville, but said it passed Southampton 3 minutes late.
This would make train No. 156 passing Southampton at 7.49 a. m.;
the schedule time from Churchville to Southampton is 5 minutes.
which would make train No. 156 departing from Churchville at 7.44
a. m. Engineman Rook also stated that when he receives a clear
block signal at Churchville he understands that the block is clear
to Bryn Athyn station and not to signal 716 only. He stated that
he saw the engine of train No. 151 when it was about 40 feet distant
and that he made an application of the brakes just before the col-
Brakeman Fulmore, of train No. 156, stated that when his train
was leaving Churchville he looked at his watch and it was then be-
tween 7.45 a. m. and 7.46 a. m.
Train Dispatcher Rich stated that when train No. 154 arrived at
Bryn Athyn the conductor reported signal 716 in the stop position.
At that time one of his telegraph wires was in trouble east of New
York Branch Crossing, and from this he concluded that the entire
signal circuit from signal 716 to Huntingdon Valley was out of
order, and to avoid delay to train No. 156 which would result from
train No.1 54 being required to flag to IHuntingldon Valley, he issued
train order No. 9, for train No. 154 to disregard signal 716. He ad-
mitted, however, that this signal condition might arise with train
No. 151 occupying the track circuit between signals 713 and 716;
also if train No. 154 entered the track circuit east of signal 716 and
was unable to proceed farther than Bryn Athyn on account of time-
table in feriority, it would be necessary for train No. 151 to flag from
Huntingdon Valley to Bryn Athyn.
INT'I:RSTATE COMMERCE( COM MISSION.
Signal Supervisor Steele stated that on the morning of December
5. signal 716 was reported as being out of order, but inspection by the
signal maintainer disclosed no trouble and that the signal was work-
This accident was caused by the failure of Conductor Evans and
Enrginenian Yeakel, of train No. 151, to obey train order No. 11,
directing them to meet train No. 156 at Bryn Athyn; also by their
failure to observe manual block-signal rules in leaving Bryn Athyn
with the block signal in the stop position without securing a clearance
card. Contributing to this was the failure of the operator at either
Bryn Athyn or Churchville, or both, properly to operate the manual
It is prolibable, that the failure on the part of Conductor Evans and
Engirenman Yeakel to obey the instructions contained in train order
No. 11 was caused by their anticipating the contents of the order
and acting upon that impression rather than upon the instructions
contained in the order. The evidence indicates that when Engineman
Yeakel was reque-ted to pull up and back in on the siding, he would
not do so until he received an order directing him to make the move-
ment, and when he did receive the train order he a assumed that the
order was the one which he had requested. General operIating rule
210, with reference to train orders, reads in part:
The copy for each e(inineic anii must be delivered to him pleri-;oally by the con-
ductor or pilot, and the engineman must read it aloud to the person delliverilig it.
General Instructions, Rules for Conductors, rule 1003, reads in
On passenger trains they will show all orders to trainmen. *
Had Conductor Evans and Engineman Yeakel complied with these
rules, their mistake would undoubtedly have been discovered. This
accident again calls attention to the fallibility of the human element
and emiphallizes the inherent danger in the operation of trains by
the t rain-order system.
It was no over-igiht on the part of Conductor Evans that train
No. 151 left Bryn Athyn without a clearance card on the block sig-
nal. According to his understanding of the rules the train order
he had received gave his train the right to proceed without a clearance
card with the block signal in the stop position. If he had had a
proper unId standing of the rules, immediately after the passage of
train No. 154 he would have ascertained the condition of the block
and thus would have been checked on the misreading of the train
The evidence is conclusive that train No. 156 left Churchville on
a clear block signal when train No. 154 still stood on the main track
ACCIDENT NEAR WOO)DMONT, PA.
at signal 716 with the rear of its train east of the signal. Train No.
151 received (cm nplete to tra;inl order No. 11 at 7.46 a. m., after
which tlheyhandled I,;Igg;ige, pulled up and 1,:lk;d in ,111 the -liinle
before train No. 154 iolild even p,- ign;ial 716; the orilr to train
No. 156 was c'iiplleted at 7.44 a. m. a;nl the triin d(p;1,:iti(' frni
Churchville shortly thereafter. Thern can be no dlisliiut as to the
time the orders were cin opleted by the train di p:it l]i ,I as both
tines were taken from the sanme clock.
The statenieilts of Operators Clayton and Torliililn .i are so con-
flicting and the condition of their block records -.I'h that state-
ments made by them are of little if any value. In view of these con-
flieting statements it is impossible to determine whether the operator
at Bryn Athyn clear red the block to Churchville before the operator
at Churichville permitted train No. 156 to p proceedd on a clear block, or
whether the operator at Bryn Athyn did not clear the block and the
operator' at Churchville let train No. 156 go on a clear block signal,
knowing that the block was still occupied by train No. 154.
The investigation of this accident disclosed that in this instance
all of the safeguards provided for the operation of trainlls wte\
rendered ineffective by errors on the part of employees involved,
misundlerstandling of operating rules, and improper practices which
had grown up in service.
