Sylacauga, AL Central of Georgia / L&N Collision, Feb 1919
Fireman Doolittle, of train 2nd No. 38, stated that when they coupled on to their train after taking sand, the flagman was standing by the Louisville & Nashville crossing and gave them a proceed signal, which the engineman answered. When the flagman gave the signal, the engineman asked him: “How is the crossing?" He looked out and from what he could see, the crossing was clear, so he replied: “Crossing is clear." The engineman then started the train, while he got down and put on some coal and they proceeded to within about 100 feet of the crossing, when the engineman again asked him about the crossing. He looked out but saw nothing on the crossing and he said they assumed from the flagman’s signal that the crossing was clear and therefore made no stop after they started from the water crane. He again went to work on his fire, but soon heard the engineman make an application of the brakes, looked up and saw the next to the last coach of the passenger train passing over the crossing at a speed he estimated at 20 miles an hour. He said Engineman Sweatt applied the brakes, reversed the engine and opened both sanders in an effort to stop before striking the passenger train. He heard no whistle from the passenger train and was positive that it could not have stopped before starting over the crossing.
Conductor Lindsey, of train 2nd No. 38, stated that after the engine had coupled to the train he gave the fireman a proceed signal. He was standing on the left side of the train, about 4 or 5 car lengths from the caboose when the train started. He knew the flagman was at the head end of the train but did not know what he was doing. He gave the engineman a stop signal from a point about opposite the water crane, but the train was not stopped until an emergency application of the brakes was made just prior to the collision. He thought that after the train had run 10 or 12 car lengths, the speed was about 10 miles an hour. He did not see or hear the Louisville & Nashville train coming and did not look to see if one was coming.
Flagman Kirven, of train 2nd 38, stated that while the engine was at the sand house he went to the freight house, which is east of the crossing. While he was in there, the engine returned to the train and when he came out, it was ready to go. At this time he heard the Louisville & Nashville train whistle for the station, but could not see that train. He walked to a point about 6 feet west of the railroad crossing, south of the Central of Georgia tracks, and as there was no train in sight in either direction, he gave a proceed signal. He admitted that in giving the engineman a proceed signal he assumed a certain degree of responsibility; the crossing was clear at that time, and notwithstanding that he heard the whistle of the approaching Louisville & Nashville train, he took it for granted that train would stop and as his train had stopped first he considered that it had right of way. He stated he did not consider it necessary to remain at the crossing to protect the movement of his train over it, and he did not inform the engineman that a train was approaching on the Louisville & Nashville track. After giving his engineman the proceed signal he started to walk toward his train for the purpose of getting aboard. The engineman sounded two blasts of the whistle and started the train within half a minute after he gave him the proceed signal. The first he saw of the approach of train No. 81 was when he was proceeding toward his train, being at that time on the station platform, about 60 or 65 feet from the crossing; at this time he could see train No. 51 coming around the curve north of the station. When the front end of his train came between him and train No. 81, that train was within 400 feet of the crossing, moving at about 15 miles an hour, and the front of his engine was about 50 feet from the crossing. When his own train passed him, it was moving about 8 or 10 miles an hour and he estimated the speed of train No. 81 at 20 miles an hour as it passed over the crossing. Flagman Kirven said that as his train had stopped first, he presumed that train no. 81 would come to a stop before proceeding over the crossing. He was positive that train No. 81 could not possibly have come to a stop and then have moved upon the crossing ahead of his train.
Brakeman Coleman, of train 2nd No. 38, stated that when the engine came from the sand house he coupled it to the train and the conductor gave a proceed signal, which the engineman answered. The train then started and did not stop, although the engineman sounded the crossing signal when within about 100 feet of the crossing. He had boarded the train and was on the 4th car from the engine, the train moving at a speed of about 10 miles an hour, when he saw train No. 81 about 100 yards from the crossing, travelling at about 15 miles an hour. He saw that it was not going to stop and leaned over the edge of the car, first on one side, then on the other, giving signals in an effort to attract the attention of the engine crew of his train. He also shouted to the flagman, about a car length from him and said that flagman also signalled the engineman to stop. He was positive that the Louisville & Nashville train did not stop for the crossing, the engineman merely sounding two blasts on the whistle while his train was moving.
Engineman Talford, of train No. 81, stated that upon arrival at Sylacauga he stopped with the front of his engine about 5 or 10 feet from the stop board. He saw smoke from the vicinity of the second water crane on the Central of Georgia track, which he supposed was smoke from a train, but saw no train in the vicinity and there was nothing to indicate the approach of 2nd No. 38. There were some cars standing on the Central of Georgia side track and train 2nd No. 38 was behind them, which prevented him from getting a clear view. He asked his fireman if everything was clear and, being told by him that it was, started his train. Some children were about to cross in front of his engine and he sounded his whistle to warn them; about this time he heard the Central of Georgia train whistle. He first saw the freight train when he reached the crossing and when that train had reached Broadway, about 50 feet from the railroad crossing, he had his engine and one car over the crossing; he then thought he could get the remainder of his train over it without being struck. He gave his engine a full head of steam in an effort to get his train across. He said his speed going over the crossing was 8 or 9 miles an hour, but that his train had attained attained a speed of between 12 and 15 miles an hour before the last coach was struck.
Fireman Vernon, of train No. 81, stated that Engineman Talford brought the train to a stop about 8 or 10 feet north of the stop board. He was sure his train came to a full stop at the stop board, as the baggageman, who had been riding on the engine, got off there when the train was at a standstill. The engineman sounded the crossing whistle, then asked him about the crossing and he replied: "All right on my side.” As they got on the crossing he saw 2nd No. 38 crossing Broadway at a rate of about 10 or 12 miles an hour and did not think it was going to stop. He said that when his engineman saw 2nd No. 38 was nearly on them and was not going to stop, he opened the throttle to get his own train across and did not shut off steam until the rear coach was struck until the rear coach was struck.
Conductor Meigs, of train No. 81, stated that he was inside the third coach from the engine and had just called the station. When their train stopped for the crossing, he looked out and saw that the rear end of the last coach was about opposite the street crossing at the wye switch, which is about 300 feet from the railroad crossing. After stopping about 15 seconds, the engineman sounded the crossing whistle and started. Hearing the exhaust of an engine, he came out upon the rear platform of the third coach. He did not see train 2nd No. 38 until after his train had started and was on the crossing, at which time the freight train was almost upon them. He estimated the speed of his train at from 10 to 12 miles an hour and that of train 2nd No. 38 at 8 or 10 miles an hour.
Baggagemaster Martin, of train No. 81, stated that approaching Sylacauga he had been riding in the baggage car, then went over to the engine to get a drink of water. He said their engine stopped about 15 feet north of the stop board. He then got of f and went back to the baggage car and when be had climbed up in the side door, the engineman started the train and sounded the crossing whistle. He was standing in the doorway of the baggage car and heard a whistle and when the baggage car was about midway over the crossing he saw train 2nd No. 38 about 25 feet away.
Flagman Jarvis, of train No. 81, stated that he was riding in the rear coach when his train stopped for the crossing and identified their usual stopping place by noticing that the rear coach was opposite a store building there.
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