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The company has held the section foreman responsible for these defects and have discharged him.
RECOMMENDATIONS. The Board recommends that the utmost care be exercised at all curves to maintain the gauge of track, by supporting the rails with a brace not less in height than the rail, and by keeping the ties in sound condition.
By the Board.
IN THE MATTER OF AN ACCIDEST ON THE NEW YORK, ONTARIO AND
WESTERN RAILWAY, ON FEBRUARY 13, 1886, AT 6:45 A, M., BY WHICH AN ENGINEER AND FIREMAN WERE KILLED AND SEVERAL PEOPLE MORE OR LESS INJURED.
March 19, 1886. By Commissioner Rogers - The facts and circumstances attending the above accident, as given by J. E. Childs, Esq., general manager of the road, before Commissioner Rogers, were as follows:
As passenger train No. 6 was passing over an embankment about one-half mile north of Liberty station, the embankment gave way and the train was wrecked. The engineer, George St. John, and the fireman, Allen L. Lewis, both of Middletown, N. Y., were killed. Three passengers were bruised about the body - J. A. Bassett, of Southwest Oswego, N. Y.; J. S. Johnson, of Hamilton, N. Y., and Mrs. Hannah McIntosh, of Livingston Manor, N. Y. A number of the officers of the road, including the general manager, were in one of the sleeping coaches at the time, but were not injured.
The cause of the accident, as developed by a subsequent examination of the embankment, appears to hare been follows:
There was a 3x3 foot box culvert underneath the embankment which was sufficient to carry off the water under all ordinary circumstances from a small stream flowing under the track at this point. Previous to the accident, however, there had been a thirty-six hours' continuous rain and the water had dammed up somewhat on the upper side of the embankment, but had finally been carried off. It is probable that the culvert was stopped more or less by sand which had got in from above, as will be explained hereafter.
Upon examination of this culvert, made since the accident, by taking down the embankment, the track being supported on a trestle, it appears that the covering stones thereof were loosely and badly joined, leaving considerable spaces between them.
The material of which the embankment had been made by the original contractors of the road was taken from a cut near by, and was substantially “quick” sand in its quality. It appears that this sand had percolated through these spaces into the culvert, from which it was constantly washed by the flow of the stream until the embank
ment had become hollowed out, leaving a shell of frozen ground probably two or two and a half feet thick, which was not of sufficient strength to support the engine; no indication, however, was apparent of any such hidden danger beneath.
The subsequent examination shows that fault was with the original contractors or builders of the road :
1. In covering the drain so carelessly as to permit the sand to wash into it; and,
2. In having made the embankment of such very treacherous material as this sand has proved itself to be.
The general manager of the road informs the Board that he has somewhat increased the size of the culvert, raising the walls six inches, and has made the covering substantially impervious to sand in any quantities, and also proposes to reconstruct the embankment of coherent material, gravel or earth obtained from some other spot than the cut which furnished this quicksand heretofore.
The Board approves of this determination and deems that it will prevent the recurrence of any further accident at this point.
This is the second accident, however, during the present railroad year resulting from the undermining of a railroad embankment by running water, which has been attended with loss of life; the other being that on the West Shore road on the 9th of November, 1885, when Mrs. Pratt, of Rochester, was killed by the derailment of a train, brought about from the sinking of the track under circumstances somewhat similar.
The Board deems it proper to call the attention of railroads to the insidious danger of embankments being undermined by running water, and recommends all railroad companies to give particular attention to the inspection of the condition of all embankments where such water runs, where there is any possibility of the undermining taking place.
By the Board.
INVESTIGATION OF AN ACCIDENT ON The New York, CHICAGO AND St. Louis RAILROAD, AT SILVER CREEK, ON SEPTEMBER 14, 1886.
