flimsy faith

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue Mar 8 01:46:07 EST 2005

Date: Mon, 7 Mar 2005 21:27:28 EST 
To: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org 
From: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Subject:  Re: Collision of No. 26 and Ex 1461 West at
Melborn, 1/30/1918 

Hey Abie:
Neither of the two Roanoke papers had photos of the
derailment -- but of course you knew that.  Years
after the fact, I went to Melborn to get a picture of
N&W 1218 passing the point of collision.  It didn't
turn out that great.
In reading the report, it indicates that Conductor
Hines of Extra 1461 West checked the register and
relied on his memory rather than comparing arrivals of
scheduled trains using a timetable.  He overlooked No.
26.  The dispatcher's probable intent was to have
Extra 1461 West to proceed to the end of double track
and wait for No. 26, but there were other contributing
factors also -- Operator Dixon
issued a clearance card, but didn't notify Dublin. 
Back in the '60s, I was involved in an incident in
which the 3rd trick dispatcher notified me at the end
of my trick, 3:30 AM, that he did not intend to clear
an extra south (on duty at 7:00AM), but would have the
first trick dispatcher determine a meeting point for a
superior northbound train and then clear the extra
south.  The shift changed, the extra was cleared and
proceeded 17 minutes into the time of
a superior train's schedule before realizing they
had nothing on No. 64.  Petrified, the conductor went
to a line-side phone, notified the dispatcher, and the
Superintendent's chief clerk overheard the whole
The account in the Roanoke paper indicated that the
engineer of Extra 1461 was 26 years old, also that
reports  reaching Bristol from Dublin indicated that
all passengers in the first coach were either killed
or seriously injured.  This, of course, wasn't the
case.  Conductor Charlton on No. 26 was also the
conductor on No. 37, October 20, 1920 -- the date it
was in a head-ender with No. 14 at Rural Retreat.
Those that work in Traffic Control or double track
territory have certainly missed some cold sweats.  
Following was an order issued on SLSF's Rolla
Subdivision.  How many meets do you make ?
Train Order. No. 92
March 10, 1944
To C&E - Third, Fourth and Fifth 34 at Dillon
Third Fourth and Fifth 39 Engs 1509 4506 and 4024 hold
main track,  meet third 38 Eng 4307 at Maselle.  Hold
main track meet Fourth 38 Eng 4302 on Westward Siding
Staunton.  Hold main track meet Fifth 38 Eng 4309  at
Stanton.  Hold main track meet First 34 Eng 4514 on
Westward Siding Sullivan. Hold main track meet Second
34 Eng 4417 at Sullivan.  Hold main track meet Third
34 Eng 4301 at Coffeyton and have right over Fourth
and Fifth 34 Eng 4419 and 4521 Pacific to Cuba.  Right
over No. 32 and No. 36 Pacific to Dillon and Hold main
track at Cuba against Fourth and Fifth 34.
Sig.. CHR

How''d you like to have been in the death seat on Eng
1509 ?

Harry Bundy

March 8, 2005

Hello, Harry:

Perhaps Abe knows, but it isn't clear to me where you
were working at the time of the 1960s incident you've
outlined.  Knowing that would help.

Few today realize the enormous faith --and fate-- that
was placed in "flimsies."  As far as the complex meet
order 92 goes, Peter Josserand, night chief dispatcher
of the Western Pacific and author of Rights of Trains
would have had a field day with that one.  All of the
orders I ever copied were very simple and
straight-forward.  I never had the time to completely
read Rights of Trains and assimilate its contents. 
Those that worked "dark" territory using timetables
with several trains of more than one class really had
to know the principles outlined in that book. 

You didn't mention if order 92 was a Form 19 or a Form
31 order.  My expectation is that it was a Form 31. 
The train and engine crews had to be signing their
lives on the lines of that one.



Dr. Frank R. Scheer, Curator
Railway Mail Service Library, Inc.
f_scheer at yahoo.com
(202) 268-2121 - weekday office
(540) 837-9090 - weekend afternoons 
in the former N&W station on VA rte 723 
117 East Main Street 
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