Repo rt of the chief of the Bureau of safety covering the investigation of an accident which occurred on the Chicago gre...


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Repo rt of the chief of the Bureau of safety covering the investigation of an accident which occurred on the Chicago great western railway near Wyeth, Mo., on January 3, 1920
Physical Description:
38 p. incl. plates. : ; 24 cm.
United States -- Interstate Commerce Commission. -- Bureau of Safety
Borland, W. P
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Publication Date:


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Railroad accidents -- United States   ( lcsh )
Railroad rails   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


General Note:
At head of title: Interstate commerce commission.
General Note:
Caption title.
General Note:
Dated April 29, 1921.
General Note:
W.P. Borland, chief, Bureau of safety.

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University of Florida
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aleph - 004952896
oclc - 60333660
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3, 1920.
APRIL 29, 1921.
On January 3, 1920, there was a derailment of a passenger train
on the Chicago Great Western Railway near Wyeth, Mo., which re-
sulted in the death of 1 passenger, and the injury of 79 passengers and
3 Pullman employees. As a result of the investigation of this acci-
dent I submit the following report:
The accident occurred on the. seventh district of the southern
division, a single-track line extending between Leavenworth and Con-
ception, Mo., a distance of 74.2 miles, over which trains are operated
by time-table and train orders. Proceeding westward from the
station at Wyeth there is 912 feet of tangent, followed by a 3-degree
curve to the left 846 feet in length, 1,678 feet of tangent, and a 2-
degree curve to the left, 679 feet in length. The accident occurred
on this latter curve at a point 427 feet west of its eastern end. The
grade from Wyeth is practically level for 1,750 feet, followed by a
descending grade to the point of accident, varying from 0.29 per cent
to 0.83 per cent. The track is laid with 85-pound rails, 33 feet in
length, single spiked to an average of 18 oak ties to the rail, ballasted
with stone and cinders to a depth of from 8 to 12 inches. Tie-plates
are used on curves. The rails were laid in the track in October, 1904.
The general condition of the track was fairly good, although many
of the rails were not in good condition. At the time of the accident
the weather was cold and partly cloudy.
The train involved in this accident was westbound passenger train
No. 3, en route from Minneapolis, Minn., to Kansas City, Mo. It
consisted of 1 mail car, 1 baggage car, 1 smoking car, 1 day
coach, and 8 Pullman sleeping cars, in the order given, hauled
by engines 923 and 286, and was in charge of Conductor Cavanaugh
and Enginemen Venn and Peavy. It passed Rea, 3.3 miles east of
Wyeth and the last open telegraph office, at 7.17 a. m., 3 hours and
8 minutes late, and at about 7.26 a. m. was derailed at a point about
three-qualrters of a mile west of Wyeth while traveling at a speed
estimated to have been about 40 or 45 miles an hour.
The two engines and the first three cars came to a stop about
2,100 feet beyond the point of derailment, wit ionlyT .L* yni pir
of wheels of the rear truck of the baggage c r d [EA SD IT.
remaining cars in the train were derailed o te left side of.the
4,603-21-1 i A