September 29, 1886. On September 16, 1886, Commissioner Kernan conducted an investigation into the cause of this terrible collision at Dunkirk, and there examined all of the witnesses who could at that time be reached. He also examined the wreck at Conneaut. The Board has likewise before it the evidence taken before the coroner's jury, and the rules and regulations of the road. The loss of fourteen lives and the severe injury of a large number of other persons, show the accident to have been so serious as to make it necessary to thoroughly understand all of the facts before reaching a conclusion therein.
An excursion train heavily laden and consisting of twelve coaches, a dining car, a baggage car and an engine, known as No. 2nd 36, being the second section of regular train No. 36, reached Dunkirk about 9:10 A. M. on its way east to Niagara Falls. There, at 9:15 A. M., the following order was delivered to the conductor, William H. Harrison, and to the engineer, Lewis Brewer, and was clearly understood by them just as it reads: “No. 37, engine 65, has until 9:25 A. M. to make Sheridan; and No. 41, engine 33, until 9:30 A. M. to make Summit for you; meet and pass No. 29 at Silver Creek instead of Summit."
Nos. 37, 41 and 29 were freight trains running west and had severally received their respective parts of this order. The orders were in form and substance as prescribed in the rules. At Sheridan No. 37 had not made its time, and under the rule No. 2nd 36 proceeded on east to Summit, a point about two miles west of Silver Creek, where there was a siding. Before the expiration of the time for No. 41 to reach Suminit, the freight No.37 arrived there, and a brakeman from No. 41, named James E. Reed, got off of 37 and on to No. 2nd 36, and told both the conductor and engineer of that train that No. 41 was broken down east of Irving siding, a point two or three miles east of Silver Creek station, and that they would have to look out for it, and be held there. The excursion train then went on and reached Silver Creek about 9:45 A. M. The train stopped for passengers; the conductor inquired for orders and finding none, gave the starting signal, and the train proceeded at 9:47 A. M.
After the brakeman of No. 41 had left his train east of Irving siding, and had gone upon No. 37 to carry his notice to the excursion train of the location and condition of No. 41, the local freight No. 29 going west, overtook No 41. It immediately shoved No. 41
on to the Irving siding, and after a delay, thereby caused, of twenty-five or thirty minutes, started under its order to meet and pass the excursion train at Silver Creek. This train consisted of an engine, five loaded cars, an empty and a caboose. When about three-quarters of a mile from Silver Creek in a cut and on a reverse curve, and while running at the rate of about fifteen miles per hour, it collided at 9:50 A. M. with the excursion train approaching from Silver Creek and running at the rate of about ten miles an hour. The concussion caused the engine of the excursion train to mount the engine of No. 29, and the baggage car of the excursion train to telescope the smoking car to a point about three seats from its rear. Upon the rest of the excursion train the blow was hardly felt, and seems to have done no injury.
Upon the foregoing state of facts alone considered the responsibility for the accident clearly rests upon William H. Harrison, the conductor, and Lewis Brewer, the engineer of the excursion train. They had a positive order to meet and pass No. 29 at Silver Creek; in going beyond that point before the arrival of No. 29, they violated a clear and explicit order. Certain printed rules and instructions of the company, which these men knew, or ought to have known, when considered in connection with their conduct, make this violation appear quite inexcusable.
Instruction No. 167. “They (conductors) must in all places and circumstances regard the safety of the train as of the first importance, and leave nothing undone which will secure safety."
206. “They (enginemen) will be held responsible jointly with the conductor for the safety of the train, and for the faithful and intelligent use of all the precautions required by the rules, etc."
209. “They (enginemen) are under the direction of the conductor as regards the management of trains, but will not obey any instructions that may endanger the safety of the train or require violation of rules."
229. “They (enginemen) will take into consideration that the lives of passengers and trainmen, as well as the property of the company, are intrusted to their care, and it is fully expected and required that they will not only attend to all signals and all instructions, but also that they will, on all occasions, be vigilant and cautious themselves, not trusting alone to signals or rules for safety.”
Rule 123. “In all cases of doubt and uncertainty, take the safe course and run no risks.”
