INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION.
REPORT OF THE CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF SAFETY COVERING THE INVESTIGATION
OF AN ACCIDENT WHICH OCCURRED ON THE NASHVILLE, CHATTANOOGA &
ST. LOUIS RAILWAY AT NASHVILLE, TENN., ON JULY 9, 1918.
AUGUST 16, 1918.
To the Commission:
On July 9, 1918, there was a head-end collision between two passenger
trains on the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway at
Nashville, Tenn., which resulted in the death of 87 passengers and
14 employees. and the injury of 87 passengers and 14 employees.
After investigation the following report is submitted:
That part of the Nashville division of the Nashville, Chattanooga
& St. Louis Railway upon which this accident occurred is a single-track
line over which trains are operated by time table and train orders,
there being no block system in use. Between Nashville and Shops,
a distance of 2.5 miles, it is a double-track line, and at Shops
there is an interlocking plant which controls all main line switches
there. The accident occurred about half way between Shops and Harding,
located 2.5 and 6.8 mils, respectively, from the station at Nashville,
and within the city limits of Nashville.
The trains involved in this accident are shown on the time table
as southbound passenger train No. 1 and northbound passenger train
No. 4, but in the vicinity of the point of accident, southbound
trains run practically north and northbound trains practically south.
Soutbound trains are superior to northbound trains. Train No. 4
is scheduled to leave Nashville at 7 a.m., and train No. 1 is scheduled
to arrive at Nashville at 7.10 a.m.
Train No. 1 consisted of locomotive 281, one baggage car and five
coached of wooden construction, one Pullman sleeping car of steel
construction and one Pullman sleeping car with steel underframe
and ends, in the order named, and was in charge of Conductor Tucker
and Engineman Lloyd. It was enroute from Memphis to Nashville, being
operated over the Louisville & Nashville Railroad from Memphis
to McKenzie, and the remainder of the distance over the Nashville,
Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway. It left McKenzie at 3 a.m.,
passed Bellevue, 12.6 miles from Nashville, at 7.09 a.m., 30 minutes
late, and at about 7.20 a.m. collided head on with train No. 4 at
a point about 4.5 miles from Nashville, while running at a speed
estimated at about 50 miles an hour. Fig. 1 is a general view of
Train No. 4 consisted of locomotive 282, one combination mail and
baggage car, one baggage car and 6 coaches, in the order named and
all of wooden construction, and was in charge of Conductor Eubank
and Engineman Kennedy. At Nashville the crew received train order
No. 29 reading as follows:
No. 4 engine 282, hold main track, meet No. 7, Eng. 215, at Harding.
No. 1 has engine 281.
This train left Nashville at 7.07 a.m. 7 minutes late, passed Shops
at 7.15 a.m., and collided with train No. 1 at a point about 2 miles
beyond Shops while running at a speed estimated to have been about
50 miles an hour.
The engineman and firemen of both trains were killed. Locomotive
281 was derailed on the west side of the track, the boiler being
stripped of cab, machinery and appurtenances, and came to rest in
an upright position at an angle of about 45 degrees with the track;
it is shown in Fig. 3. Its frame and all machinery were practically
demolished. The baggage car was completely demolished. The first
coach lay crosswise the track, the combination car of train No.
4 being driven into its side near the center and its rear end torn
completely end to a depth of 12 or 15 feet. The second coach was
derailed and its forward end went down the bank and rested on the
front end of boiler of locomotive 281 and its rear and rested on
the roadbed on top of the frame and other parts of locomotive 281,
its forward end being badly broken and damaged. The third coach
remained on the roadbed with its forward end jammed against the
rear of the second coach; the rear trucks of this car and the four
following cars were not derailed. All of this equipment was on train
No. 1 Figs. 2, 3 and 4 are views of the destroyed equipment.
