Prince William County Virginia Clerk’s Loose Papers

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Mr. Browning: Now, if your Honor please, I want to ask if it is proper for him to say what was

the cause of the accident, or is it proper for him to state facts, and is the cause of the accident a matter for the jury to say?

Court: I suppose the proper thing would be to state exactly the physical facts he found, and then it

is for the jury to say the cause, unless there is some expert knowledge that he would possess other than that of a layman.

Answer: Gentlemen of the jury, you understand, of course, I didn’t see this. I saw this truck

afterwards, but from the experience I have had along this line, and accidents that I have seen prior to this, that is my opinion of the cause of the accident. I am just giving you the condition of the truck as I found it. He asked me what I thought was the cause of the accident. Isay this is my opinion. Of course, I didn’t see it. But I know this by the conditions. That is what I found there after I got there, and from the experience I have had I know that is how it happened.

Mr. Keith: You stated that is the condition of this truck on the C&O coal car 25,227; will you

state what was the condition of the track at the north end of that switch there? Answer – The track was torn up there so badly I couldn’t tell you. The track was all torn up, the ties scattered and cut up, but, as well as I remember, there were two rails torn up and gone; that is, they were all bent up and under the wreckage.

Court: You mean the length of two rails? Answer – Yes, sir, two rails on this side )indicating). Q.

It was torn up for the length of two rails? Answer – Yes, sir; I am sure there were two, and possibly it might have been more. I won’t say that positively, but two rail lengths were torn up and gone.

Mr. Keith: At the north end of the switch what was the condition of that outside rail which, I

believe, is the stock rail? Ans. This was all torn out and bent all up.

Q. That outside rail is known as the stock rail? Answer – That is known as the stock rail; it was torn out and bent all up.

Q. Where did you find this truck on the particular car No. 25,227; Answer – About I would say, 1600 or 1800 feet from here (indicating) north.

Q. From the north end of the track here? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. And what was the condition of the other wreckage you found there, of the other cars that you found the next morning when you went there? Answer – Different cars there that were pretty badly torn up.

Q. Where were they lying? Answer – They had gotten the majority of them out then and piled them up where they could get at them. They had been working there all night trying to get the south bound track clear.

Q. Did you find them over on the south bound track clear? Answer – They had laid some of them on the bank.

Q. You found some of the C&O freight cars on the south bound track? Answer – Yes, sir, and beyond.

Q. Where 17 was running? Answer – Yes, sir. They had set some over the same side; they had to get in there to do the work on the south bound track; they came down on the south bound track with the derrick and set these over there where they could get them.

Q. Will you state to the jury what was the condition of the rails, ties and roadbed at the place of this accident, except so far as it was torn up as the result of the derailment? Answer – Outside of what happened to the track from the accident the track was all right, so far as I could see or know. The ties were good.

Q. What kind of ties were they? Answer – Oak ties.

Q. Were they good ties or bad ties? Answer – Yes, sir, good ties.

Q. What was the condition of the ballasting of the road at that place? Answer – Good; it was good ballasting.

Q. What kind of ballast? Answer – Rock ballast, crushed stone ballast.

Q. How about the rails, all of the rails there, the main line rails, frogs and switches and all that? Answer – All good

Q. Was there any defect at all? Answer – No, sir, I didn’t see any at all outside of the rail being bent up from the derailment. The rail was all in good shape.

Q. Was there any defect at all in the ties along there? Answer – No, sir, I didn’t see any.

Q. Were they excellently good? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. How about the ballast? You say that was stone ballast? Answer – Stone ballasting.

Q. Was the alignment of the track good? Answer – Yes, sir, so far as I could see.

Q. And the level of the track, was it good? Answer – I didn’t try a level on it, but I could see it was in good shape.

Q. What was the alignment there, are the rails straight? Answer – A straight line, yes, sir.

Q. How about the level of the track? Answer – It seemed to be level.

Q. Did you make a careful examination of it? Answer – Of the tracks?

Q. Yes, and of the ties and the conditions? Answer – Yes, sir, I did there and also back as far as Bristow.

Q. Why did you do that? Answer – We usually do it after wrecks.

Q. Is that part of your business after a wreck? Answer – Where we go to a wreck, the road master, the train master, the superintendent, the mechanical department., the transportation department generally get together to see if they can locate the cause of these things.