track. The day coach was derailed just before passing over bridge
F-460, a 96-foot plate-girder structure, located 630 feet beyond the
initial point of derailment, and after passing over the bridge went
down a 20-foot embankment, coming to rest about 50 feet from the
track. The first and second sleeping cars went down the embankment
just before reaching the bridge, coming to rest on their sides at a point
about 50 feet from the track. The third sleeping car came to rest
in an upright position with its forward end down the embankment
and the rear end resting on the roadbed, being almost at right angles
to the track. The fourth sleeping car remained upright with its
forward end close to the rails and its rear end down the embank-
ment, 10 or 12 feet from the track. This car remained coupled to
the fifth sleeping car, which was also entirely derailed, with its for-
ward end down the embankment, while the rear end remained on
the roadbed close to the left rail, with the body of the car inclined
at an angle of about 45 degrees. The remaining three sleeping cars
came to rest in an upright position close to the rails.
Examination of the track showed that the first marks of derail-
ment were at a broken rail on the inside or left of the curve, at a
point about 150 feet back of the last car in the train. The receiving
end of this rail was intact for a distance of 23 feet 6 inches, and re-
mained upright and spiked in its proper position. The running sur-
face was slightly beveled at the break, indicating that a few wheels
had passed over it. The remainder of the rail was broken into many
pieces, 32 of which were recovered; these 32 pieces constituted only
a small portion of the leaving end. The receiving end of the next
rail on the west remained in place, with the rail joints and the end
badly battered by wheels passing over them. This rail was intact for
a distance of 30 feet 6 inches. The balance of the leaving end, to-
gether with the seven adjoining rails, was torn out of the track by
the derailed equipment. None of the rails on the outside of the curve
was disturbed in any way. The first flange marks on the ties were
on the left sides of both rails, and were first visible opposite the first
broken rail at the end of the receiving portion of 23 feet 6 inches.
Careful examination failed to disclose any marks indicating that any
portion of the train had been derailed before reaching this point.
Engineman Venn, of engine 923, stated that he shut off steam a
short distance beyond Rea, at which time the speed of the train was
about 45 miles an hour, and that he reduced this speed to about 35
miles an hour on the curve just east of Wyeth. The speed then in-
creased slightly on the descending grade and was about 40 miles an
hour at the time of the derailment. He did not notice any jar or
unusual motion of the engine when passing over the point of derail-
ment, and had started to work steam when the brakes were applied
from the rear; at this time his engine was at the eastern end of the


bridge. He at once placed his brake valve in the lap position, and
then changed it to the emergency position. He stated that he did not
make any detailed examination of the track, but fironm his observa-
tions concluded that a broken rail was responsible. He considered
the track to be in fair condition and safe for the speed at which his
train was running.
Fireman Hutchings, of engine 923, said that he did not notice
any unusual motion of the engine. His first knowledge of the derail-
ment was when he felt the brakes applied. At this time he was rid-
ing on his seat and on looking back he saw the day coach going
down the embankment. He thought the speed of the train at the
time was about 35 or 40 miles an hour.
Engineman Peavy, of engine 286, stated that he shut off steam
about 4 miles east of the point of derailment. The speed was re-
duced between Rea and Wyeth by an application of the air brakes,
and again when passing Wyeth. The balance of his statements
corroborated those of Engineman Venn. The statements of Fireman
Wilcox, of engine 286, added nothing to those of Engineman Peavy.
Conductor Cavanaugh stated that he was riding in the forward
end of the smoking car when he felt a severe jar, as though the car
had been derailed, and he at once pulled the emergency cord for the
purpose of stopping the train. He estimated the speed to have been
from 40 to 45 miles an hour. Shortly after the accident he went
back to the rear of the train, but did not make a detailed examina-
tion of the track, concluding that a broken rail was responsible for
the accident.
P. A. Nolden, employed in the engineering department of the
railway, was a passenger on the train. Shortly after it was derailed
he went back to examine the track, and about 100 or 150 feet beyond
the rear of the train he found a broken rail, the leaving end of
which was broken into a number of pieces, while the receiving end
was intact. The next rail on the west was also broken on the leav-
ing end.
Track Supervisor Millett stated that he reached the scene of the
accident at about 10.30 a. m. Examination of the first broken rail
disclosed a flaw in the head. He saw nothing on the running surface
of the rail to indicate that it was defective. He also found a crack
in the head of the receiving portion of this rail which extended back
into the rail. In his opinion the defect in this rail was such that it
could not have been detected without lying down on the ground.
He thought that the break at the leaving end of the adjoining rail
was due to the derailed equipment. He also said that he had passed
over the track on the preceding day, and at that time did not notice
any indication of anything wrong. The superelevation on the curve


