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Off the Rails: 1922

Off the Rails: 1922

July 31, 1922. Laurel, Maryland. "Two B&O freights wrecked in head-on crash at Laurel switch." Details here. National Photo glass negative. View full size.


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Stopping Distances for Trains

@fanhead. Even if the crews HAD seen the imminent collision, the heavy weight of the trains - many times thousands of tons, along with the high speeds makes for great momentum. (Momentum = mass times velocity). With huge momentum it can take a mile or more to stop - unlike the relatively short distance for an automobile. That's why trains have the right of way at highway crossings - always.

Jumping and its perils and rewards

My Uncle Marvin was a railroad engineer in Texas in the early part of the past century. An open switch routed him onto the wrong track and he had to jump for his life before his engine hit a stopped train. He landed in a pile of railroad ties and was seriously injured.

He recovered under the excellent care of a nurse whom he quickly married. If it hadn't been for that mistaken open switch, my cousin John would never have been born.


Washington Post, August 1, 1922.


Both Engines and 4 Cars
Demolished When B&O Trains
Meet in Head-On Collision.


Leg of Engineer Ramsey Broken,
50 Yards of Track Torn Up,
Tie-Up Lasts Hours.

        Six men narrowly escaped death yesterday afternoon when two freight trains of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company crashed in a head-on collision near Laurel, Md. David Ramsey, one of the engineers, was taken to a Baltimore hospital suffering from a broken leg. The others escaped injury by jumping just before the crash.

        Both engines and four freight cars were demolished and the passenger and freight service of the railroad company was tied up for several hours while wrecking crews removed the debris. Commuters between Washington and Baltimore who were unable to obtain a lift from passing automobiles were forced to walk to their destination.

Meet at Open Switch.

        The accident occurred at a crossways near Laurel, where the east and westbound freights met in an open switch. The train crews had hardly jumped to the ground when the heavily loaded freight cars crashed into one another, the eastbound engine being hurled 25 feet in the air.

        Wrecking crews were quickly sent to the scene, and emergency telephone connections established with the train dispatcher's office at Baltimore.

Passenger Trains Diverted.

        Passenger trains of the Baltimore and Ohio were sent out over the tracks of the Pennsylvania road to Overton, Md., then to the main line of the Baltimore and Ohio.

        Officials of the railroad at the scene of the wreck refused to place responsibility for the accident, and busied themselves at once to clear away and repair the 50 yards of track torn up by the collision.

Full Stop

First I'll confess to little railroad/train knowledge, but couldn't they see this coming? Unless there was a curve or some other visibility issue of course.

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