2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

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shlustig
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2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

Post by shlustig »

Located about 46 miles west of Altoona on the Pittsburgh Division; 6-track mainline with ABS and MBS rules + cab signals.

PASSENGER EXTRA 962 (11 Express cars + caboose) received train order authority to operated against the current of traffic and a "Clear Block".

Unfortunately, the operator at the next tower west mistakenly allowed EXTRA 6935 EAST (41 cars + caboose) to depart via the track on which X 962 had authority to operate.

Impact speeds were approximately 50+mph for X962 and 25mph for X6935. Both engine crews were killed, and both locomotives and tenders along with 12 cars were derailed. Sight distance at the point of collision was less than 1000' due to curvature and a roadside embankment.

Statkowski
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Re: 2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

Post by Statkowski »

In theory, the Form D-R train order should have been sufficient, issued to the origin tower (Seward), the destination tower (New Florence), and the train (Passenger Extra 962 West):

"Passenger Extra 962 West has right over opposing trains on No. 2 track Seward to New Florence."

My second trick West End dispatcher on the New Haven, however, took the extra step and issued a Form J train order to the destination tower:

"Hold all eastward trains."

In addition, the interlocking lever would require blocking to avoid accidentally clearing it.
Last edited by Statkowski on Sat Feb 17, 2018 3:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ex-NYNH&H SS Opr

ExCon90
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Re: 2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

Post by ExCon90 »

Yes, I'm wondering about that "mistakenly allowed"; the dispatcher would normally have instructed the operator to install a blocking device before dictating an order.

Statkowski
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Re: 2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

Post by Statkowski »

Inexperienced operator due to wartime personnel shortages?
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D Alex
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Re: 2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

Post by D Alex »

Statkowski wrote:Inexperienced operator due to wartime personnel shortages?
Doubtful. We were only 3 months into the war. Probably more a case of over-worked dispatchers not used to the huge increase in traffic. I would bet that passenger special was a troop train, and specials were becoming more frequent, as were "against flow" orders. Probably had 2 heavy freights also going the same direction as well, just to make things more confusing. Don't forget that by 1940, heavy industry had only recovered about 50% from pre-depression levels; by 1942, they had surpassed them.

My dad worked for the PRR as a high-school kid, from 1943 until entering the services in late 1944. At THAT point, manpower shortages were pretty bad, and traffic in and out of Pittsburgh was tremendous.

urrengr2003
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Re: 2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

Post by urrengr2003 »

The train dispatcher has a great responsibility for this collision. The correct manner to set up this movement would have the DS first go to Seward and issue a Form J Order at that location. This order could not have been made complete until the DS ascertained that the switches & signals governing entrance to this block were set at stop and BDA's were applied to the corresponding levers & the block was clear of traffic. Then the DS goes to New Florence and issues a D-R. This order would not be made complete until the DS knew that the train order signal at that location was displayed. This order would not note that manual block rules are in effect for the movement; this knowledge is part of the engineers qualifications.

Statkowski
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Re: 2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

Post by Statkowski »

The Clear Block would be on the Clearance Form A.

Geez, as an aside, how many of us remember Train Order operations? It seems like a lifetime ago.
Ex-NYNH&H SS Opr

urrengr2003
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Re: 2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

Post by urrengr2003 »

Clearance Form A when delivered with the D-R Order would state the condition of the block as would the train order signal displayed at New Florence. No mention of MBS Rules would be made on these documents; the knowledge of a qualified engineer would provide the safeguards to advance the train in these circumstances.

Like the previous comment about who remembers. It's not so much about how one remembers, it's more about how one was taught...those 1918 men were rules experts and ignorance of those rules was not tolerated on the deck of their engine.

urrengr2003
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Re: 2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

Post by urrengr2003 »

Allow me to further the above post. Running against the current of traffic (slang: run reverse) was not at all uncommon and was an operating procedure used to keep traffic moving when a track was out of service. This happened all the time in the summer when MofW worked on track maintenance and the remaining track(s) were used to pass trains.

This is a firsthand account of running reverse. A summer day in 1978 had me called from lunch at a cafe in Altoona as the regional RFE account the pittsburgh division enginemen were without warning not protecting calls. Mail 9 was in the station with no relief crew; I got together with the middle division rules examiner to be a conductor and off we went to Pittsburgh. West on #4 we got an approach to MO and once it was established we were to get orders at that location the interlocking signal went restricting. A D-R order was issued for #9 to run on #1 track MO to SO. This could be a trap because between the points named in the order there was an interlocking called W approaching South Fork where the the south fork secondary joins the main line. The signal here is just a dwarf on the ground between #1 & #2. We dropped down the west slope at 59MPH but approached W under full control until a permissive aspect was visible. To this day 40 years later I have always believed it was a set-up against a supervisory crew by the towermen involved for two reasons: we ran around or passed no traffic between Altoona and Johnstown ,and the towerman at MO put us over all four tracks (this was never done because a brake beam down, broken wheel, or dragging equipment would cause a derailment that would block all four tracks and sew the railroad up).

Statkowski
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Re: 2/17/42 - SEWARD, PA

Post by Statkowski »

From your description, it sounds almost as if the tower operators were able to do such on their own without any authorization from the dispatcher, unless he was in on the set-up, too (which sounds unlikely).

Of course, there may well have been a valid reason to run Track 1 westward instead of Tracks 2, 3, or 4.

Up on the New Haven's Harlem River Branch we had a nightly run reverse operation out of Sunnyside Yard running eastward for a mail train. From where it exited the yard there were no crossovers to an eastward track (not unlike the situation at W), so it had to run eastward on the westward track. The LIRR tower at Harold issued the train order to the train crew, the train operated over the New York Connecting Railroad to its connection with the New Haven, and it crossed back over to its proper track at the next available crossover. The New Haven tower had a hold order on the track until the mail train passed, at which time it was annulled.
Ex-NYNH&H SS Opr

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