In re investigation of an accident which occurred on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, near Irving, W. Va., May 22, 1917


Material Information

In re investigation of an accident which occurred on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, near Irving, W. Va., May 22, 1917
At head of title:
Interstate Commerce Commission
Physical Description:
8 p. : ; 23 cm.
United States -- Interstate Commerce Commission. -- Division of Safety
Belnap, H. W ( Hiram W )
Government Printing Office
Place of Publication:
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Railroad accidents -- West Virginia -- Irving   ( lcsh )
federal government publication   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


General Note:
Caption title.
General Note:
Dated July 6, 1917.
General Note:
Submitted by H. W. Belnap, Chief Division of Safety.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 004955634
oclc - 82599945
System ID:

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1NTER W1 A E ('ErR : ( 01MMISSION.

MAY 22, 1917.
*JULLY 6, 1917.
To the (_oI nwies:t ;. n
On May 22, 1917, at about 1'.03 p. n., t"liir was a head-end
collision betwecri a freight train and a wrecking tr;iiin mar Irvii g,
bet ween Wallace and Dola, W. Va., on the West Virginia Short Line
subdivision, Monongah division, of the Baltimore & Ohio Railrohad,
resulting in the death of one employee and the injury of four
As a result of the investigation as to the cause and nature of this
S accident. I beg to submit the following report:
That part of the West Virginia Short Line subdivisionn extending
from Lumberport to Hartzel, W. Va., is a single-track line running
approximately east and west; on account of certain operating condi-
tions, the direction of train operation as shown by the time-table is
S just the reverse of geographical directions, trains operated from
Hartzel toward Lumberport being considered westward trains, and
S trains operated in the opposite direction being considered eastward
trains. In this report all reference to directions is made in accord-
S- ance with the directions used by the railroad company for the opera-
.. tion of its trains. Over this line trains are operated by the telephone
". dispatching system, and in addition an absolute block at open tele-
phone stations is maintained behind passenger trains.
There are two daily scheduled passenger trains in each direction
over this line. and six scheduled freight trains in each direction, the
average train movement over the line being 10 or 12 trains in each
direction each day. Hartzel and Lumberport, 14 miles apart, are
telephone offices, open day and night, the dispatcher being located
at Lumberport; there are two intermediate day offices, Rinehart, 1.5
miles from Hartzel, and Dola, 8.2 miles from Hartzel. Telephone
'' booths are provided at other passing sidings, at which train crews
S may communicate with the dispatcher for the purpose of securing
orders. Irving is located 3.3 miles from Rinehart, and 3.4 miles from
Dola: at Irving there is a water tank, a passing siding and a tele-
phone booth.
In this vicinity the grade is slightly ascending for eastward trains,
being 0.11- per cent from a point west of the scene of the accident to
Sa point east of the water tank at Irving. The track in this vicinity is
S' very cooked; approaching Irving from Brown, a station a mile to
-;" the west. there is a curve of 8 degrees .50 minutes toward the right.
<" .,, E1900-17


