T&T Accident Report - ICC #41/Q3/29

Extracted and summarized from the I.C.C. Reports

by David T. Sprau

Go to the full text of report #1549

Excerpt from Interstate Commerce Commission Accident Bulletin No 41
Third Quarter 1929, US Government Printing Office, 1929:


Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad

Derailment of a mixed train near Soda, Calif., on August 5, 1929, which resulted in the death of two employees.

This accident was caused by a washout.

This accident occurred on a single-track line over which trains were operated by time-table and train orders, no block-signal system being in use. The point of accident was at bridge 36-A, located 1,364 feet north of mile post 36, which in turn was located 2.66 miles north of Soda. The track was tangent for several miles in each direction, and the view was unobstructed, while the grade was level at the point of accident. The track was laid with 65-pound rails, 30 feet in length, with 16 pine ties to the rail length, single-spiked, and ballasted with gravel to a depth of from 14 to 16 inches.

Bridge 36-A was a 2-span, deck-ballasted bridge, 20 feet 6 inches in length, supported by three 4-post framed bents with 10-foot centers; there were outside guard rails, and the deck was ballasted with 8 inches of ballast under the ties and filled in with ballast to the tops of the ties. The wings extended a distance of 18 feet from the bulkheads and 8 feet from the track. This bridge was constructed in August, 1911. Approaching the bridge from the south there was. a fill from 4 to 6 feet in height, the fill on the north side of the bridge being about 4 feet. The banks of the stream just east of the bridge were about 2 or 3 feet in height.

There had been a severe thunderstorm and cloudburst in the Soda Lake Mountains, located about 5or 6 miles west of the track, late in the afternoon of August 4, the afternoon previous to the occurrence of the accident, and also a storm of general character to the south of, and in the vicinity of, bridge 36-A.

The weather was clear at the time of the accident, which occurred between 7.45 and 7.50a.m.

Northbound mixed train No. 25 consisted of 15 freight cars and 1combination baggage car and coach, hauled by engine 7. Train order No. 1, Form 31, was received at Ludlow, reading as follows:

Run with care at all points where water would soften or wash track in event of thunder showers or cloudbursts. Run slow and careful between mile post 30 and Soda where water has been running over track.

Mile post 30 was located south of Soda. Train No. 25 departed from Ludlow at 5.40a.m., 10 minutes late, passed Soda at 7.35a.m. 30 minutes late, and was traveling at a speed estimated to have been between 20 and 25 miles per hour when it derailed near mile post 36, due to bridge 36-A having been washed out.

The engine came to rest with its front end on the north embankment, with the tender in reverse position to the right of the engine, both being badly damaged. The first four cars were scattered in various positions in the creek bed, considerably damaged; the fifth car was derailed to the left, on the south embankment, and the remaining equipment was not derailed. The employees killed were the enginman and fireman.

The evidence indicated that on Sunday, the afternoon previous to the occurrence of the accident, there had been a severe rain storm in the mountains west of the vicinity in which this accident occurred, and also a rain storm of a general character in the immediate vicinity, which resulted in an unusual amount of water coming from the west and north, scouring out the stream bed, and undermining the north bulkhead and the track embankment north of the bridge, causing the bridge to fall into the stream bed and float to a point about 50 feet east of the track.

The operating rules of this railroad required section foremen, or one of their men to patrol their entire sections daily, Sundays included. The section foreman in charge of the section on which this accident occurred, was at Baker on Sunday, August 4, and talked with the track walker who passed through on his way north. On Monday morning, August 5, he patroled his section as far south as mile post 38, and then started back north, leaving 4 miles of track at the south end of his section which had not been patroled.

There was only one scheduled train daily, No. 25 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and No. 26 on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and in view of the fact that train No. 25 would be the first train to pass over his section, and was coming from the south, a thorough inspection of the track to the southern limits of this section, or to mile post 34, was his paramount duty; if this requirement had been fulfilled, the washed-out bridge would have been discovered and this accident averted.


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