The train-order system failed due to the members- of the train
crew of train No. 151 miriiealing or neglecting to read the trail
order e tablishing the meeting point.
The nmnuail block-signal system failed, due to the crew of train
No. 151 departing from Bryn Athyn without authority when the
signal was at stop, and due to train No. 156 being admitted. to the
block under a clear signal when the block was occupied.
In addition to the specific failures of the block system which led
directly to this accident, investigationn disclosed a general laxity in
the observation of block signal rules. General rule 317-B, which
prescribes the method of blocking trains, is followed by this note:
NOTE.-317-B is for absolute block for ,lpp.-iing movements and pIe.'iis-i\.
block for fill.'.\ini, movements on the same track.
Notwithstanding the requirement that a positive Iblock must be
maintained for opposing trains, the time-table provides for regular
meeting points between schedule trains at South:lmpton, an inter-
mediate nonblock station located in the block section between Bryn
Athyn and Churchville, and opposing trains are permitted to enter
the block on a clearance or a caution card.
Rule 317-B also reads in part:
A train must not be admitted to a block which is occupied by a p;j-stiiiv'er
t.iini. except as provided in Rulel ",31. or by special order.
10 INTEIISTATE COIMMER('E COMMISSION.
(Rule 3'31 provides for movement in case of failure of telegraph
Train Dispatcher Rich stated it was his understanding that train
No. 156 might enter the block at Churchville with train No. 154 still
within the block, provided train No. 156 received a caution card.
The incomplete condition of the block records at both Churchville
and Bryn Athyn, together with the fact that the time was not entered
on the record at Bryn Athyn until an hour after, are further evidence
of the loose method of operating the manual block-signal system.
Circular No. 403, dated May 21, 1914, putting the block system
into effect in this territory, provides that Manual telegraph block
system will be in operation between Bryn Athyn and Newtown."
It also provides that this telegraph block system is in effect at-
Bryn Athyn--------- -------------------------- 6.30 a.m. to 7.20 p.m.
Churchville 6.15 a. m. to 2.35 p. m.
And ----------------------- 3.35 p. m. to 7.35 p.m.
Nt-\to\\ _------------------------------------- 6.00 a.m. to 2.35 p.m.
And ---__-- ----------------- 3.35 p. m. to 7.35 p. m.
It further provides that In forwarding trains signalmen will be
governed by rule 317-B." Under this circular it appears that the
manual block section for eastbound trains begins, and for westbound
trains ends, at Bryn Athyn station, and so far as can be ascertained
in that respect has not been subsequently modified, and was so under-
stood by the employees generally at the time of the accident. Not-
withstanding this, it is claimed by officials of the Philadelphia &
Reading Railway that while the manual block section for eastbound
trains begins at Bryn Athyn station, the manual block section for
westbound trains ends at signal 716, some 750 feet east of the station,
and that it is proper for the operator at Bryn Athyn to clear the
block to Churchville as soon as the rear of a westbound train has
passed signal 716.
There was no uniform or clear understanding as to whether the
siding at Bryn Athyn was within the limits of Bryn Athyn station
or whether it was within the block section between Bryn Athyn and
Churchville, and whether or not it was necessary for train No. 151
to have a clearance or a caution card before passing the block signal
to back into the siding.
Conductor Evans was under the impression that a train order
alone was sufficient authority for a train to pass a train-order signal
or a block signal in the stop position.
The train-order signal at Bryn Athyn is not clearly defined, and
the evidence is conflicting as to whether a flag should be used for
eastbound trains or whether the block signal should be usid.
Train No. 154 was given a train order to disregard signal 716
upon the assumption of the train dispatcher that the signal was out
ACCIDENT NEAR WOOD)IMONT, PA.
of order, wheln as a matter of fact it properly indicated ti-re \;ias
a train in the block. This order created a ldangeroui c i .isit ition, and
was given apparently for no other purpose than to avoid delaving-
train movements. A similar order was also i-.-,i'd to train No.
156, but \wis not delivered.
There does not appear to have been any system that required
employees to be reex;i iined on the rules at r.c-ular irnter :c-; some
of them had not been examined since 1914, and the train dispatcher
involved had never been examined.
The investigation disclosed extreicmly lax supervision by respon-
sible officers over the conduct of emplioyees in the oCl-:rva r.e of
ordinary safeguards to train moveii...nt. There was no system of
instruction of employees to provide a correct and uniform under-
standing of the rules, nor any effort on the part of responsible officers
to correct existing operating practices which w\ere co).ntra ry to rules
and a constant menace to the traveling p lulic. Thi,- laxity with
which the manual block system was operated on this line is a condi-
tion which could have been easily discovered had any attempt been
made by officials to check it up.
The practice of authorizing trains to disregard automatic signal
indications frequently upon trivial occasions merely to prevent delay,
is dangerous, tends to lead to a disrespect of all automatic block
signals, and can not be too strongly condemned.