followed by a ltangent 7i. t feet in length; then there is a 7-derte
curve to the left 579 feet long, the point of collision being at approxi-
mately the middle of this 7-degree curve. Proceeding farther east-
ward, the track clirves toward the left nearly as far as the water tank
at Irvin-. there being a 30-nliiiiite curve 735 feet in length, and a
2-def'ree 30-minute iie rve 895 feet in length. The collision oceiired in
a side-hill cut, the hill being on the inside of the curve. From the
approaching trains the view of the track at the scene of the accident
was rei 'tricted to a distance of approximately 400 feet. At the point
of accident the track was laid with 100-pound rails, 33 feet long,
with about 18 oak or treated ties per rail, tie-plated and single-
spikel, with about 12 inches of granulated slag and cinder halla.-t
below the bottom of the ties. At the time of the collision the weather
was clear.
The trains involved in this collision were a wrecking train, extra
2030, with Conductor Wells, Enilne iilii Kinkliid, and Pilot Hamil-
ton in charge, and westward vec Iind-class freight train No. 99. with
Conductor Greathouse and Enginenilai Holt in charge.
During the night of M;ty 21, the Benwood wreck train was called
to clear up a derailment, due to a pulled-out drawbar, about half-
way between Irving and Dola near bridge 418. As the crew in
charge of this train was a Wheeling division crew and not familiar
with the track west of Iartzel, no Monolng;:h division crew being
available at Hartzel, Engineman HIInmilton, a Wheeling division
man who \wa familiar with the ro,;d in this vicinity, was assigned to
pilot the train; it left Hartzel at 5.30 a. m., and at Irving Flagman
Harbison was left with written instructions from Conductor Wells
to hold all trains until extra 2030 arrives."
Extra 2030 nroceelded to the scene of derailment under rv ining
orders to that point, cleared the wreckage from the track, reported
the track clear shortly after 9 o'clock, and proceeded to Dola with-
out running orders, protected only by an order received from the
dispatcher by telephone directing all eastbound trains to wait at
Dola until 10 o'clock: the wreck train took siding at that point to
allow westbound passenger train No. 37 to pass.
After getting into clear at Dola, Conductor Wells of extra "o:,-
sent a message to Flagman Harbison at Irving, in care of the engine-
man of train No. 37, directing him to come to Dola on trnin No. 37.
In the nmeo;tiim, also, Flagijmanl Harbison, listening on the plwne at
Irving, had learned that the main track was reported clear and that
his conductor wanted him to g, to Dola on No. 37. He fl-i'-,ed
train No. 37, informed the engiinenmn what his flagging in. istritiion
\\~er, and was then advised by the engineman that he held a mes-
sage directing him to go to Dola on train No. 37. Flagmnn Harbi,-on)
pI neededd to Dola as instrui te1d Ib his condlictIr, train No. 37 arr:iv-
ing at that point at 11.36 a.


Up to this point the state'liiets of all employees involved ;I.I,. in
all -.-:eitii1 particulair.-, but from this point on the account of what
actually occm ur-d leading up to the collision bet 'een extra 2030 and
train No. 99 is clotdledl and obscured by conflicting statements and
The di.spat, her's traiiii sheet indic;it,- that train No. 37 left l)ol)
at 11.37, while the operator's block record indicates that it did iot
leave until 11.40.
Conductor Wells -.tates. that before the arrival of train No. 37 at
Dola he had decided to send his flagman back to Irving on a light
engine. No. 1814, which vwa then in the siding at Dola waiting for
No. 37, and he had written out a second set of instructions for Flag-?
man Harbison directing him to flag all t rai in and notify them to
look out for enginei 2030 handling wreck train a short distance east
of bridge 418. When No. 37 arrived he assisted the olpelrator in load.
ing .,liitn heavy express, and then after 37 had departed he went over
to the \irek train standing on the siding, found the flagman in the
bunk car preparing to wash for dinner, told him he would not have
time to eat then,. directed him to ride engine 1814 ha,:ck to Irving. and
gave him the second set of written instructions. He stated that he
then went back to the office and received instructions from the dis-
patcher through the operator to flag to Irving, allow ltrin No. 99
and the train involved in the derailment, of which e.ngi~ne 1814 was a
part, to proceed, and then return to the scene of the dcrail n int for
the purpose of completing the work of picking up the derailed cars.
He stated he then wrote a third order to the flaigman, dir.crting him
to go to Irving and hold all trains until extra 2030 arrived there.
He wrote these instructions at the telephone booth just outside the
office. went across the track and met Flagman Harbison on the ground
just a., he got off from the rear end of the wIreck train, gave him these
instriuctiion- and told him what they were, although neither one of
them read these third instruction- aloud. Conductor Wells stated the
flagmani took the third instructions, climbed on engine 1814, and that
engine then departed.
Flagmian Harbison stated that upon his arrival at Dola he got off
the train on the side toward the wreck train and opposite from the
station, went into one of the wreck-train cars and then went down to
engine 2030 to call the engine crew to dinner. This wa- just as train
37 was pulling out and he rode down on the steps of one of the cars.
He returned to the bunk car and had just washed or was preparing
to wash when the conductor came in and told him that he would
not have time to eat then, but would have to go back to Irving to
flag, netifving all trains to look out for extra 2030. just east of bridge
418; Conduc:tir Wells also handed him the second writ ten inrstruc-
tiion. which were to that effect. Flagman Harbison stated he then
picked up his coat and flag. went through the dining car and got a