was 2 inches, and he considered it safe for a speed of 50 miles an
The investigation clearly developed that the accident was due to
a broken rail, which apparently had been in a defective condition
for a considerable length of time. The examination to determine
the reason for the failure of this rail was conducted by Mr. James
E. Howard, engineer-physicist, whose report immediately follows:
The derailment of train No. 3 was due to the failure of a rail, the
leaving end of which was broken into a number of small fragments.
The receiving end, for a length of 23 feet 6 inches, remained intact.
The type of rupture displayed was a split-head fracture. A ver-
tical plane of rupture was developed which nearly separated the
head into halves, which extended along the length of the rail for a
distance of 13 feet. Of this section, 9 feet 6 inches was broken into
small fragments, 32 being recovered.
The rail was 85 pounds weight, A. S. C. E. section, rolled in Sep-
tember, 1904, and laid in the track in October of that year. Its age
was therefore 15 years 3 months. It was made of Bessemer steel,
heat number 46664, and branded "Illinois Steel Co. So. Wks. IX
1904 8504."
This rail presented a common type of rupture, the characteristics
of which are illustrated in the several cuts herewith, reproduced from
photographs and sulphur prints. In rails with split heads a lon-
gitudinal, vertical plane of rupture is developed, located along the
middle of the width of the head. The origin of the plane of rupture
is an interior one, located about one-quarter of an inch, more or
less, below the running surface of the head. The shallow zone above
the origin of the rupture remains unbroken until the last stages of
failure are reached. In the development of the split head the plane
of rupture extends downward until abreast the junction of the head
and the web. Here it commonly bifurcates, the branches extending
right and left toward the fillets under the head. Final rupture
occurs by the complete separation of the halves of the head and
their detachment from the web. At the upper initial edge of the
plane of rupture a small v-shaped ridge of metal, attached to the
upper zone of metal, is frequently found. This acts as a wedge to
separate the walls of the fracture.
The incipient point of rupture, in respect to the length of the
rail, was somewhere in the 9-foot 6-inch section, which was broken
into small fragments. The characteristics of the metal of the rail
were similar along this portion of its length and in the unbroken
part adjacent thereto. The photographic cuts and sulphur prints
represent the adjacent metal.


Figure No. 1 shows the appearance of the rail, in cross section,
near the fractured portion, after polishing and etching with tincture
of iodine. The upper edge of the plane of rupture is charn;terized
by the presence of markings on the end surface revealed by the tinc-
ture of iodine. These markings, here viewed on end, rei'clsent
longitudinal streaks in the steel. They are lines of structural weak-
ness, affecting the metal un(ler crosswise strains.
The split in the head, shown at this stage of development, is much
wider at its upper edge than elsewhere. The wedge-shapIed rib of
metal at its upper edge is forced by the successive wheel pressures
between the faces of rupture, thereby increasing the width of the
The plane of rupture separated into two branches. One branch
exten(led and reached the periphery of the section at the fillet under
the head on the outside of the rail. The other branch extended to-
ward the gauge side of the rail and appears in a partially developed
Figure No. 2 is a side view of the rail showing the line of rupture
under the head which had reached the peripheral surface. Figure
No. 3 is an endwise view farther along the length of the rail, where
the split in the head was less developed. Fractures of this kind do
not always continue in an unbroken course, but deviate under the in-
fluence of contiguous streaks in the metal. The end surface shown
in this cut was polished and then etched with tincture of iodine.
Figure No. 4 is a sulphur print of the end surface shown by figure
No. 3. The markings are substantially the same as those revealed by
the use of iodine. Figures Nos. 5 and 6 are sulphur prints of longi-
tudinal surfaces of the head and base, respectively, each about one-
fourth inch below the peripheral surfaces. Other sulphur prints at
different depths showed similar longitudinal streaks, but not coin-
ciding with those on surfaces near by.
Figure No. 7 represents the rail in cross section at a place where
the head was intact. The iodine markings show the continuance of
the structural conditions which prevailed in other parts of the rail.
Figure No. 8 represents another part of the rail where the head was
intact. This section was pickled in hot hydrochloric acid. The same
characteristic markings appear on the cross sections, whether re-
vealed by polishing and etching with tincture of iodine, by means
of sulphur prints, or upon pickling in hot acid.
Photomicrographs of this rail will be presented and discussed in
a later part of the report. Illustrations are herewith presented of
other rails which have failed and caused derailments-failures which
were influenced by the structural state of the metal.
Figures Nos. 9 to 13, inclusive, represent a rail which failed on
March 30, 1920, causing the derailment of train No. 111, near Savan,


