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The safety appliance act provided that no train carrying interstate traffic should be run after January 1, 1898, unless so equipped with power or train brakes that its speed could be controlled from the engine, and that no car used in interstate traffic should be hauled after that date unless equipped with couplers which would couple automatically by impact and which could be uncoupled without the necessity of men going between the ends of the cars. Section 7 provides: That the Interstate Commerce Commission may from time to time, upon full hearing and for good cause, extend the period within which any common carrier shall comply with the provisions of this act. As has been stated in a previous report, some time before January 1, 1898, on which date the act by its terms became effective, a large number of railroad companies, embracing practically all of the railroads of importance operating in the United States, petitioned the Commission for an extension of time. These petitioners were heard on December 1, 1897, and upon consideration of the facts developed upon that hearing an extension of two years was granted by the Commission. It was then expected that within the time as extended substantially all carriers would be able to complete their equipment in compliance with the requirements of the act. In November of the present year, however, numerous petitions from carriers were filed asking for a further extension of this time, and these petitions were set for hearing at Washington on December 6, general notice being given to the public. At that time the petitioning carriers, as well as those who opposed such extension and those who were otherwise interested in the application, were fully heard. The carriers based their claim to further relief upon two grounds: First, that they had acted in good faith, having made great progress in the equipment of their cars and all the progress that, under the circumstances, could have been reasonably expected; second, that to refuse to extend the time and to put the law into effect on January 1, 1900, would result in the enforced withdrawal from interstate traffic of a large number of freight cars, to the great hardship both of the railways, which would thereby be compelled to refuse traffic, and of the shipping public, which would thereby be denied the facilities for moving its traffic. It was also urged that the necessary material could not be obtained and that the roads could not get possession of their cars for the purpose of equipping them in less than one year. As to the first position of the carriers, it may be said that the progress towards the required equipment has been constant, as shown by their semiannual reports. On June 30, 1893, four months after the enactment of the law, there were 1,047,577 freight cars reported as owned, of which number 229,289, or 22 per cent, were equipped with automatic couplers. On December 1, 1897, the petitioning roads
reported 1,159,029 freight cars owned, of which number 695,171, or
law in respect of those appliances. On the other hand, the condition of cars which the owning carriers had reported as equipped with coupling devices was often found very defective, and in some instances so much so as to reflect discreditably upon the roads. A very large number of cars have been found where the appliances for operating the couplers, especially the unlocking machinery, were so out of order and unworkable that, though the cars were actually provided with automatic couplers, they could not be uncoupled without the trainmen going between the cars, and in some cases being obliged to resort to mechanical assistance in order to get the cars apart. Such a coupler is not automatic in the sense contemplated by the law. Its use subjects the men to risks and dangers which are obviously greater than those which existed when the old link and pin coupler was employed. This inspection was limited, and as a rule the reports covered only such defects as were plainly apparent. Until practically all cars are equipped with automatic couplers and until those devices are kept in thorough repair, it is manifest that those which are placed upon the cars constitute a menace rather than a protection to trainmen, and this was one of the considerations which influenced the Commission in determining the length of time which the roads should be given to complete their equipment. As this is a matter of great importance, it may be well to explain somewhat in detail the method by which automatic couplers are ordinarily applied to freight cars, and this we have endeavored to do in Appendix D. In view of the conditions disclosed by the inspector's reports it seems vital that the uncoupling attachments shall be kept in perfect working order, and there should also be general uniformity in the construction, application, and operation of such attachments. In a hazardous employment the man does his work with greatest safety who has least need to think how the act is to be done. If he does it always in the same manner he does it mechanically and unerringly. The uncoupling attachments used with automatic couplers do not all operate alike, and some of them are characterized as confusing by the trainmen. The Master Car Builders’ Association, which has done so much good work in establishing standards of uniformity, appears to have fully considered this matter. In 1897 and 1898 that association recommended a practice as to the application of uncoupling levers and attachments which we suggest should be followed. The details of such practice, with some additions to show the operating positions of uncoupling levers when used with various kinds of Master Car Builders’ couplers, are shown by diagrams in the same appendix. With the uncoupling levers applied in accordance with these recommendations the trainmen can set the couplers for the act of uncoupling and lock the uncoupling lever in such uncoupling position by a bracket or lock at the corner of the car, where it can be seen and reached by the trainmen when standing outside the line of the cars. It is also necessary that the construction of the bracket or lock, which is attached to the corner of the car for the purpose of holding the uncoupling lever in the locked position, shall be such that it will retain the uncoupling lever in that position until shifted or released therefrom by the trainmen, and so that the shocks due to moving of cars in the act of cutting train and shunting shall not dislodge it therefrom or cause the coupler lock to resume the locking position. It is important for the safe performance of his work, much of which is done in the darkness of the night and often in storms, that the trainman should be able to determine by the position of the lever whether the coupler is in the locked or unlocked position. He can do this with uniform construction and application of the uncoupling levers, if the attachments are kept in repair.
