Report of the Chief Inspector of Safety Appliances covering his investigation of an accident which occurred on the Pitts...


Material Information

Report of the Chief Inspector of Safety Appliances covering his investigation of an accident which occurred on the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway near Bowerston, Ohio, on December 13, 1912
Physical Description:
8 p. : ; 23 cm.
United States -- Interstate Commerce Commission
Belnap, H. W ( Hiram W )
Gov. Print. Off.
Place of Publication:
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Railroad accidents -- Ohio   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


General Note:
At head of title: Interstate Commerce Commission.
General Note:
Caption title.
General Note:
Dated February 15, 1913.
General Note:
Submitted by H. W. Belnap Chief Inspector of Safety Appliances.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 004954986
oclc - 251264726
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i i'IV*'11, *i""L"


FEBRUARY 15, 1913.
On December 13, 1912, there was a rear-end collision on the
Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway near Bowers-
ton, Ohio. which resulted in the death of 1 employee and the in-
jury of 1 employee. After investigation of this accident and of
the circniiintances connected therewith, I beg to submit the following
The division where this accident occurred is a double-track line
operated iunlder the block system. Some portions of the line are
equipped with automatic block signals and other portions with
manually operated block signal-. Manual signals are in use on that
portion of the road where this accident occurred.
The trains involved in the collision were extras 8060 and 8188.
Extra 8060, c. ollting of engine No. 8060, 17 loaded and 26 empty
cars and a caboose, in charge of Conductor Sell and Engineman
Carter, left Pitcairn, Pa., for Dennison, Ohio, at 7.05 a. m., December
13, and pa-;ed 0. B. tower, the first block station east of Bowerston,
at 4.58 p. m. After proceeding westward until its rear end was
about 1,500 feet west of O. B. tower and 1,000 feet west of the home
signal, this train was stopped behind extra 84109, which train in turn
was being held by extra 8012 (a local freight train), which was
doing work at Bowerston station. Extra 8060 stopped behind
extra S4i;9 at about 5 p. m. and at 5.12 p. m., after having ,been
standing about 12 minutes, it started to proceed westward, but had
moved ahead only about one car length when the collision occurred.
Extra 818S. con-siting of engine No. 8188, 23 loaded cars and a
cabhoose. in charge of Conductor McDoniald and Engineriiin Stockler,
left M. N. tower, West Virginia, for Dennison, Ohio, at 3.20 p. m. It
passed Scio. the .ecmnd block station east of the point where the col-
lision oclcirred at 5.06 p. m., and traveled the distance of 5.16 miles to
the point of collision in six minutes, or at an average speed of about
51 miles per hour, colliding with extra S0';0 at 5.12 p. m.


The impact of the collision practically demolished the caboose and
4 cars of extra 8060. Engine No. 8188 was derailed and turned on its
side to the right of the we.tlbound track, and the four head cars in
extra 8188 were 1lally damaged. The westbound track was badly
daiainigeld and both main traickl were blockedd for several hours.
Engineman Stocker was killed, and Bi'akeman Gump, who was
riding on engine No. 8188 at the time, was slightly injured. Fireman
Wagner of engine No. 8188 jumped off just before the collision oc-
curred and escaped injury. The grade at the point of colli-ion is
about 0.23 per cent de~--'.niling westwa;rl, but between Scio and O. B.
tower the track is practi.:ally level. It was dark at the time of the
ac.idenlt, but the weather was clear.
When extra 8060 stopped, Flagman Wheeler immediately went
back, taking with him his lanterns, torpedoes, and a red He
went back to a point about 400 feet east of 0. B. tower and placed
two torpedoes on the rail 1,900 feet from the rear end of his train.
He then returned to the tower to inquire of the tow\ernmlan why his
train was being held, and upon being told that the local was causing
the delay, he left the tower, just at which time a whistle signal was
sounded for him to return to his train. Extra 8188 had not at that
time been reported by Scio, 4.9 miles east of 0. B. tower. Upon hear-
ing the signal to return to his train, Flagman Wheeler lighted a red
fui.-e and placed it on the track immediately in front of the tower,
1,500 feet to the rear of his caboose, and ran toward his train. Upon
approri.:lhiiing the train he signaled Conductor Sell to go ahead. The
latter in turn signaled Engineman Carter, and the e'l-iliniman an-
swerel the signal, but on account of having to take slack he did not
ii'rcc'.d in geting the train started until about a minute after he
answered the signal.
Brakeman Gump, of exlra 8188, stated that he was riding on the
fireman's seat box on approaching 0. B. tower. The distant -ignal
showed clear, and about the time the engine pa-sed it he saw the
glare of the burning fusee and called it to the attention of Engine-
man Stocker. He said that Stocker immediately shut off ' and
applied the air brak;es in cnmrgen!,_y.
Firemani Wagner stated that he was in the gangway of engine No.
8188 and saw the red fusee about the time Brakeman Gump called it to
the engineman's attention, and that the engine was jliit aloutl at
bridge No. 82, which is located about 1,100 feet we.t of the dl;stant
.-iill::l and 350 feet east of 0. B. tower, lwhen the eigiInieiii shut off
steam and applied the air brakes. This bridge is 1.:0 feet distant
from the point of collision.
Conductor McDonald, of extra 8188, li atted that his train had been
running on white blocks, and that just prior to the collision it was
running about 50 miles per hour. He said that at the speed his train