Pa., on the Indliana Branch of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh
Railway Co. This was an 80-pound rail rolled by the Carnegie Steel
Co. It failed by the development of a fracture under the head, at
the junction of the web. Its development was progressive, having its
origin at a zone of streaked metal. The head was detached from the
web, followed by the fracture of the web and the base.
Two views of the principal surfaces of rupture are shown by fig-
ures Nos. 9 and 10. Figure No. 9 is looking up, at the under side of the
head. Figure No. 10 is looking down, on the upper edge of the
web. The surfaces of progressive fractures wherever found are
similar in appearance, leaving no doubt concerning their identity.
The characteristics of fractured surfaces commonly furnish reliable
evidence upon the manner of failure of steel members.
Opportunity was taken to further examine the Savan rail in quest
of surface seaminess-a condition of the metal of the base which has
led to many fractured rails. The results are shown by figures Nos.
11 and 12. Figure No. 11 represents the appearance of the base of
the rail, two fragments, as it appeared when removed from the track.
Spike-maul marks are shown on the left-hand figure of the cut.
Figure No. 12 shows the appearance of the surface of the base after
pickling in hot hydrochloric acid. Surface seaminess, not in evi-
dence on the rail as it came from the track, was revealed upon pick-
Two end surfaces of the Savan rail as they appeared after pickling
are shown by figure No. 13.
Figures Nos. 14 to 18, inclusive, represent a rail which failed on
January 19, 1921, causing the derailment of train No. 9, of the Erie
Railroad, near Friendship, N. Y. This was a 90-pound rail rolled
by the Carnegie Steel Co., and was branded Carnegie 1909 E. T.
IIIIIIII 90 A." It illustrates a piped rail, in connection with which
a split-head fracture developed.
Split-head rails are often erroneously reported as piped rails.
The primary causes which lead to the failure of these two types are
distinctly different, and their origins are located in different parts
of the cross section of the rail. A split-head fracture has its origin
in the upper part of the head. A piped rail has a plane of separa-
tion in the web and lower part of the head. Split-head rails are of
frequent occurrence, while piped rails are not. A split-head fracture
may occur in conjunction with a piped rail as the present rail
shows-a matter not affecting their separate origins.
Figure No. 14 shows the hot sawed end of the Friendship rail.
The vertical line of separation in the web shows the characteristic
feature of a piped rail. This rail displayed a composite fracture
in which its piped condition was probably the leading cause. Asso-
ciated with the plane of rupture in the web, there was a horizontal