Rule 100. “A train overtaking another train of the same or inferior class, unable to proceed from any cause, will run around it if practicable, and proceed on its own rights."
Rule 122. “Conductors and engineers will be held equally responsible for the violation of any of the rules governing the safety of their trains, and they must take every precaution for the protection of their trains, even if not provided in the rules.”
We come now to the question of whether, upon their understanding of the facts and circumstances, Harrison and Brewer were excusable for what they did.
Harrison testifies that the flagman from 41 said to him, “that 41 is broke down and No. 29 is behind us, and they will have to hold you at Irving siding, and you are not to pass Irving siding until they pass.”
“I had it in my head that we were to go to Irving siding for 29 and 41; I understood from the brakeman that they were to stay there until we got there. I suppose both of us got confused about the order on this flagging business.
This flag was sent to me to notify me that they would lay there."
Brewer testifies that the flagman from 41 said to him, “that 41 was broke down east of Farnham in the hole
and that 29 would shove them over to Irving siding and stay there until I arrived; Mr. Reed, the flagman, told me to go ahead, that there would be no danger, and that they would stay there until we got there,”
Mahony, the conductor of 41, and Reed the brakeman who carried the notice, agree that when Reed left 41, No. 29 had not arrived at all. It is, therefore, quite obvious, as Reed swears, that nothing whatever was said or was likely to have been said about 29 by him to Harrison
and Brewer, which justified them in regarding his message as a notice from 29 that it would wait at the Irving siding. John B. Moore, baggage inaster on the excursion train, called by Harrison to corroborate him as to what Reed said, failed to do so, but on the contrary fully sustained Reed as to the message given to Harrison and Brewer.
Their excuse, therefore, to the effect that the flagman notified them that 29 as well as 41 would wait at Irving siding is apparently without foundation,
There is nothing to show that Harrison and Brewer anticipated a collision; but the truth probably is, that knowing that 41 was broken down, they presumed that 29 was tied up behind it, and went on from Silver Creek, forgetting that under rule 100, No. 29 under its positive meet and pass order, had a right to get around 41 and to come to Silver Creek. For thus presuming and for thus forgetting the rights of 29, Harrison and Brewer were guilty of that degree of negligence which, by reason of their positions and responsibilities, is by law attached to such conduct.
In another aspect of the case those men were negligent.
When the excursion train reached Silver Creek the question of the duty of the conductor and engineer was at least a matter of doubt and uncertainty. They knew, upon their own statements, that if they proceeded it would be contrary to a positive order; that their information that 29 as well as 41 would wait at the siding was only the word of a flagman from 41; that under rule 100 train 29 had a right to pass 41 and come on; that the reverse curve and cut made it impossible to see far ahead. Únder these circumstances is it not perfectly clear that, considering the many lives in their care, they ought in the language of rule 123 have “taken the safe course and run no risks.” Why did they not report to the train despatcher from Silver Creek their condition and get orders?
Why again did they not put out a flag ahead to protect them to the siding?
These precautions would naturally suggest themselves to a railroad man of experience under the circumstances, and for neglecting them Harrison and Brewer were guilty of laches and failed in the duty which the law requires of those who undertake to fulfil the requirements of euch positions.
It is not for this Board to determine the degree of culpability or the extent of punishment to be meted out for this misconduct. That will be the duty of the court and jury, looking at all the circumstances, as well those which militate against those men as those which mitigate their offense and deprive it of any malicious aspect. It is enough for this Board to say that railroad employees, high or low, should be held to strict accountability for the safety of the human lives under their charge, and that in them, failure to perform their duties becomes a crime, when lives are thereby lost. It is but proper to mention the fact that the evidence shows that Harrison and Brewer had been efficient men of long experience, and that neither had ever been responsible for any accident theretofore.
I'he brakeman, Reed, was not at the place with the flag which the rules prescribe in case of a broken down train. Had he so been there would have been no accident, because at Silver Creek the excursion