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A perusal of the record of the proceedings of railroad clubs which have regular meetings in the principal cities of the country, will show that the inefficiency in personnel, the inadequate appliances, and the negligent management (which cause delays, friction, and loss) are regarded by railroad engineers, mechanics, artisans, and officers in exactly the same light as by the inspectors. In short, the purpose of the Commission in this connection is not to point out anything new or unknown, or capable of serious dispute, but simply to put on record, for the information of the Congress and the public, a statement of conditions which to most railroad officials is in its main features a familiar story.
With the end of the month of June last the reports which are made to the Commission by the railroads under the accident law of March 3, 1901, completed a two years' record, and the totals of the principal items in these reports are given in the Appendix. As shown by these reports, in the year ending June 30, 1903, the number of passengers killed in train accidents was 164; the number injured, 4,424; of employees killed, 895; injured, 6,440. Casualties from other causes added to these make totals of 321 passengers and 3,233 employees killed, and 6,973 passengers and 39,004 employees injured. These numbers are considerably larger than for the year last preceding, as appears from the following table:
Casualties to passengers and employees, years ending June 30, 1902 and 1903.
It will be seen that the number of employees killed and injured in coupling and uncoupling cars has increased by a large percentage. This increase, and the increases which appear in nearly all of the other items, are to a considerable extent explained by the well-known and wide-spread increase of railroad traffic during the last year.
This matter was remarked upon in Quarterly Accident Bulletin, No. 5, the first for the fiscal year now under review. Again, it was found that the reports made by some of the railroad companies for the first few months of the operation of the accident-report law were incomplete.
In the matter of collisions, and to some extent as regards other accidents, it was found that some roads had knowingly left out of their reports certain accidents wbich, when their attention was called to the fact, they said they had understood to be rightfully omitted, because the train affected was not engaged in interstate traffic. It was claimed that intrastate traffic was not subject to the Federal law. Care was taken to correct this view, and the accidents in question were included in supplemental reports. It is probable, however, that many such cases were never discovered. A company which has omitted collisions and subsequently corrects its practice in that regard will, presumably, correct its practice as to reporting coupling accidents, though at the same time it may not go back and revise its reports of those classes of accidents concerning which the Commission, for want of information, made no special inquiry.
FATALITIES TO PASSENGERS NOT INCREASED.
It is gratifying to note that, notwithstanding the great increase in various items of the record, the list of fatalities to passengers in train accidents is no larger than last year. The only other item which does not show an increase is “overhead obstructions. It is not unlikely that the decrease in this class of accidents has been brought about by the increased use of air brakes, doing away to some extent with the necessity of requiring trainmen to ride on the tops of box
INEXPERIENCE AS FACTOR.
From the advance annual reports it appears that the number of men employed in train service on June 30, 1903, was about 12 per cent larger than on June 30, 1902---a fact which in part explains the increase in deaths and injuries. This is the percentage, taking the country as a whole. On the roads of densest traffic, where the liability to accident is greater than on roads of light traffic, the increase has been more than 12 per cent. The enormous expansion of freight traffic has led to the employment of new men so rapidly that the percentage of inexperienced men in the service was, in the year under review, larger than before for many years, and, unfortunately, an increase in the number of inexperienced men usually is accompanied by increases in the number of accidents.
New men ought to be at first employed at such places and in such departments of the work as are least dangerous to those who are inexperienced; but, in the stress of work occasioned by the congestion of freight traffic and by blockades at many places, this rule has often been disregarded. The increase in freight traffic, putting unusual burdens on all departments of train and yard work, including the department of
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car inspection, also results no doubt in a less efficient condition of cars. Couplers and other parts are not so well cared for and maintained.
TELEGRAPHERS AND SIGNALMEN.
In connection with the subject of inexperienced men, mention should be made of the fact, which has been shown in the quarterly accident bulletins, that certain disastrous collisions have been due to the misconduct or negligence of telegraph operators or signalmen under 21 years of age. The duties of these positions are as important as any connected with the movement of railroad trains, accuracy, precision, and strict compliance with rules being vital to the safety of passengers and employees. Positions of this kind should therefore be filled only by persons of known ability and adequate training and, moreover, of good moral character.
In one of the cases occurring during the year a young telegraph operator sent by telegraph the name of a conductor, purporting to be the conductor's signature, when the conductor had not yet arrived at the station; in other words, the operator telegraphed a falsehood. The signature of the conductor was essential to the proper carrying out of a meeting order, and the deception of the operator was an element in the causes leading to a disastrous collision. It would seem that the Congress might well consider the propriety of a statute making it unlawful for any person under 21 years of age to act as telegraph operator (to perform the duties referred to) or as block signalman on or in connection with any railroad engaged in interstate commerce, and unlawful for such railroad to employ minors for these duties. Such requirements might reasonably go further and stipulate that no person shall perform the duties referred to unless and until he or she shall have served as apprentice operator or signalman, or assistant operator or signalman, for a specified term, say one year,
THE RECORD OF COLLISIONS-A REMARKABLE INSTANCE.