Locomotive 282 was derailed to the east side of the track, the
boiler thrown from the frame and entirely stripped of all machinery
and appurtenances and stopped about parallel with the track, the
entire locomotive except the boiler being demolished, as shown by
Fig. 3. The forward half of the combination car was demolished by
coming in contact with the first coach of train No. 1. The baggage
car was completely telescoped with the first coach to its rear,
both cars remaining upright, but were practically destroyed, as
shown by Fig 4. The end of the second coach was demolished for a
distance of 6 or 8 feet and partially telescoped with the rear end
of the coach ahead of it. The three rear cars of train No. 4 were
not derailed and only slightly damaged.
Approaching the point of accident from Harding, the track is straight
for about 1,800 feet, then there is a 1-degree curve to the right
about 2,100 feet long, then a tangent about 1,100 feet long, then
a 1-degree curve to the left about 1,300 feet long, then a tangent
about 2,000 feet long, then a 2-degree curve to the right about
1,500 feet 2,000 feet long, then a 2-degree curve to the right about
1,500 feet long, the collision occurring about 900 feet in on this
curve. The track just described is laid on a fill and a descending
grade varying from 0.3 per cent to 0.7 per cent to within about
350 feet of the point of collision. and then the grade is practically
level for about 2,000 feet. About 300 feet south of the point of
collision, there is an over head highway bridge over the track and
just south of the bridge there are heavy woods on the right hand
side of the track.
Approaching the point of accident from the direction of Shops,
the track is straight for approximately 4,000 feet, then there is
a 3-degree curve to the left about 2,200 feet long, then a tangent
about 1,000 feet long which leads to the 2-degree curve on which
the collision occurred. The grade descends from 0.7 per cent to
1.3 per cent to within about 1,650 feet of the point of collision,
and is practically level the remainder of the distance. Between
Shops and the point of collision there are several cuts, one of
which ends about 300 feet before reaching the point of collision,
and has a maximum depth of 15 feet. This cut, the overhead highway
bridge and the curve upon which the accident occurred made it practically
impossible for the enginemen to see approaching trains is indicated
by Fig. 5. The weather at the time was clear.
Dispatcher Phillips stated that when he missed train order No.
29 for train No. 4 to meet train No. 7, he added the information
that train No. 1 was being hauled by locomotive 281, it being the
custom to advise the crew of train No. 4 of the engine number of
train No. 1 in this manner to aid then in identifying that train,
and also to advise them that that train had not arrived at Shops.
He said trains Nos. 1 and 4 are scheduled to pass on the double
track between Nashville and Shops, and in case train No. 4 arrived
at Shops before train No. 1, train No. 4 is expected to remain at
Shops until train No. 1 arrives, unless the crew receives authority
to proceed, train No. 1 being the superior train. He said there
was no train register at Shops.
Conductor Eubank of train No. 4 stated that before leaving the
station at Nashville, he received a train order advising that engine
281 was hauling train No. 1 and he delivered a copy of that order
to Engineman Kennedy who read it back to him. He remarked to Engineman
Kennedy that "No. 1 must be some late this morning, but I dont
believe the mail is going to delay us so he will have to change
that meeting point to Vaughns Gap," and from the remarks passed
between them he supposed Engineman Kennedy knew their train was
liable to be detained at Shops to meet train No. 1. Conductor Eubank
stated that he read the train order to the train porter just as
his train was leaving the station and shortly thereafter, and while
his train was still on the double track, he delivered the order
to the flagman and told him to look out for train No. 1. He said
he knew train No. 1 had not arrived at Shops when he left Nashville
and kept that train in mind. He was busy collecting tickets and
before reaching the end of the double track, he heard a train pass
his train on the opposite track, which he assumed was train No.
1, although he could not see it on account of the car in which he
was riding being crowded. He said it took all his time and attention
to collect the tickets before the next regular stop, and he was
depending upon the engineman, fireman, porter and flagman to look
out for train No. 1, as was his custom, and stop at Shops in case
they did not pass that train. He stated that his train was running
at a speed of about 45 miles an hour when he felt the application
of the air brakes, followed immediately by the collision. He said
he considered Engineman Kennedy careful man of good habits and when
talking to him before leaving Nashville, he was apparently in good
spirits and normal condition.
