wheel slippage

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Dec 10 10:39:06 EST 2007

N&W Safety Agent John Rehor (from NKP) once noted that
every railroad specialized in a type ofcatastrophe. On the
NKP, it had been head-enders. On the pre-'64 N&W, it was
probably over speed on curves. On Auntie's Clothes Line
(ACL), it most certainly was broken rails. The 16th of this
month will mark the 64th anniversary of the side collision
at Rennert, NC (north of Buie, NC) in which 72 people were
killed. There was an infraction of Rule 99, but the primary
cause was a broken rail. ACL bought 100# rail in the 20's
rolled by Tennessee Coal & Iron. TC&I rail could be
traced to many an ACL derailment. In fact, FEC had
two derailments the same day traced to TC&I rail. It
certainly was "Brand X" when it came to rail.

N&W trains operated over ACL between Petersburg
and the James River bridge at Richmond. Beyond that
it became RF&P. On October 17, 1943, ACL train 1/76
derailed at Bellbluff, VA -about 12 mi. north of Peters-
burg, resulting in one death and eight injuries. The
primary cause was a broken rail. Investigators were
able to recover 13 pieces of the rail. Although the
primary cause was determined to be a broken rail,
the investigators determined fracture occurred beneath
a rail burn. Why didn't the broken rail shunt the
signal ? Because the ragged ends at the break made
contact with each other. The rail ? You guessed it--
100-pound rail manufactured by Tennessee Coal &
Iron in June, 1924.

The closing paragraph of ICC's investigation (Report
No. 2733) is very revealing -- "During the period from
September, 1942 to August, 1943, 1,278 defective
rails were removed on the system, of which 135
were the result of rail burns."

Harry Bundy

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