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H. Doc. 181-18





Secretary Interstate Commerce Commission, Washington, D. C.

DEAR SIR: The first complete year of the operation of the safety-appliance law ended June 30, 1902, and the decrease in the number of railway employees killed and injured while coupling and uncoupling cars indicates clearly the wisdom of the adoption of the safety-appliance act. The improvements shown in cold figures are most impressive and need not be dwelt upon in this report. It will be of interest, however, to note the condition of equipment as indicated in the table of defects as reported by the inspectors for the Commission during the year ending June 30, 1902. In this period these men inspected 161,371 cars, finding 42,708 defective. This last number is 26.47 per cent of the whole, as compared with 19.73 per cent for the year ending June 30, 1901. For the year ending June 30, 1901, 14 per cent of all the defects discovered in cars were found to exist in the air-brake apparatus and connecting parts, whereas in the year now being reported 42.60 per cent are of this character. This large increase is doubtless due to the defects having been classified. The inspectors now work on a uniform basis, thus knowing exactly what to report. With this explanation we may note the items in detail in Class A, couplers and parts. The first three items remain practically the same as in the year previous. Item No. 4, broken locking pin or block, shows a large increase. The locking pin or block is what may be called the vital feature of the coupler, and is analogous to the pin in the old link and pin coupler. On its integrity depends the usefulness of the whole coupling mechanism. The improvement of design and of material in this detail, which are found in the couplers of cars built during the past two or three years, indicates that the importance of the locking block is now appreciated. We may therefore hope for improvement in this item of the defect record.

Item No. 6 also indicates that more care should be observed in the renewal of locking pins. Careless or uninstructed repairmen are applying parts which do not work properly and thus increase the danger of operation.

Item No. 7 indicates that the old pins used with the link and pin drawbar are becoming very scarce, for it has been noted that the use of this pin forms the basis of this defect, and its disappearance accounts for the improvement shown.

Other items need no comment until we come to No. 11-5, split key missing from locking pin. This item includes split key missing from other parts, excepting knuckle pins. This defect still continues very common, indicating a lack of attention, for there can be no doubt that this is a matter which is susceptible of great improvement. While it is not in itself of a dangerous character, the absence of the key on very many occasions makes other derangements possible. A further indication of the trouble arising from the use of small parts in the coupler head, to which attention was called in my last report, is the increase in item No. 11-6, which it will be seen shows a very material increase.

Taking couplers and parts as a whole there were found 4,311 defects. This indicates an improvement, the proportion of defects found to the number of cars examined being 1 in 2.6, as compared with 1 in 2.4 last year.

The foregoing observations are based not only on the facts exhibited in the tables, but also on the comments made in the reports of inspectors J. W. Watson, George V. Martin, F. C. Smith, A. H. Hawley, R. R. Cullinane, W. R. Wright, H. K. Swasey, J. C. Sears, and J. E. Jones.

Inspector Watson says that many couplers require a second and in some cases a third impact to effect a coupling. He also calls attention to the fact that the Government inspectors should be required to report cracked, broken, and worn couplers, and that a suitable gauge should be provided for the purpose of determining defective conditions.

Inspector Martin is of the opinion that the rough handling complained of is not due to careless or reckless men, but to couplers of poor design. He thinks that the number of trains parting is decreasing, but when such cases do occur they are mostly due to worn couplers; and in this connection he notes that the railway companies' inspectors do not use the Master Car Builders' worn-coupler gauge. He further notes that the solid knuckle is coming into general use.

Inspector Smith is of the opinion that the conditions regarding the coupler situation are greatly improved.

Inspector Cullinane notes that the solid knuckle is coming into more general use. Inspector Wright says, regarding couplers: "I find that there is not the required attention given them to insure safety at all times. In many cases knuckles are allowed to become badly worn.

He also makes special comment regarding the lack of attention given to knuckle locks.

Inspector Sears remarks on the number of knuckles badly worn, but is inclined to believe that more attention is given these matters now.

Inspector Jones makes mention of the need of a standard coupler, and also. says that many of the couplers now in use require to be brought violently together in order to effect a coupling.

Many defects can not be discovered by inspecting cars at rest, coupled together in long trains; and inspections of moving cars, and of cars detached from other cars, which we do not make, would be necessary in order to show thoroughly the degree of care exercised by the railroad company. To illustrate this point clearly I append the result of an inspection of couplers which was made on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, and which appeared in a paper presented by Mr. R. D. Smith at the Western Railway Club in May, 1902. În connection with this I also present a résumé of a report of trains parting, which was prepared by the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway.

For the year ending November 30, 1901, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy statement showed that 681 trains were reported as having parted on account of defective couplers. For the year ending December 31, 1901, the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway reported 834 cases of trains parting from all causes. With a view to making a comparison of the two reports I have taken the report of the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway, and have carefully noted all cases due to defects in couplers, which number 553. The Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis inspection does not go so minutely into defects of locks as that of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, but in the table the first five items have been combined so that a fair comparison can be made.

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