Flagman St. Clair of train No. 4 stated that when his train left
Nashville, he was riding on the rear end and when it reached Shops
he went forward, asked Conductor Eubank for the train orders, received
them, but the conductor said nothing to him about looking out for
train No. 1. He said a switch engine with 8 or 10 cars passed his
train between Nashville and Shops, moving in the opposite direction,
but saw no other trains. He said he had made but two trips as a
flagman on a freight train, and this was his first trip as a passenger
Conductor Tucker of train No. 1 stated that his train was running
about 30 minutes late, and at a speed of 50 or 60 miles an hour,
when the collision occurred, but he felt no application of the air
brakes. He said he had received no orders concerning train No. 4,
but it being an interior train, he expected it to wait at Shops
until his train arrived.
Conductor Riggle, who alternated with Conductor Eubank on train
No. 4, stated that he always kept train No. 1 in mind after leaving
Nashville, and made it a special point not to pass Shops unless
he personally knew that that train had arrived; on several occasions
he had waited Shops until that train arrived. He said he depended
upon the flagman, porter, and engine crew to identify train No.
1, but would not permit his train to pass Shops unless they advised
him it had arrived, or he saw it.
Engineman Winford, who alternated with Engineman Kennedy on train
No. 4, stated that it was sometimes necessary to wait at Shops until
train No. 1 arrived. He said he usually finds the signals at Shops
set for movement to the single track, but he always waited until
the arrival of train No. 1, it being his understanding that the
interlocking signals gave his train to rights over superior trains
Operator Johnson stated that he went on duty at Shops at about
7.06 a.m. or 7.07 a.m., and train No. 4 passed the tower there about
7.15 a.m. at a speed of about 25 miles an hour. At that time he
did not know whether train No. 1 had arrived, and did not examine
the train sheet to see if it had; the first notice he had of its
nonarrival was when he saw it was not entered on the train sheet.
He said he reported the passage of train No. 4 promptly to the dispatcher,
who told him to try and stop that train, as it should have waited
for train No. 1, and he sounded the emergency air whistle in an
effort to attract the attention of the crew of that train, which
was then about a train length away, but the signal was not heeded.
When train No. 4 approached the tower, the signal was in the proceed
position, but he said that did not give it a right to proceed against
train No. 1. He said nothing was said about train No. 1 when he
took charge of the tower that morning.
Traveling Engineer Fahey stated that he considered Engineman Kennedy
a very careful man, well posted on the rules, and one who adhered
strictly to them. He said he bad observed engineman passing Shops
upon the operators word that superior trains had arrived, and as
a result, the superintendent issued bulletin No. 1268 under date
of May 28, 1918, reading as follows:
Understand some engineers on outbound trains are passing the Shops
without any definite information as to whether superior trains have
arrived, other than to ask operator at Shop tower. This must be
Superior trains must either he registered before the northbound
train depart or be identified by some member of the crew of the
superior train, meet the superior train between Nashville and the
Shops or have an order at the Shops stating that the superior has
NOTE. -- See that train dispatchers understand this and have the
orders ready at the Shops so they can be handed on to the outbound
This accident was caused by train No. 4 occupying the main track
on the time of a superior train, for which Engineman Kennedy and
Conductor Eubank were responsible.
Rule 83 of the operating rules of the Nashville, Chattanooga &
St. Louis Railway provides in part as follows:
A train must not leave its initial station or any division, or
a junction or pass from double to single track, until it has been
ascertained whether all trains due which are superior or of the
some class, have arrived or left.
The evidence indicates that Engineman Kennedy and Conductor Eubank
had been running on train No. 4 for several years and before leaving
Nashville on the morning of the accident they had talked about train
No. 1 and knew that it had not arrived, although it was due there
at 7.10 a.m., three minutes after their train departed. As Engineman
Kennedy was killed in the collision, no evidence could be secured
to determine what caused him to overlook train No. 1.