was running it would have requriied at least one-l:;i1f mile in which
to stop, and Ihat the fl;igimal should have been back to the distant
signlm where he could have seen an approaclhingr train for a
m1ile; he said that his caboose \\a- about at bridge No. .' when he felt
the brakes applied. If he 11:1hd been the iI:i-,:man he would have gone
to the tele.:graph office and a-kd1 the operator if anything was by
Sio, and if so. would have in-h(rcted him to display a green di.-f-int

Operator Bo rvr' at O. B. tower stated that Flaglinll Wheeler
went back to a point just .:ist of bridge No. *-' and then r.ltrn.ld to
the tower. At the time the fn;gl:,!in; left the office he did not have a re-
port of extra 8188 being by Scio, but shortly afterwards re-
ported extra 81.s by at 5.06 p. m. The train passed 0. B. tower about
5.12 p. m., running at a speed of 50 miles an hour. He heard the
explosion of two torpedoes as engine No. 8188 passed over them west
of bridge No. 82, where the flagman stopped before returning to the
tower, and the fil-.v in front of his tower l wa still burning red when
inigine No. 8188 pas.-d over it.
The block sy-tenm in use on this division is absolute for pa-en-.rer,
trains and permii.-sive for freight trains. The rules g(,erling the
operation of the absolute block furnish protection to passenger trains,
but the rules and methods in force for authorizing permissive move-
ments for freight trains do not provide adequate protetion.
The signals in use are of the semaphore type, operating in the
lower qiuadranit. The home signal has three positions, namely, dan-
ger, caution, and clear. Its normal position is horizontal, indicating
danger or stop, showing a red light at night. When at 45 below the
horizontal, showing a green light at night, the -ignal indicates cau-
tion, and may be ,pa--ed by an engineman with his train under con-
trol, expecting to find another train somewhere within the block,
When at ')0 :' below the horizontal, showing a white light at night, the
signal indicates clear block, and may be passed at full -peed. The
distant signal has two positions, namely, caution and clear. Its
normal position is hi-ri/ntal, indicating caution, showing a green
light at night. The clear position of the signal is 900 below the hori-
zontal. showing a white light at night. With the distant signal in
calntiuon p,,-ition the engineman of an approaching train has positive
information that the home signal indicates danger and his train must
be brought to a -top before pasing it, but with the distant signal in
the clear position no po-itive information about the position of the
home ignnal is furniii-lied. as in that events the home signal may indi-
cate either caution or clear.
Under the rules a freight, train may enter a block occupiedd by
another freight train without any notice of the condition of the block
other than a caution indication at the home silrnal. When a train


