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Accident Report Detail

Penn Central Company, Collision of Trains N-48 and N-49

Executive Summary

About 8:20 p.m. on August 20, 1969, Penn Central commuter trains N-48 and N-49 collided head-on just north of the Hoyt Street crossing on the New Canaan Branch near Darien, Connecticut. Train N-48, going from Stamford to New Canaan, had a three-man crew and about 60 to 80 passengers. The first car in train N-48 had been closed to revenue passengers before it left Stamford. Train N-49, a deadhead equipment train from New Canaan to Stamford, had a three-man crew and was carrying a car inspector and an electrician who had performed service at New Canaan and were returning to Stamford, still on duty.

Probable Cause

The Safety Board determines that the collision was caused by the operation of train N-48 beyond its meeting point, in violation of properly issued train orders. It could not be determined why the engineer of train N-48 failed to stop and enter the siding at Dale as required by train order. Among the several possibilities, the Board considers it most probable that the engineer misinterpreted the "high ball" signal given by the conductor at Stamford. He assumed that he had right-of-way over train N-49 and failed to read the order which was given him by the Stamford operator. If the conductor of N-48 had fully complied with the operating rules in obtaining a copy of the train order, in instructing the flagman in his duties concerning the meet with train N-49, and had monitored the operation of the train approaching the siding at Dale, the collision might have been prevented, despite the engineer's action.

Contributing to the cause of the serious injuries and fatalities of the employees and the one passenger were: the design and location of the engineer's control compartment, the inability of the leading cars to withstand the force of the impact, and the location of the victims at the time of the collision in the forward area of the cars. Factors contributing to a great extent to the passengers' injuries were: the lack of restraining devices to hold the passengers in their seats, and the failure and movement of the seat backs.

Accident Location: Darien , CT    
Accident Date: 8/20/1969
Accident ID: 80011

Date Adopted: 10/14/1970
NTSB Number: RAR7003
NTIS Number: PB-196053