Conductor Eubank apparently relied wholly upon the other members
of the train crew to identify train No. 1 and allowed his train
to pass from double track to single track at Shops without making
any effort to ascertain whether train No. 1 had arrived. His statement
that he was busy collecting tickets and that he passed a train in
the yards between Nashville and Shops, which he did not see, but
assumed was train No. 1, can not be considered a valid reason for
overlooking of failing to identify that train. His first duty was
to provide for the safety of his train and see to it that it did
not pass from double track to single track before train No. 1 had
arrived; and particularly in a yard where switching movements are
constantly being made, he was extremely negligent in assuming that
a passing train was No. 1 without seeing it and without being notified
of its identify by some member of his crew who had seen it.
While the operating rules of the company required that a train
must not pass from double to single track "until it has been
ascertained whether all trains due, which are superior, or of the
same class, have arrived or left," no means were provided by
the company to enable employees to secure definite information of
that character. That responsible operating officers were well aware
of the conditions existing at Shops, as well as the fact that train
employees were not strictly adhering to the requirements of the
rule, is evidenced by the superintendents bulletin No. 1268, issued
last May. It appears that bulletin contemplated orders would be
issued and delivered to outbound trains at Shops giving notice of
superior trains which had arrived, but no practice of this nature
was in effect. The custom of merely notifying outbound train crews
of the number of the locomotive hauling an opposing superior train
was utterly inadequate as a safeguard, for under the practices followed,
the train crew was required to observe and correctly read the number
of the passing locomotive under all conditions of weather and traffic.
The records show that during the month of June, on average of 23
trains daily were operated into and from Nashville over this division,
and the number of yard movements materially increased the density
of traffic between Nashville and Shops.
Under these circumstances, it is absolutely essential to safety
that some means be provided for supplying to outbound crews definite
information regarding opposing superior trains, as, for example,
by the maintenance of a train register at Shops, or by issuing orders
to outbound trains at Shops giving definite notice of the arrival
at that point of superior trains which had not arrived at Nashville
at the time of departure of the outbound trains.
This accident would have been prevented, beyond question of doubt,
by a properly operated manual block system on the single-track line
north of Shops, for which all necessary appliances and facilities
were already available. The time table indicates that between Nashville
and Hickman, Ky., a distance of approximately 172 miles, there are
27 train-order offices, of which 14 are continuously operated. On
this line there are 4 schedules passenger train in each direction,
and a total of 12 schedules freight trains. With this volume of
traffic, and in view of the universally recognized features of increased
safety afforded by the block system, there can be no valid excuse
for the failure or neglect on the part of the railroad company to
utilize existing facilities for the purpose of operating a block
system on that line.
It is to be noted that all the cars of both trains, except the
two sleeping cars on train No. 1, were of wooden construction, and
six of these wooden cars were entirely destroyed. This accident
presents a more appalling record of deaths and injuries than any
other accident investigated by the Commission since the ancient-investigation
work was begun in 1912. Had steel cars been used in these trains,
the toll of human lives taken in this accident would undoubtedly
have been very much less.
All of the employees involved were experienced men, with the exception
of the flagman, with good records, and at the time of the accident
the crew of train No. 4 had been on duty 52 minutes, and the crew
of Train No. 1, 9 hours and 52 minutes.
W. P. BORLAND,
Chief, Bureau of Safety.
FIG. 1- GENERAL VIEW OF WRECK.
FIG. 2 - VIEW OF DESTROYED EQUIPMENT.
FIG. 3 - BOILERS OF LOCOMOTIVES 281 (TOP) AND 282 (BOTTOM).
FIG. 4 - VIEW OF CARS AFTER BEING DRAWN APART, SHOWING BAGGAGE
CAR AND FIRST COACH OF TRAIN NO. 4 TELESCOPED.
FIG. 5 - VIEW OF TRACK AND OVERHEAD BRIDGE FROM DIRECTION TRAIN
NO. 1 WAS TRAVELING.