Wooden Cars in a Railroad Wreck

1907 Scientific American  
A� a general rule, the ;SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN publishes photographs of railroad wrecks only when there is some definite lesson taught by the. disaster. The ac companying photographs of a wreck which occurred on the first of March near Colton, Cal., on the Santa Fe Rallroad, tragically illustrate both the ever-present Scientific American Not only should the switch signals be mounted on a lofty signal post, but a lofty, distant signal should be provided, and the two so connected that when the
more » ... that when the switch is open, both signals w11l show a red semaphore by day and a red light by night. If a clear distant signal were provided, as it unquestionably should be, we believe that .accidents due to express trains, or The Massive Vestibuled Day Coach Crushed the Baggage and Smoking Cars into Fragments, but Itself Remained Practically Intact. peril of the open switch and the frailty of the ordinary wooden passenger car, when it is placed between a heavy locomotive and a heavy Pullman car, and the train rushes at high speed into a head-on collision. In the present case, a passenger train, which was made up of a baggage car, a smoker, a vestibule day coach, and a IPullman observation car, was running at a speed of about fifty miles an hour as it approached a siding onto which a freight train had just backed, in order to give the passenger train a clear track The train crew of the freight, by one of those fatal lapses of memory which are such a frequent cause of railroad disaster, omitted to close the switch, and the engineer of the passenger train failed -to notice that it was open, until he was almost upon it. The centrifugal force as the engine attempted to swing around the sharp turnout was sufficient to overturn it bodily upon its side, and it ground its way over the roadbed for 150 feet before it came to rest, the tender breaking away at the· point where it left the traclrs. The train swept by the overturned locomotive and collided, practically at full speed, with the heavy engine of the freight train. The momentum of the vestibule day coach and the observation car drove the smoker into the baggage car and, as will be seen from our photographs, literally ground these two into fragments, the wreckage being more complete than anything we remember to have wit n�ssed in a wreck of this character. Extraordinary to relate, only one person was ldlled outright, although two others_were probably fatally injured, and a large number received minor injuries. indeed any kind of train, running into open sidings would become exceedingly rare. The other lesson of the wreck is that the wooden day coach is liter:Uly a death trap in collisions, and cannot be too quickly superseded by the car of all-steel construction. To be convinced of this, it is only neces sary to contrast the splintered wreclmge of the frail smolrer and baggage car with the practically intact under-frame and body of the vestibule day coach, whose MARCH 16, 1907. railroad companies. Ordinarily, the seats are merely screwed down to the fiooring with wood screws, and undoubtedly the breaking away of the seats and the crowding of se·ats and passengers in a confused mass at the front end of the car is the cause of many severe .fractures and contusions. Cast-iron legs and frames should be abolished, and replaced by light steel fram ing with the legs bolted, not screwed, to the fioor.
doi:10.1038/scientificamerican03161907-232 fatcat:35b3uyvicbb7dnn23tekm4vfay