enters a block and its rear end has passed 300 feet beyond the home
signal, the towerman at the entrance to the block is required to report
the train and the time to the block station ahead and in the rear.
If the entering train is a freight train, the towetrman may then
iiiimnciately display a clear indication at the distant ;ignal and
permit another freight train to enter the block with a caution indi-
cation at the home signal, although the preceding train may have
stopped with its rear end less than safe braking distance from the
home signal.
In this case there were three t rIins in the block west of O. B. tower,
with the caboose of the rear train only 1,000 feet \west of the home
signal. The markers on the rear of this train had )passed out of
sight of the towerman, and he obeyed the rules and anted in accord-
ance with the pre-.rrilied methods of .ignialing in displaying a clear
distant signal to extra 8188.
The signals controlled from 0. B. tower are not well located,
and the facilities for insuring safety of train movemweiints in that
vicinity should be materially improved. The tower is equipped with
a four-lever interlocking machine iiued to operate the linme and dis-
tant block signals, two in each direction. There are two passing
track switches and a crossover switch located between the distant sig-
nals. These switches are not controlled from the tower. No track
circuits are used, and the tower is not equipped with bells, indicators,
signal 'rpeaters, or track diagram. The home -ignil.-, both east
and wvest b,,ound, can be seen by the towerman both day and night.
The westbiound distant signal can be seen by the towerman only in
the daytime, and the eastbound distant signal can not be seen by him
either day or night.
The distant signal for the westbound block controlled from O. B.
tower is located at the west end of a taniigent about 1 mile long, and
can be seen by the engineman of an approaching train the full length
of the tangent. This distant signal is 1,463 feet east of O. B. tower
and 1,968 feet east of the home signal. Proceeding westward from
this distant signal toward Bowverton the track curve.- to the left for
a distance of about 2,500 feet in an arc of 3 12'; then follows about
140 feet of straight track, succeeding which is a similar curve to the
right. About 500 feet of the track at the west end of the first curve
west of the distant signal lies in a cut 20 feet deep B. tower is
located to the right of the track at the east end of this cut and the
home signal for the westhbund block is located 505 feet west of O. B.
tower, at the west end of the cut. On account of the curve and the
high bank on the south side of the track, the home signal cnn not be
seen by the enginemani of an approaching train until after his engine
has pa.sed some distance beyond the tower. On some types of engines


the home .igial can not be seen from the enginmiiiaii's side until the
engine is almost upon it.
The distant signals controlled from 0. B. tower are wire con-
Ineted and are fitted with four lens cti-tings. The upper lens -lpac; is
closed with a metal disk, the next lower space has a green.lens, the
next lower one has a nIet:l di.k, and the bottom space is open so as
to uncover the white lens of the -igiial lamp when the -.iniiplire
blade is 900 below the horiizoital. With this araniliginrieII, these sig-
nals woull show no light to the eligieiicln l of a train appri:';'liing at
night should the semaphore l;ilde be placed in a position approxi-
mately 450 below the horizontal. This condition would rvIeslt should
the towerman fail to pull the signal lever all the way over or should
the connection of the signal to the lever be out of :adjul.tiiieiit. With
such a condition existing an lengiinelmil might easily miss the distant
signal entirely and unexpectedly run onto a stop indication at the
home signal, which he would be unable to see until but a short dis-
tance away from it.
All the evidence is that extra 8188 was running at a much higher
rate of speed than is permitted by the ennmpany's regulations. Rule
No. 6, on pige 54 of tinie-table No. 5 of this division of the P., C.,
C. & St. L. Ry., effective November 24, 1912. prescribes 40 miles per
hour as the maximum speed for freight t rins at all points on the di-
vision, except at places where lower speed is requ'iir'led. Previous to
the date when time-table No. 5 became effective there was no speed
re-tric(tion covering that portion of the ro;ad where this accident oc-
clurred, and as the physical condition of the road for a distance of 9
miles to the east of 0. B. tower is favorable, it has long been cus-
to(nmry for freight trains to maintain high speed on that piece of
t rack.
An examination of the train sheet covering the movement of
freight trains, both east and west, between O. B. tower and B. A.
tower, 8.9 miles east, indicates that the speed restriction established
by time-table No. 5 has been habitually dit-regarded. The train sheet
kept by the operators at Scio shows that from Nove i erll 24 to De-
cembler 31, 1912, a period of 38 days, omitting December 14, the day
following the accident, there were 903 westbound throllug freight
movements. Of this total 112 (12.5 per cent) exceeded the speed
limit from B. A. tower to Scio, and 185 (20.4 per cent) exceeded the
limit from Scio to O. B. tower. During this period an average of
three westbound trains per day exceeded the speed limit between
B. A. tower and Scio and five westbound trains daily exreededl the
limit between Scio and O. B. tower. The record for December 4,
1912, shows that three trains on that date covered the 4 miles from
B. A. tower to Scio in 4 minutes, or at a .speed of 60 miles per hour.
The record shows numerous cases where a -peed of 60 Miles per hour