sandwich, ,rit off at the rear Ind of the wreck train, climbed on
engine, 1814, and depi:rtedl without seeingg Conductor Wells again or
receiving any further instructions from him. He positively denied
revie intg the third written instructions which Conductor Wells
claims were 2iven him.
No one ele was pre-~e-it in the bunk car when the second written
instructions were give\ to Flagman Harbison by Conductor Wells,
and no one overlie:z rd any later conversations between them or saw
them talking together after Flagmanl Harbison left the wreck train
to get onto the light elline. Conductor Willis, of the light engine,
was at that time facing the stationn sitting on the tender of engine
1814. headed west, and he stated he saw Flangima Harbison on the
ground opposite the rear of the wreck train coming toward the light
engine, but Conductor Wells was not with him or anywhere in sight
Sat that time.
For the greater part cf the time while the wrecking train was at
Dola, Engineman Kinkaid and Pilot Hamilton were sitting on some
rolls of wire on the station platform near the telephone booth, and
tliey overheard part of the conversation between Conductor Wells,
Operator Morris, and the di.-pat:-her. Pilot Hamilton stated that
when the second instructions to the fla;glinI; were being written out
Conductor Wells a-kc.d him the number of the bridge near which
the derailment occurred, and both the pilot and engineman stated
that although they did not read these second instructions they knew
what they were. These instructions were prepared before the arrival
of train No. 37. Later, after further conversation with either the
operator or the dispatcher, the conductor said that the w rkl train
would follow the light engine to Irving, release the freight trains
there, and then return to the point of derailment, and the third set
of instructions for the flagmcan were prepared. Neither the engine-
man nor the pilot read these third instructions, but both stated they
saw Conductor Wells walk across the track, enter one of the wreck-
train cars, and a moment later the flagman came out. Pilot Ham-
ilton said that twice afterwards he asked Conductor Wells what
instructions Flagman Harbison held, and both times he was told that
Flagmran Harbison had been instructed to hold everything until
extra 2030 arrived at Irving. Engineman Kinkaid corroborated this.
One of the members of the wrecking crew -tated that Flagman
Harbison came into the dining (ar and got a sandwich-several of
them saw him get the sandwich-and he then passed thrn, gh the car,
followed by the conductor, who made some remark about going to
Irving to flag; the fl:fgmanii pased out the rear end of the car, and
that waq the last he saw of him. He did not remember just what
wa: said about fli;ngini,. hut w;i, sure the cmonductor followed the
flagman through the car.


Op,-ratir Moirris, who was on duty at Dol;i. stated that he was
instructed, by the ldi-patr'lhe to direct Conductor Wells to place a
flagman on engine 1814, go to Irving and release train 99, then come
back to the scene of the derailment and complete his work. Dis-
'patcher Kelley denied that he gave any such i ii-tructions. but stated
that the operator informed him Conductor Wells \wa goiiin to send
a flagman to Irving on engine 1814; he said, "All right, but tell him
not to delay No. 99." or words to that effect. When question,.d during
the investigation. Dispatcher Kelley stated he could have held the
wreck train at Dola for train No. 99 if he hadi considered it neces-
sai \ or ile-irable to do so. But engine 1814 had a meet order with
No. 99 at Irving. and he thought that by following that engine under
the protection of a flag the wreck train might save some time in a'.-t-
ting back to work at the scene of the derail l t.
Tle light engine departed from Dola at 11.42 a. m. and upon ar-
rival at Irving Flaigi a Harbison climbed on engine 2559 of train No.
99 at the water tank; he told Eninemliii; Holt that his instructions
were to flag all trains and tell them to look out for engine 2030
handling wreck train a short distance east of bridge 418. Train
No. !99, consisting of locomoitie,. 27 cars, and cabi,,:., then pro'.- -,led
approximately half a mile to the point where the collision occurred.
Engineman Holt -tated that his train \\w; running approximately
15 miles per hour when he first saw the wreck train; he immediately
applied the brake, in emergency, and his train had nearly stopped
when the collision occlurreld. The point where the wreck train was
supposed to be working was approximately a mile and a half farther
After the light engine left Dola, the wreck train set out a car,
and then followed the light engine toward Irving, holding neither
running nor work orders. The train consisted of a dining car, bunk
car, tool car, flat car, locomotive 2030 headed west, two flat cars.
and a crane car, in the order named. Conductor Wells was riding on
the front platform of the dining car in the direction in which the
train was moving. He heard train No. 99 whistle and almost at the
same time saw the front end of the engine. He stated that he
reached down and opened the angle cock on the head end. and then
jumped off just before the collision occurred. Engineman Kinkaid
stated that he saw train No. 99 just before the collision occurred and
applied the brakes in emergency. The speed of the wreck train
was variously estimated at from 8 to 15 miles pelr hour.
In the collision the cook of the wrecking outfit was killed, two
employees were seriously injured, and two slightly injured. The
dining and bunk cars were telescoped for almost their entire length
and were entirely destroyed. Both cars were of wooden construction
and the wreckage caught fire, but the fire was soon put out. The
truck and front dri\'rs of engine No. 2559 were derailed, the pilot
be:im was broken and the front end was bent in. There was only