CASUALTIES TO RAILROAD EMPLOYEIES.
At the date of our last annual report the Commission believed that the number of casualties to railway employees would continue to diminish. We had previously expressed the opinion in former reports that until all cars were equipped the advantages of automatic couplers as a means of protection to employees would not be demonstrated by a falling off in the number of those killed and injured in coupling and uncoupling cars; and that view now seems to find some support in the showing of casualties for the year ending June 30, 1898, when the number killed was 279, and the number injured was 4,988. While 1 employee was killed out of every 349 employed in 1893, and in 1897 the number was 1 killed to 647 employed, the figures were 1 killed to 518 employed in 1898. The ratio of the injured to those employed was 1 in 13 in 1893, 1 in 22 in 1897, and 1 in 21 in 1898. In 1899, for which year full returns have not yet been made, it is found that 199 were killed and 5,339 injured upon 89 roads, while in 1898, on the same roads, 209 were killed and 5,484 were injured.
It must be borne in mind that these are injuries resulting to trainmen other than enginemen and firemen, and include switchmen, flagmen, and watchmen. Flagmen and watchmen are not engaged in coupling cars, but from long practice of the roads they have been classified with the switchmen. It is hoped that this anomalous classification will be done away with, and efforts to that end are now being made. The number of employees killed and the number of employees injured by falling from trains for the year ending June 30, 1898, were 473 killed and 3,859 injured. For the year ending June 30, 1893,644 were killed and 3,780 injured. The number of trainmen employed to 1 killed and injured from this class of accidents is shown by the following table: Falling from trains.
- Number of trainmen employed Year. to one—
1898-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 354 60 1897 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 497 59 1898-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 480 57
Number of trainmen includes enginemen, firemen, conductors, and other trainmen.
It is believed that the number of killed and injured by falling from trains must be very largely reduced when the train brake comes into general use. The men will not then be obliged to use the tops of cars for braking, nor to walk on the running boards. The freight train will be as completely under the control of the engineer as passenger trains are at the present time. The number of killed and injured from this cause is as great as, if not greater than, the number of killed and injured in coupling and uncoupling cars. We have formed the following conclusions as to the causes of the large number of deaths and injuries which still result to employees while engaged in railway operation: With the increasing number of those in service an increased percentage of inexperienced men have been employed. The number of employees engaged in handling the traffic dropped from 873,602 in 1893 to 779,608 in 1897, and increased to 874,558 in 1898. A decrease of employees involves the loss of experienced men, as those discharged often engage in other pursuits, while the increase is principally of new men. The regular annual recruiting for the railroad service is naturally from new material, but the proportion of inexperienced is exaggerated when there is an accession above the normal, as in the last year. The ton mileage increased from 80,335,104,702 in 1894 to 114,077,576,305 in 1898; and this great increase of traffic has been carried by means of heavier equipment, with an average of fewer men to the mile than were employed in 1893. The capacity of cars has been greatly enlarged and the number of tons carried per man employed has increased 152 tons. The demands of reviving business have called into use cars which, because of their inferior character, had long been allowed to remain upon sidings. These were put into trains along with the heavier and larger cars which the demands of modern railroading seem to require. A train of cars having in it an inferior car, with old or insufficient couplings, unfitted for use with powerful locomotives and heavy cars, is like the chain which is no stronger than its weakest link.