shearing fracture in the head and also a split-head fracture. The
piped state of the rail was embraced in part and reenforced by the
splice bars. The support given the rail by the splice bars doubt-
less accounts for the display of the several types of rupture in imme-
diate association with each other.
Figure No. 15 is a side view of this rail showing the fractured sur-
face of the web between the bolt holes and partially exposed a short
distance beyond. Above this portion of its length the head of the
rail was broken in a crosswise direction in addition to a vertical
plane of rupture which nearly separated it into halves. Both the
pipe and the split-head fracture continued beyond the limits of this
Figure No. 16 is a view in cross section of the Friendship rail
farther along its length, photographed after polishing and etching
with tincture of iodine. The pipe extended into this section. The
opposite faces were in close proximity to each other, hence the pipe
does not show in this cut. The split in the head had separated and
is clearly visible.
Figure No. 17 is a sulphur print of the Friendship rail at a place
where the pipe was clearly visible, and also where the split in the
head was in an advanced stage. A lateral branch of the split-head
fracture had nearly reached the peripheral surface of the rail at the
fillet under the head on the gauge side. The fracture of the rail at
this point is of interest in showing the dominating influence of the
wheel pressures in relation to fractures in the head. The formation
of a lateral branch of the split-head fracture doubtless resulted from
the wheel pressures exerting a spreading effect on the metal at the
top of the head. In the order of development the formation of this
lateral branch probably was the last part of the fracture to occur.
The walls of the split-head fracture were separated by the wedge
action of the cold-rolled metal of the top of the head. When the
medial line of pressure between the wheel and the rail occurs near
either the gauge side or the outside edge of the head there is an
overturning moment applied to the head. Such eccentric loading
leads to the bifurcation of the line of rupture in the case of a split
head. The different contours of the treads of wheels are responsible
for different elements along the running surface receiving the max-
imum impinging pressures and causing the alternate loading of one
side and then the other of the head of the rail. This alternate eccen-
tric loading of the head accounts for the bifurcation of the vertical
plane of rupture in a split-head rail abreast the junction of the head
and the web where bending stresses in crosswise direction under such
circumstances attain high limits. It will be inferred from the present
exhibit and the remarks which are submitted that relatively there
is a greater tendency, under the influence of track conditions, for


a rail to fail by the development of a split head than by reason of
the presence of a pipe.
Figure No. 18 shows the appearance of the Friendship rail after
pickling in hot acid at the cross section upon which the preceding
sulphur print was taken. Grea-ter solubility of the metal takes place
at those places which are stained by the iodine, or marked on the
sulphur print, than on other parts of the cross section, resulting in
the close similarity of the illustrations furnished by these three
In the study of the failure of steel, attention centers upon one
principal feature and the relations of subordinate features to the
principal one. The principal feature relates to the stress or strain,
mutually related factors, which the metal is capable of enduring and
the manner in which limiting values in terms of stress or strain are
reached. In plainer language, it is desired to know what loads the
steel will carry; what relations the properties of the metal which are
shown under test bear to the endurance of service conditions; whether
any part of the elongation displayed in the tensile test or the con-
traction of area then displayed will be realized in service; whether
the ultimate tensile strength of the steel represents a particular value
to the rail when in service; whether the ductility clause of the drop
test has any real significance; whether the drop test itself has any
definite relation to the serviceability of the rail. These and other
queries suggest themselves. Chemical composition and finishing tem-
peratures are factors which influence and control physical properties
in rolled shapes-established by the laws of nature and not by speci-
Opportunity occasionally offers to acquire data touching upon
some of the above queries. On the present occasion microscopic ob-
servations were made upon the structural appearance of the metal
of the Wyeth rail adjacent to the running surface of the head, at
the upper terminal of the split-head fracture, and at the lower ter-
minals of the bifurcated fracture. The observations were directed
to the distortion of the grain of the steel adjacent to the running
surface, where flattening and flow occur immediately, due to the
wheel pressures, and noting the undistorted shape of the grains at
the split-head fracture.
The metal of this rail was capable of displaying ductile flow. The
distorted shape of the grain next the- running surface and the for-
mation of a fin along each edge of the head is evidence thereof. At
the terminals of the split-head fracture and the apex of the wedge-
shaped rib at the upper edge of the split-head fracture there was,
however, no appreciable distortion of the grain. At these places,
microscopically, there was absent any evidence of an appreciable per-
manent set of the steel having taken place. Ductile flow and brittle-