slight damage to the t i-'k. The track at this point was cleared by
the wrecking outfit involved in the collision.
This accident wai caused by conductor, eng!inemlan. and pilot of
the wrck train attemptiiig to move their train from Dola to Irving
without orders and without proper flag or other protection, result-
ing in train No. 99 leaving Irving before the wreck train arrived.
The investigation disclosed that there was no necessity for the
rek train to go to Irving to release train No. 99. That train was
free to leave Irving as s-o'in as engine 1814 reached that point and
the meet order was fulfilled, and had the wreck train remained on
the siding at Dola for train No. 99, all possibility of the collision
would have been averted. According to Dispatcher Kelley's state-
ment. the move to Irving was made by Conductor Wells upon his
own initiative, and the dispatcher a-tllned it was being done to save
time; however. Operator Morris understood that the dispatcher di-
rected that movement to be inaile, and he so informed Conductor
Wells. In any event, it is believed that the dispatcher exercisedl poor
ju(ldgmenlit, according to his own statement, in acquiescing in such a
movement; and Conductor Wells should have arranged with the dis-
patcher to remain on the siding at Dola when, according to his own
and the operator's statements, he was dir.-cted by the di.-patcher to
go to Irving to release No. 99.
In view of the fact ttht for a period of more than two hours the
wreck t rain lay on the siding at Dola, an open office where an opera-
tor was stationed, there was ample time and opportunity for the crew
to arrange with the dispatcher for the proper movement of their
train. Conductor Wells stated that it was his purpose upon arrival
at Irving to communicate with the di-patcher by telephone from the
booth located at that point and -ecure work orders to permit him to
complete the work of picking up derailed cars. But it can not be
considered good railroad practice-in fact, it is an extremely hazard-
ous practice-for a train to leave an open office, where an operator is
on duty, without orders, under flag protection, with the express inten-
tion of going to a siding where no operator is located and there ask
for work orders direct from the dispatcher. There was no reason in
this case why order-; should not have been asked for and received at
Dola. Had the movement been handled in that manner, if there was
not sufficient time to establish a meeting point at Irving. the wreck
train would undoubtedly have been held at Dola for train No. 99,
and the collision would thereby have been averted.
Accordingl to the statement of Conductor Wells, he gave Flagmani
Harbison three different written fl;zigLing orders or instructions durii ng
the course of the forenoon; none of them wcer read aloud by flanlirn
or conductor. and when new iinst riitions were is-ned the former ionei
were neither taken away from the flni'iii an nor de.-tlrovei., While the
flagman carried out the last instri-t1ions which he received. 'Car.col-

