JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Trailer Trashed: 1954

Trailer Trashed: 1954

"Railyard accident." Oakland again, circa 1954, and the Curious Case of the Tipped Trailer. 4x5 acetate negative from the News Photo Archive. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Madison St

The signal bridge was about 37.79285N 122.27045W, 100-150 ft east of Jackson St, so must be the Madison St crossing in the lower right corner of the pic. The train is on the westward track, so the truck was likely northbound on Madison when the slow-moving train hit the truck's right side and dragged it a short distance.

re: Single Trailers in SF

"There was a parking lot or rest area where the single trailers would be stashed so the 18 wheeler could make the run with a single trailer. I don't remember if they were power limited climbing from the Bay, or they were brake limited going downhill, but UPS and Roadway would leave trailers sitting with the 'dolley' still attached."

It's because of the length restrictions in the City, especially off the usual main roads. Even with a 28' trailer, it's difficult for a lot of semis to get around. With a >40' trailer, it's impossible.

Possible scenario

I agree that this is a double-trailer rig. Looks like it's filled with construction waste (cut lumber, etc.) Could it have been on a project somewhere behind it and had contact with the train, tugging it along by the rear trailer until the cab jackknifed? Pure speculation.

Trailer dolly

trailer dollies still have to have tail lights and plates in most places.

Here's a modern one for sale.

Brake failure - or DUI?

Interesting schtuff - the tracks are signaled for right hand running so the truck appears to have been traveling in the same direction as the train.

If a train were coming on the left hand track and hit the train it would have plowed it towards the camera. Would the hit be hard enough to push the entire truck and trailer into the right hand track?

If it were coming on the right hand track towards the truck it would most likely be operating under train orders to run at a reduced speed... possibly restricted speed. That would have minimized any damage to the truck cab.

The right front fender of the truck is bent back - was it pushed back from the impact or do they swing out in old IH's to allow access to the engine?

To me it looks like the truck was running in the same direction of the switch engine with the whaleback tender. There isn't any evidence on the "ICC" bar of the last trailer to imply that the trailer was hit from behind.

Is it possible that the jacknife caused the loaded trailers to bend when they came to an abrupt stop... and for the trailing trailer to flip from the stop?

Oooh, and a neat collection of postwar freight cars, from an Espee and MoPac box cars to a Union Pacific box car with Pullman-Standard welded ends yet riveted lightweight ("ACR") construction.

Kewl stuff, Dave

Confusing mess

Darn if I can figure out this mess. Can anyone find a newspaper article to explain what happened here?

Not knowing the exact date makes this hard to research.

[ might have something. Or maybe some other online archive that has the Oakland Tribune. - Dave]

18 Wheeler? Not so fast, count 'em.

When I traveled I-80 from Nevada to the SF Bay Area, I would see dual-trailer setups regularly, even into the 1990's. There was a parking lot or rest area where the single trailers would be stashed so the 18 wheeler could make the run with a single trailer. I don't remember if they were power limited climbing from the Bay, or they were brake limited going downhill, but UPS and Roadway would leave trailers sitting with the 'dolley' still attached.

The lights and plate are for use when there is no second trailer attached.

A load of wood pieces would be volume limited rather than weight, so hauling two trailers full at the same time makes good sense.

Tom in Canton, GA

Converter Trailers

The tandem trailer dolly is referred to as a converter trailer. I believe they were required to be licensed as well as a typical trailer. Don't believe there is another tractor unit involved.

It's considered a trailer

I think the license plate and lights are on there because the dolly is a separate piece from the trailer and can be pulled without a trailer attached. The dolly would then become the trailer and need its own license plate and tail lights.

[This is a good explanation. Thank you! - Dave]

What I've learned from Shorpy

1954 was not a good year to be an insurance agent in Oakland.

License plate and taillights explained:

Trailer dollies (converter gear) usually have taillights and some states require them to be licensed and safety-inspected. (In California the license is optional, today anyway).

Where is the second tractor cab Dave?

[It would be between the trailers. Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. - Dave]

Pintle hitch is correct

What you're seeing is a connecting unit for the second trailer to attach to. It would attach to any conventional trailer and carry a fifth wheel for a second trailer to attach to. These are still being used for "peanut wagons" (two trailer loads) and were once considered for even longer runs of three or four. Mercifully, they came to their senses before that was tried.

It would have the license and brake light against such time when the second trailer was dropped off at a destination and the first trailer was going elsewhere.

Hello Dolly

Trailer dollies have lights and plates. They still count as a trailer by themselves if they don't have a larger trailer attached.

Steamcrane is correct

That's definitely an I-beam axle; you can see the flanges. The round thing you see near the center is a taillight or reflector on the other trailer. And a differential would be a lot bigger.

[Someone please explain the license plate and brake lights. - Dave]

Tandem Trailers

This is one IH cabover tractor, pulling 2 tandem trailers. You are seeing the dolly that supports the front of the second trailer, still hitched to the rear of the first trailer, and under a lot of stress. It's a dolly, because there is no drive axle and pumpkin, just an I-beam axle.

There is a pintle hitch and air + electric connections at the rear of the second trailer, so they can be coupled in either order.

The angle of the right fender + headlight indicates that the other side of the tractor may not look as good as this side.

[I see a license plate and taillights. - Dave]

One possible scenario

It may have been hit by a train.

Be Specific - Ship UNION PACIFIC

UP's boxcar slogan.

Oak Street Crossing

My guess, in looking at Historic Aerials and Google Earth, is that the truck was crossing the tracks at Oak Street and the gas storage tank in the distance is the one that used to be at the foot of Grove Street, now MLK Way. The curve here in the tracks, to the right, seems to match with the curve near Oak and Jackson (parallel streets).

Scrap Lumber

Since the truck is from the Puget Sound area, I am wondering if the scrap lumber is being shipped to California perhaps for a particle board factory?


Of the eight men closest to the truck cab, at least six are standing with arms akimbo,

Locomotive 1216

Southern Pacific S-10 class, 0-6-0 switcher.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2023 Shorpy Inc.