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PRR - 1959 Accident


        The Pennsy had a number of complex switches on both sides of Columbus Union Station.  In 1959 they were hand thrown by a switch tender under the direction of the tower man.  Here is one instance when management wished they had installed interlock control on their "puzzle" switches.  Two Pennsy freight trains, that were supposed to be passing each other, reached the offending switch at the same time - how's that for happenstance?  That would have been OK if the switches had been aligned properly.  Instead the eastbound train was routed into the side of the westbound freight's locomotive by the misaligned switch derailing both locomotives and bringing their trains to an abrupt stop. 

        This happened east of Fourth Street.  The route both trains were taking is the Union Station bypass that ran along the south side of Union Station.  The tracks are upgrade eastbound through this area and also encountered a curve getting around Union Station.  The abrupt stop of the east bound train caused some cars to jump the track back along side Union Station. 

        The accident blocked the B&O - PRR main and even leaned over the NYC route, blocking the Big Four to Cleveland and the path for the N&W's passenger train to Portsmouth.  Once the lead F7 was removed the Pennsy passenger trains could used Columbus Union Station's Track 7 and 8, normally reserved for the NYC, and took a route around the accident that included going through The Pennsy's Yard B.

The westbound locomotive, F7 #9820,  has been pushed off the tracks and banged up by the eastbound GP-9 .  Note that the lead unit and the third unit both have radio antennas.  The second a "B" unit has no antennas.  That will be useful to identify the units in the following photos.

        The camera is looking southwest.  Since the wreck train was stationed in Columbus it took little time to reach the accident scene.  These pictures were taken by Dave Bunge who was a part time photographer for the Pennsy.  Nevertheless it didn't hurt that one of the wreck men - Don 'DC' Ray - was a friend and eased the way as he photographed the scene from all four sides.

        The stock cars just behind the locomotive on the eastbound train were loaded with livestock.  The cars were trapped between this mess and the cars that jumped the track back along side the depot.  Later in the day the fire department came and hose down the animals. 

       Here is the scene looking west after the westbound train's cars had been removed.  Expand the photo and look in the crowd of men on the left.  A section man or wreck man is moving a load of tools with his monorail track cart.  Very handy when several hundred pounds of tools need to be moved around.

       The bridge in the background is the Fourth Street bridge.  The tall smoke stack in the background is for the powerhouse at Union Station.  The tracks curving off toward the left lead to the Pennsy's Yard C.

These GP-9's were almost new.

        Back at Union Station a view of the cars that jumped the track.  A train crew is removing  the cars of the eastbound train so the  derailed cars can be put right.  The Union Station powerhouse smoke stack is on the left.  The stone wall for the approach to the Fourth Street bridge is on the right.

        It was not unheard of for eastbound freight trains to derail cars on this uphill "S" curve around Union Station.  Engineers had to be very careful they didn't make any hard stops as happened in this incident.

         And into the night the cleanup goes on.  Once the locomotives were removed the switch work began.  It had to be difficult to put those complex switches back together again.  In spite of the I.C.C.'s pleas, the hand thrown switches lasted until the early 1970's when Columbus Union Station was torn down and most of the track through this area was removed. The camera is looking west.

        In the background is a second "Big Hook".  This one belonged to the Norfolk and Western.  The N&W and Pennsy would support each other in wreck clean ups.  The crane boom on the left background was not a big hook.

Photos by Dave Bunge