was made bet wveen Scio and B. A. tower, and several cases where the
8.9 miles fiiro B. A. to O. B. tower were covered in 10 minute-, or
at an average speed of 53.4 miles per hour.
The evidence is that extra 8188 had been running on clear sig-
nals, and when the engiineman (observed the clear lditant signal on
appri 1,;lirhi-n 0. B. tower it was natural for him to assume that the
home zigna;l also would indicate clear, permitting him to pass it at
speed. When pa--ing the distant signall at a high rate of speed his at-
tention was called to the red fusee burning in front of the tower.
This was his first warning that the block ahead was occupied. At
about the same time he ran over the torpdloes which had been placed
on the track by the flagman. These torpedoes were 1,900 feet from
the rear of extra 8060, and the red fusee was 1,500 feet from its reai'.
The evildenlce is that the air brakes on extra ; 8188 were operating prop-
erly, and the warning received by the ena-inennan should have been
sufficient to enable him to stop his train before striking the train
ahead had he ob.ervd the spvel' regulation in force. Operator
BoNvwe stated that when the train passed his tower (which was after
the brakes had been applied) it was running 50 miles per hour.
The direct cause of this accident was the failure of the towerman at
0 tw\\.r to give the enjginlnl;an of extra 8188 a caution indication
at the distant. ignial. Had this been done the accident would not
have occurred. However, the towerman olc-eirved1 the rules in dis-
playing a clear distant signal, and is subject to criticism only for
exevi'iiing had judgment, especially so when a five-minute red fusee
was burning directly in front of the tower. His action in this case
but serves to emphasize the wvceknes.. of the metlhod of signaling
employed by the railroad ,company for the protection of its freight
train-, as all the employees involved in this accident are positive in
the statement that had a caution indication been displayed at the
distant signal the train could have been brought to a stop in time to
avoid the collision.
Had these signal; been controlled by an electric track circuit ex-
tendling from the Ili-tant signal to a point at least safe braking dis-
tance in advance of the home signal, the tolwermnan at O. B. tower
would have 1beon (.cniipelled to hold the distant signal at caution and
the home signal at clanger until the rear end of extra 8060 had p-;--ed
into the block a sufficient distance to insure safe braking distance
for an entering train.
The traffic on this division is heavy enough to jui-tify the use of
automatic block -ignals its entire length. On this division between
Pittsburgh and Dennison, a distance of 90.5 miles, there are 46 miles
of straight mi:numal block. 21.9 miles of imainual block ] with all tracks
lequiipped with automatic spacing signals, 16.2 miles of nimani;l block
with one track equipped with anitoniatic -pa.'i~: g .i-jnl~i. and 6.4 miles