ness in the same rail are here shown, the result of the manner in
which the stresses were received. The same is true of other carbon
steel rails. Whether any part of the elongation or contraction of
area of the tensile test is displayed in service depends upon the man-
ner in which those features are developed.
A series of four photomicrographs was taken along the upper zone
of the head of the Wyeth rail, showing tle shape of the grain of the
steel within the zone directly affected by the wheel pressures. Each
represents the metal of the rail in cross section, and each at a mag-
nification of 100 diameters. Fig. No. 19 represents the shape of the
grain near the running surface of the head about in line with the
gauge side of the web, that is, not far from the middle of the width
of the head. The grains were slightly flattened along this element,
the distortion hot being very pronounced. This element appeared to
be within the neutral axis with respect to distortion and direction of
flow of surface metal.
Figure No. 20 shows the distortion of the grain at a place nearer
the gauge side of the head. The flattening of the grain here is very
pronounced, with a drift toward the gauge side. Figure No. 21
shows the distortion of the grain on the opposite side of the center
line of the head. The flattening of the grain and drift toward the
outside edge of the head is here also very pronounced. A fin was
formed along each edge of the head, the metal to form which neces-
sarily came from the upper part of the head. Under such circum-
stances it is quite evident there would be a neutral element on either
side of which the surface flow would take place in opposite direc-
tions, as these photomicrographs indicate. The flow of metal at the
extreme outside edge of the head showed a laminated state, as illus-
trated by Figure No. 22. The laminations were separated and in-
dividually broken. The dark Z-shaped lines on the cut represent
lines of fracture.
The depth of the zone of distorted grain was about five-hundredths
of an inch. Below this depth normal shape of grain prevailed. A
feature of interest is raised in this connection-namely, that micro-
scopic evidence is not presented showing a disturbance of the struc-
tural state of the metal so far down as the origins of split-head frac-
tures are located. Evidence of a state of internal compression in the
upper part of the head does not rest upon microscopic indications,
but upon the results of strain gauge measurements. In comparing
the results of strain gauge measurements with the indications of the
microscope it has not been made clear that the presence of internal
strains of either tension or compression may be recognized with the
aid of the microscope. If such was the case the most far-reaching
results would come from the use of the microscope in ascertaining
the existing states of strain in all kinds of engineering structures.


Figure No. 23 represents the apex of the wedge-shaped rib at the .
upper terminal of the split-head fracture shown by figure No. 1.
There was no distortion of the grain at the apex of this wedge. This
illustration touches upon another feature in the behavior of metals-
namely, that cubic compression, however great, and it has been
observed up to a pressure of 117,000 pounds per square inch, has no
permanent effect upon the structural state of the steel. The wedging
apart of the split-head fracture, therefore, does not demand there
should be of necessity a distortion of the grain of the wedging mem-
Figure No. 24 shows the termination of the shorter branch of the
bifurcated split-head fracture illustrated in figure No. 1. The crack
in the steel is indicated by the oblique irregular line which ap-
pears in the cut, darker than the ferrite boundaries of the grains and
lighter than the pearlite grains. This appearance of the crack is due
to its being filled with iron rust.
Figure No. 25 shows the termination of the split-head fracture
illustrated in figure No. 3. The plane of the fracture at this place
had deflected and approached nearer the fillet under the head than
shown by figure No. 1. The irregular black line extending obliquely
downward in this cut represents the termination of the crack. The
surfaces of the fracture were not oxidized in this case.
The last two photomicrographs illustrate this feature: That a
plane of rupture may pass into or through a steel member without
change in shape of the grain, and therefore without display of ap-
preciable ductility. This has been found true in different grades of
steel. The behavior of rails in service furnishes the basis for the
query concerning the value in itself of the ductility clause of specifica-
tions. A greater or less display of elongation will take place in
steels, depending upon their composition, when tested in such a man-
ner as to permit of the display of ductility; that is, certain steels
inherently possess such ability by reason of their chemical composi-
tion. Specifications can enumerate these numerical values, but with-
out changing the results. These remarks are made because the
failures of materials are often attributed to lack in meeting specifica-
tions, when as a matter of fact the relation between the specified
properties and the ability of the material to endure service stresses
has not been given consideration. This is a plea for a better under-
standing of the specific causes which lead to failures, in which those
of rails present notable opportunities.
In summation, the failure of the rail which caused the present de-
railment was due to the presence of a split-head fracture. Wheel
loads cause distortion of the grain of the steel and induce lateral flow
of the metal at the running surface of the rail, the tendency of such
loads being to spread the railheads. The successful resistance of