The salient facts shown by the record of collisions during the year are given in a separate paragraph below, dealing more particularly with collisions on those roads or parts of roads where the block system is not in use; but it is proper to notice in this place that one of the worst collisions of the year (that referred to in Bulletin No. 7, p. 4) occurred on a line where block signals were in use. It is to be borne in mind that, notwithstanding the occurrence of collisions like this, the block system still shows a record for safety far above that of the time-interval or ordinary system.
The collision referred to occurred in the night, at a point where the line of the railroad is straight for a long distance, and the train which had been unexpectedly brought to a stop had red lights displayed to the rear which were visible a distance amply sufficient for the stopping of any following train; but the engineman of the following train, a fast express, disregarded not only the automatic block signals but also two or three red lanterns displayed by track watchmen or others.
The visual signals (automatic semaphore block signals), with which the road is equipped for the prevention of collisions, were in this case concededly adequate and in good working order, but the engineman appears to have been oblivious to all signals for a period of two, three, or more minutes, and as the train was running very fast this length of time sufficed for him to pass the warning red lights and, therefore, to collide with the passenger train ahead, causing a terrible wreck. The engineman was fatally injured, dying within a few hours; so that there is no explanation of his lamentable neglect, except an unconfirmed newspaper statement that, before he died, he said his attention had been drawn away from the signals by some trouble with an injector. The condition of the engine after the collision tends to indicate that the engineman neither shut off steamı nor applied the brakes. This man appears to have been in good mental and physical health so far as could be known. He had had ample experience and his record is reported as good.
TARDY AND INACCURATE REPORTS TO THE COMMISSION.
A good deal of correspondence has been necessary to secure a tolerable degree of promptness in sending in the accident reports. In the case of two or three roads, which have been notably delinquent, there has not been a month since the law went into effect that their reports have been received within the time prescribed by law. The Commission has reported these cases to the proper district attorneys for prosecution. Another road failed to report a particularly bad accident in the month of September last, in which 23 lives were lost, and it was only after the Commission called the company's attention to the matter that a report was furnished-nearly a month after the time when it was due. As the regular report first sent was sworn to as an account of all accidents, and as no proper explanation was made of the failure to report the accident in question, this case also has been referred to the proper district attorney for prosecution.
DELINQUENCIES IN REPORTING DEATHS AND INJURIES.
Many cases have been found of failure to report deaths and injuries. On one road alone in a period of three months there were over 300 casualties, which the manager failed to report until the Commission, having obtained the information from other sources, inquired about them, although in each of the three months the reports of the railroad referred to were sworn to, as full and complete, by an officer of authority. Statistics based upon such misleading reports are, of course, unreliable; and, when it is remembered that all of the accident statistics published by the Commission before the passage of the present accident law were based on voluntary reports made by the companies annually, the suspicion arises that these earlier statistics were far from accurate. The Commission continues to compare the railroad companies' accident reports with such information concerning deaths and injuries as it receives from other sources, and to notify the railroads of their delinquencies.
It must be borne in mind that employees have no voice in reporting the causes of accidents and the circumstances connected with them, and therefore there may be cases where they are reflected upon more strongly than would be the case were the reports made by a disinterested person.
In this connection it should be noted that coroners' juries in their verdicts frequently reach very different conclusions as to the causes of and responsibility for accidents from those given by the railroad companies in their reports to the Commission.
DUPLICATION OF REPORTS OF ACCIDENTS.
Prior to the passage of the accident law the railroads were presumed to report all accidents to the Commission annually. The act of March 3, 1901, prescribing monthly reports only provides for certain classes of accidents, namely, accidents to employees while on duty and accidents to passengers. There is a material difference between the number of accidents reported in the annual report of a railroad and those reported monthly, as the annual report includes all kinds of casualties to all classes of persons. The railroads themselves called the attention of the Commission to this duplication of returns and the attendant expense.
The Commission realizes that two reports are a burden, not only upon the clerical force of the railroads, but also on that of the Commission. A communication was therefore sent to the railroad companies of the country suggesting a consolidation of the annual with the monthly reports, and, with two exceptions, they have all replied, giving their assent to the idea of baving but one report. It is therefore proposed that the Congress so amend the law as to require but one report, and that monthly, giving all accidents. It is not expected, however, to require that this report shall give details of any classes except those which are now reported in detail, namely, (a) passengers and (6) employees on duty in or around trains or on or around the railroad proper. For all other classes, including employees in shops, employees off duty, persons at highway crossings, and trespassers, the total numbers of deaths and injuries in each class are the only data needed in a Government report.
RAILWAY ACCIDENTS AS SHOWN IN ANNUAL REPORTS.
The following statement of accidents is taken from the Report on Statistics of Railways in the United States for the year ending June 30, 1902, compiled from annual reports of carriers filed with the Commission. As above explained, all classes of accidents are included in