of strao 1ight automatic block. These automatic signil- ar"e distributed
throilugh1out the manual block territory in short sections, a nd the prob-
leI'i of pla'ingl automatic M-ignals on the entire division is simply a
quesl ion of tying the lo,,-e ends together. With automatic siliis in
use all trains would be given protection.
Contributing call-e-; of this ;crident w\icr, the failure of Engineman
Stocker to observe the rule limiting the speed of freight trains to 40
miles per hour, and the failure of Fl;agniia Whivuler to continue back
toward the distant .iiiinal until called in to his train, instead of rii~-1rn-
ing to the tower after placing the torpedoes east of bridge No. 82.
Had he kept on going back he priblldy would have been able to
place the fusee 1,000 feet farther east than he did. This would have
given the enginiimiiai of extra 8188 earlier warning and he would
have had more opportunity to stop his train.
Engineman Stockir's violation of the speed regulation is a matter
for which the operating officers of this division of the P., C., C. &
St. L. Ry. are in gr~'at measure responsible. That eng-iiliine on this
division pay no attention to the established speed restriction is a
matter of daily record, and their failure to observe the rule irln-t
have been known and lwie-udci-id in by the opralijn officers. Such
dereliction of duty by those who are charged with the enfin-rvimentl
of regulations can not fail to weakenv respect for all rules and render
nugatory all efforts to maintain really effective discipline. Rules
that are not intended to be enfer'-ed have no proper place in a rail-
road company's code of regulations, and when the operating officers
of a railroad periiiit rules that have been enacted to secure safety
to be violated with impunity, they can not r.;a-' ':il)ly expect to
escape responsibility for the c,,n-eqiiences of such violation.
With regard to Flagiii;i1 n Wheeler's failure to go back farther, it
may be noted that he violated no rule. In stopping 1,900 feet to the
rear of his train he evidently exerci-,d his best judgment as to what
was a siifficient distance to insure full protection. His error in judg-
ment but serves again to illi-ifrate the weakness of the company's
flagging rule (Standard Code Rule No. 99), which reads as follows:
When a train stips or is delayed under circumstances in which it may be
overtaken by another train the fl;iiaI': must go back immediately with stop
signals a sufficient distance to insure full protection. When recalled he may
return to his train, first placing two tortlt'dio.s on the rail when the conditions
require it.
The only absolute requirement of this rule is that a flagman must
go back iimii li:itely with stop signals. How far he shall go back,
and whether or not he shall i--e torpedoes, are miatterm that are left
entirely to his judgment of what the particular situation requires.
When considered in cor .,-lion with safety in the movement, of
trains, the flagging rule is of pa;ramaount importance, and its require-


8lil l lI1 llli1 lIl B I ll lillIII 111111 B
8 INTERSTATE COMMERCE 3 1262 08856 1716

inents should be as absolute as it is possible to make them. It should
be incapanlle of more than one construction, entirely free from uncer-
tainty or indefinitene-s, leaving no room for error of judgment by a
flaghilan when iich error may prove di-astrous.
At the investigation held by the railroad company it was stated
that Flagman Wheeler should have gone back to the distant signal,
where he could have seen an approaching train for a distance of
1 mile. In connection with this statement two things should be
noted. Fir-t, the flagiiian did not have time to go back as far as
the distant signal before being called in to his train; and, second,
extra 8188 had not been reported by Scio when he left O. B. tower,
after having been signaled to return to his train. Extra 8060 had
Ieen standing but 12 minutes before the collision occurred. In-that
time the flagman went back 1,900 feet, returned to his train, and
had been back there about 1 minute before the accident happened.
He therefore traveled 3,800 feet in about 11 minutes, during which
time he placed two torpedoes on the rail, lit a fusee and placed it on
the track, and went into the tower to ask a question of the operator.
A.,iiising that he had kept on going bak in-tteid of returning 400
feet to the tower after putting down the torpedoes, he probably
would have reached a point six or eight hundred feet farther back
before being signaled to return to his train, but he would still have
been several hundred feet short of the distant signal.
Flagman Wheeler entered the service of the P., C., C. & St. L.
Ry. as a freight brakeman on June 24, 1910. He had been laid off
twice on accm'(int of reduction in force, the last date of his reemploy-
ment heing April 13, 1911. His record is clear.
Engineman Stocker was employed as a fireman on July 17, 1899,
and was promoted to engine-man on August 27, 1906. On March 3,
1907, he was reprimanded for running by a red home signal, and on
February 9, 1911, he was -.ispended 30 days for a rear-end collision
after 1,bing flaiged. IIe had also been reprimanded for minor
offenses on three other occa-ions.
Towerman Bower was employed as a telegraph operator on De-
cember 18, 1903. He was .lllipnded for 30 days on September 1,
1906, for displaying a clear signal to an entering train when the block
*was occupied, and on April 21, 1907, he was .--upended one week
for displaying a wrong block indication at O. B. tower.
None of the employees involved in this accident was on duty in
violation of the hours of service law.
R,.pei-I fully ~lhlmitted.
Chief I,,nslpi ,or of Safety A/l)7i;afc;s.


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