such lateral forces depends upon the structural soundness of the
metal in the railhead. Longituldimal streaks are lines of wenkne-sil
which influence the fornmtion of split-head fracture. and locate
their incipient points of origin. Longitudinal streaks are due to
casting and mill conditions. Their (limlination, or reduction in num-
bers and gravity of development, are matters for the steel makers to
consider. The ages at which split-head rails manifest themselves
indicatet such fractures are of slow and progressive development. It
is a matter of conjecture, although having the appearance of proba-
bility, that split-head rails would be unknown if strictly seamless
steel was available for rails. The rail problem is intensified by rea-
son of the employment of high wheel pressures. Soft rails display
mashed heads. Hard rails furnish a large number of transverse
fissul ies.
There is a popular fallacy entertained that split-head rails do not
constitute a dangerous type of fracture, since at certain stages in
their progress of rupture they may be detected in the track. This
evidence, however, is presented at a late stage, after the necessary
margin in strength in the rail has been practically exhausted, and
not prior thereto. An element of danger has arisen when split-head
rails are detectable in the track. An economic question is involved
in the elimination of the causes of split-head failures, since many
rails are removed for this cause which are not otherwise unservice-
able. Finally, split-head failures should not be reported as piped
The cause of this accident is shown to have been due to the failure
of a rail which displayed a split-head fracture. The head of the
rail was separated into halves by a vertical plane of rupture; the
halves of the head broken into fragments, with lines of rupture sep-
arating the web and the base. A portion of the length of the rail
broke into a number of small fragments.
As illustrated and described by the engineer-physicist this type of
fracture has its origin in the upper part of the head, the incipient
point being located a short distance below the running surface. It
also appears from the best evidence on the subject that split-head
fractures are induced by the presence of certain longitudinal streaks
or seams in the metal, and that such seams represent the incipient
places from whence planes of rupture extend and destroy the rail in
the course of their development.
It appears to be well established that split-head fractures begin
in the upper part of the head and progressively extend downward
in substantially vertical planes. When the plane of rupture reaches
a depth which brings it abreast or nearly abreast the junction of the


head and the web, the plane of rupture commonly changes its course
or separates into two branches, one of which eventually reaches the
periphery of the rail at the fillet under the head. When this stage
of rupture has been reached the ultimate failure of the rail soon takes
The width of the split is narrow in comparison with its depth of
penetration-a circumstance which renders the detection of a split-
head rail uncertain until the period of final rupture is close at hand.
This fact should dislodge a popular fallacy concerning split-head
rails-namely, that such fractures are easily detected in the track,
and therefore should not occasion anxiety, overlooking the fact that
when detectable the rail has reached a weakened condition and may
be on the verge of rupture.
Data in the report are presented on the extension of cracks of in-
terior origin, showing the absence of the display of ductility of the
metal in fractures of this class. Without the display of ductility, ex-
ternal and visible evidence of impending rupture is evidently want-
ing. Methods of test have been offered for the detection of interior
fractures in rails. The development of such apparatus does not ap-
pear to have reached a state in which its application to rails in the
track has been attained. As the case now stands, the early detection
of split-head rails in the track depends upon the vigilance of the
track supervisors and the section men.
The engineer-physicist has ventured the remark that split-head
rails would be nearly or quite unknown provided seamless steel was
found in rails. The relation which seaminess of metal bears to split-
head rails appears to furnish a basis for this remark. It commonly
takes years of service to develop split-head fractures, which gives
encouragement to the thought that an improvement in the struc-
tural state of the steel would measurably prolong the lives of cer-
tain rails. Elements of safety and economy would be subserved if
the primary cause in the formation of split-head failures was re-
moved or the influence of such cause measurably lessened.
No comprehensive consideration can be given the subject of rail
failures without taking into account the effects of high wheel loads,
effects which are destructive in their character. Regardless of
whether responsibility in the abstract attaches chiefly to the makers
or the users of rails, statistics show that a considerable number of
rails fail under present conditions of service. A reduction in the
number is highly desirable. In respect to the display of split-head
failures, promise of improvement appears to lie in the direction of
using steel of less sea my state.
Respectfully submitted.
Chief, Bureau of Safety.