ill., to his statefient, the misunderstanding and the collision might
have been averted if the flagging in.-trictions \ lwenli l-ncl had been
read aloud and the instruciition.f which i\vr iinper-eded take up.
The flainimaii stated positively that he received only two sets of writ-
ten instructions; tlihe, he still had in his possession at the time of the
iinv \t ig;tion. IHe displayed them aind they were identified by Conduc-
tor Wells as the first and second i n-t IIuctions i--'ied. Flagman 1arbi-
,ion denieCl absolutely that he received the third iln-tructions. amn
Stateil that he hid1 no knowle'dl e or intimation whatever that extra
,:I;'80 was going to follow engine 1814 to Irving. If his statvlniili is
co(,iet, Flagifiln Harbison prolp-ly pverf, rmed his nfl;iin; dulIties
under the instructions held by him, and no critici-ii attaches to him.
On the other hand, however, if lie did receive the third instructions,
:is claimed by Conductor Wells, Flag,,na: Harbison failed to carry
out those instructions and failed to protect his train as directed.
Conductor Wells is equally positive that the third instructions,
!I:llnely, to hold all trains at Ii~ ing. were given to the flagman:
however, if his statement in this respect is not correct Conductor
Wells himinelf failed to provide proper flag protection for the in-
tendedl movement of the wrecking train.
There is a dliscrepancy of three minutes in the re,', rd of the de-
parture of train No. 37 from Dola, the dispatcher's train sheet show-
ing the time of departure at 11.37 and the operator's block sheet
show inlg 11.40; neither the dispatcher nor the operator was able to
explain or in any way reconcile this difference. Engine 1814 de-
parted at 11.42; therefore, on the basis of the dispatcher'- record.
there was an interval of five minutes'between the departure of train
37 .and engine 1814, which probably would have bei.-i sufficient to
enable Conductor Wells to co(inunIIniicate with the dispati.cer and issue
the third set of flagging instructions, as claimed by him; but the
operator's records show an interval of only two minutes between the
departure of train 37 and engine '1814, which probably would not
have been long enough to permit Conducltor Wells to do all that he
stated was done during that tinii.
Althoutigh everyone concerned, or everyone who might have any
knowledge, however remotely, was interviewed, it was not possible
to verify or discredit the statements of either flagman or conductor
where they are at variance in their essential features. There appears
to be no reasonable explanation of failure of the flagman to obey the
third instructions if he received them. or of failure of the conductor
to provide the in-tructiiins which x\ere necessary to protect the in-
tended movement of his train. The matter therefore resolves it-elf
into a question of veracity between the two men. concerning which no
conclusion cann be drawn.
In any event, in view of the fact that the proposed movement was
to be made without orders, both Eniineiman Kinkaid and Pilot Hanm-



8 INTE TATE C E I 1111111 llllli llll 11111111111 III 1 1111
8 INETATE CO I 3 1262 08856 5345
ilton, particularly the latter, are at fault for their failure to confer
" ith the conductor, as well as to -ee the written instructions given
to the llagiiiali and to know positively what instructions he held.
Both of them were at the station when the flagging instrulctionl were
prepared,1 and had either of them taken any active interest in the
latter the misunderstanding would undoubtedly have been prevented
and the wreck averted.
While it had no direct bearing upon this accident, the investigation
disclosed very lax methods in examining and instructing men when
employed on the Wheeling division of the Baltimore & Ohio Rail-
road. Men were employed for train service by a trainmiaster's clerk
or transportation clerk who has himself never been examined on
the 1book of rules; the only examination given was very perfunctory,
coiisi-ting merely of filling in answers to questions contained in a
printed form; these answers were supposed to be checked over by
this clerk and to be supplemented by such explanations or instruc-
tions as he might give. At the time of the investigation of this
accident there was no rules examiner continuously employed on that.
division, although arrangement were at that time being made for
such a position; on the Monongah division an examiner is contiln-
ously employed.
All of the men involved in this accident were experienced men;
none of them had been on duty for excessive periods, and all of them
had had proper rest periods before going on duty.
Conductor Wells had been employed by the Baltimore & Ohio
Railroad Co. for about 10 years, 5 years as a brakeman and 5 years
as a conductor.
Flagman Harbison had had several years' experience on this line
as a fireman; he had been out of railroad ser ice since 1910 and had
been employed as a brakeman only five or six weeks prior to the
date of this accident. He had never been examined on the book of
rules at present in effect on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
Engineman Kinkaid and Pilot Hamilton entered the service as
firemen in 1906 and 1907, respectively, and both were promoted to
eni'inemiien in 1910.
In this case the crew in charge of the wreck train, composed of ex-
perienced men, did not avail themselves of even the ordinary methods
and safeguards provided by the railroad company for the operation
of trains. No great emergency existed at this time, as the track had
been cleared for the pa-s.age of trains and all that remained to be
d',m was to pick up two cars lying beside the track. And when men
in (chla re of a train resort to such ill-advised and haphazard practices
as w-re followed in this instance, accidents of this kind may be ex-
pected to occur.
Tc.l-pectfully sllbmitted.
Chief Division of Sa(f ty.

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