The manual telegraph block system between Bryn Athyn and
Churchville is in effect only during the daytime, and this is tempo-
rarily suspended at Churchville and Newtown from 2.35 p. m. until
3.35 p. m. each day. An analysis of the train movements between
Bryn Athyn and Newtown for the months of August to November,
inclusive, indicates an average daily movement of 17 passenger trains
and 1.7 other trains. The manual block system which is nominally
in effect on this line is entirely inadequate, in view of practices dis-
closed by this investigation, to furnish the required protection; and
while not involved in this accident the order issued by the dispatcher
nullified the protection which automatic signal 716 was intended to
To prevent, the recurrence of accidents of this character it is
recommended that measures be taken promptly by the carrier to
insure that employees properly understand and ,obey operating rules
which are provided to safeguard train operation, and that the car-
iier be required to install on this line a complete automatic train-
All of the cars involved in the accident except the two last cars of
train No. 151 were of wooden construction and were e(luilpped with
the Pintsch gas lighting system. It is probable that many of the
lives los in this accident were the result of the fire which followed
12 INTI;EST.\TE COMM.ER('C COMIMI SS O N.
the collision. IThere is no direct evidence that the fire was aggra-
v\;ted by the Pintsch gas which was present in the cars, although it
is possible that such was the case.
Had all-steel equipment. leen in service on the.e trains, it is prob-
able that the casualties resulting from the fire would have been pre-
vented and those resulting from the collision would have been much
les-ened. At the pi-t-sent time, the passenger-car equipment of the
Philadelphia & Reading Railway con-ists of 205 all-steel cars, 90 with
steel underframnes, 289 wooden cars in actual service and 217 wooden
cars surplus. Officials stated it is their policy to keep the steel and
steel-underframe cars in through service, while wooden cars are con-
fined to branch-line service. The Philadelphia & Reading Railway
has not purchased any wooden passenger cars for a number of years.
Prior to the war, it had adopted a well-defined program;n for the pur-
chase of approximately 50 steel cars per year, but this program was
discontinued during the war. Since then it is stated that the financial
condition of the railroad has been such as not to enable it to continue
the purciiia:,~ of this type of new equlil'npent. At the present time,
however, they have inquiries out for additional steel equipment which
they hope to purchase in the near future. In this connection it seems
not improper to observe that a considerable financial burden has been
imposed upon the railroad, as the result of this accident, for which
no return is possible. The amount of money which thus will be ex-
pendleil would probably have enabled the railroad to continue its
prewar program for the purchase of steel equipment, as well as to
introduce other measures of safety for the protection of the traveling
public. That steel passenger cars afford much greater protection to
the traveling public has been repeatedly demonstrated, and this is
particularly true when the danger of fire is considered; that the offi-
cials of the Philadelphia & Reading Railway recognize the greater
security afforded by steel equipment is appa rent by their own state-
It is recommended that the Philadelphia & Reading Railway at
the earliest practicable date provide steel cars for carrying pas-
sengers, and that the use of wooden cars ahead of, or between steel
or steel-underframe cars, in passenger trains, be discontinued.
Conductor Evans entered the service August 6, 1902, as a switch-
ing conductor, was promoted to passenger conductor in 1912, passed
exalninatinn on the operating rules May 22, 1919, and at the time
of the accident had been on duty 9 hours 17 minutes, prior to which
he had been off duty over 12 hours.
Engineman Yeakel entered the service in 189F, and was promoted
to pal-svsnger engineman in 1904. There is no record of his last
e(xamiinati)on onn operating rules. At the time of the accident he
AC('CII'INT NEAR WOOD ONT, PA. 13
had been on duty 9 hours 47 minutes, prior to which lie had been
off duty 11 hours 43 minutes.
Operator Claytoi entered the service as stalion, :Igl'lnt in 1902, wa;s
examined on the rules in 1914, and at the time of the accident lj;:1
been on duly 1 hour 25 minutes, prior to which he was off duty 15
Operator Tomulinsni entered the service ;as agent in 1907, was
examined on the operating rules in 1914, and at the time of the
accident. he had been on duty 2 hours 40 minutes, prior to which
he had been off duty 15 hours.
W. P. BuilA.. Am)
Chief, Bureau of Safety.
FIG. 1.-VIEW SHOWING HOW ENGINES CAME TO REST.
.I~' IE~ ;
FIG. 2.-LOOKING EAST FROM TOP OF CUT, SHOWING BURNING CARS OF TRAIN NO. 156.
FIG. 3.-CLOSE UP VIEW OF WRECKAGE IN CUT; BURNED CAR ON LEFT.
FIG. 4.-LOOKING EAST TOWARD POINT OF ACCIDENT.
I r r'' ft '- ^
.|. ,.'" ; .
i~~ ^^^^H ^^t^^^d ^Q^iKte
FIG. 5.-LOOKING WEST TOWARD STATION AT BYRN ATHYN; SPUR TRACK ON LEFT.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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