Fi9.A Typical
Fig.B Typical

split head fracture.
piped rail.


,. "- "
ri'.j- f I


FIG. 1.-End view of rail polished and etched with tincture of iodine, showing
relations of markings in upper part of head and origin of split head fracture.


FIG. 2.-Side view of rail, showing longitudinal crack at the fillet under the
head, where split head fracture had reached the peripheral surface of the


%1 --

: -

FIG. 3.-End view of rail, polished and etched with tincture of iodine. Cross
section of rail where split head fracture was less developed than where shown
by figure 1.




FiG. 4.-Sulphur print of surface shown by figure 3.


-. '

77-- t2,.

FIG. 5.-Sulphur print of longitudinal, horizontal surface of head of rail, t"
planed off the running surface.


..A1 I ; "

.. ?.; :. .. ... -.. ( r. -

%,i .. t

: :-. .-. .

planed off the bottom of the base.

-., .

planed off the bottom of the base


S.' -. ,. ... ..

FIG. 7.-Appearance of cross section of rail, where head was intact, polished
and etched with tincture of iodine.


FIG. 8.-Appearance of cross section of rail, where head was intact, after
pickling in hot hydrochloric acid.

.'>* : .i

22 INTII:I:ST.\ATE COMAll, 1 ~: 1 CO(NMMI(.I N.













FIG. 11.-80-pound rail which failed near Savan, Pa. Appearance of base before
pickling in hot acid.


FIG. 12.-80-pound rail which failed near Savan, Pa. Appearance of base after
pickling in hot acid.





















FIG. 14.-90-pound rail which failed near Friendship, N. Y., Erie Railroad.
View of hot sawed end showing piped fracture in web, and horizontal
shearing fracture in the head.



FIG. 16.-90-pound rail which failed near Friendship, N. Y. Cross section at
place beyond the limits of figure 15. Pipe in web obscurely shown, split
in head visible.


FIG. 17.-90-pound rail which failed near Friendship, N. Y. Sulphur print at a
place where it exhibited a piped web and a split head fracture, a branch ex-
tending in the direction of the fillet on the gauge side of the web.


FIG. 18.-90-pound rail which failed near Friendship, N. Y. Appearance after
pickling in hot acid, same cross section as shown by figure 17.


FIG. 19.-Photomicrograph of Wyeth rail, cross section
shown by figure 7, just below running surface, about
in line with gauge side of web, showing flattening
of the grain by wheel pressures. Magnification 100


FIG. 20.-Wyeth rail, same surface as shown by figure
19. Showing flattening of the grain and flow toward
gauge side of head, at a place between gauge side of
head and surface shown by figure 19. Magnification
100 diameters.


FIG. 21.-Wyeth rail, same surface as shown by figure 19.
Showing flattening of the grain and flow toward the
outside of the head, at a place between the outside
of the head and surface shown by figure 19. Magnifica-
tion 100 diameters.


FIG. 22.-Wyeth rail, same surface as shown by figure 19.
Showing laminated structure of the fin formed along
the outside edge of the head. Laminations separated
and individually broken. Z-shaped dark lines indicate
lines of rupture. Magnification 100 diameters.


FIG. 23.-Yyeth rail. Microstructure of apex of wedge-
shaped rib at upper terminal of split head fracture
shown by figure 1. Shapes of grains undisturbed.
Magnification 100 diameters.


FIG. 24.-Wyeth rail. Microstructure at shorter branch of
bifurcated head fracture shown by figure 1. Crack shown
by irregular oblique line intermediate in color between
the ferrite boundaries and the pearlite grains, penetrating
steel without distortion of the grain. Magnification 300


FIG. 25.-Wyeth rail. Micro-structure at lower terminal of
split head fracture shown by figure 3. Crack shown
by irregular dark line extending obliquely downward,
penetrating the steel without distortion of the grain.
Magnification 300 diameters.

1-,, '* a _


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