Q. You went clear back to Bristow. I will not ask you past Bristow.

Court: You can ask beyond that.

Mr. Keith: I don’t want to go over anything that we do not have to.

Q. Back to Bristow, what was the condition of that track, and of the ties and ballasting, and the whole thing? Answer – The track was in good condition, a good track. There was absolutely nothing wrong that I could find.

Q. State if there was any defect at all in it that you could see. Answer – No, sir, there was not.

Q. Do you know whether or not it was raining on the night of the accident? Answer – They said it was, but I wasn’t there.

Q. You were not up there? Answer – No sir.

Q. Did you see any evidence of it next morning? Answer – When I got there the next morning the men working there looked like they had been working in the rain all night.

Q. Did you examine some of the pieces of that arch-bar and the bolts, etc? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. And the arch-bar and box-bolts and column-bolts? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. If so, what did you observe? Answer – The end of the column-bolt; that is, this part of it here (indicating) was a new break, and the nut and that much of the bolt over there was gone.

Q. Before we get any further, which one of the trucks of the car No. 25,227 went down? Answer – The rear truck, and the rear wheel. This wheel (indicating) was propped up. The rear wheel of the rear truck of this car was out of the arch-bar, and cocked up under the end of the car.

Q. You said something about the column-bolt; which one of the column-bolts was gone, or broken? Answer – This one here )indicating)

Q. The one next to the broken box-bolt? Answer – The one next to the sheared box-bolt.

Q. Did you find any part of the tie-strap, as you call it? Answer – No, sir.

Q. Or the tie-bar? Answer – No, sir.

Q. Did you find the end of this lower arch-bar that was broken? Answer – Neither one of the arch-bars was broken. The condition is just exactly as this is. The tie-strap at the bottom was gone, and I have never been able to find that.

Mr. Mackey: What part was it you couldn’t find? Answer – The end of the tie strap. Q. The end

of the tie-strap was gone? Answer – Yes, sir.

Mr. Keith: Will you state whether or not there was anything about the tie-bars or bolts, and the

holes in the tie-bars, I mean the arch-bars, indicating whether or not that arch-bar was in good and perfect condition or not? Answer – The holes in this arch-bar through which the box-bolts pass were worn or elongated, oblong, worn from the bars working backward and forward like that (indicating). Q. To what extent were they worn? Answer – About one-eighth of an inch. Q. Will you state whether or not that condition would come as the result of a day or week or month working?

Mr. Browning: A little less leading.

Court: How long would it take it to get that way from being used? Answer – Some little time. Q.

What is some little time? Answer – Certainly not in a week or a month.

Mr. Mackey: That is, it would take more than a week to do it? Answer – Yes, sir.

Mr. Keith: In other words, your opinion is that it took considerable time to wear the holes in that

arch-bar in the condition in which you found them? Answer – Yes, sir. You see there is very little play there.

Q. Now, what would be the result of those holes being worn, as you say, about one-eighth of an inch? Answer – Those bars there, with the weight on them, act as a shear; the weight is on the bottom bar, and of course this pulls down on top of this bar. When you push down on that bar it has a tendency to shorten this bar up, and the strain comes up like that (indicating). When you push one way and one the other is what causes the tendency to lengthen this, and that shears the box-bolt. Then this car, in running along like that, this box gradually works out, and as soon as it come past the center that box turns over and the truck comes down. That is what bends this bar up.

Q. What was the result of those box-bolts being sheared off there, Mr. Puckett? What, in your opinion, was the result of those box-bolts being sheared? Answer – These box-bolts, when they shear off, the bottom part of the bolt, there is nothing to keep it in there. If you take that head off that bolt right there, the bottom part will fall out; that allows the box to drift out, and the truck to drop down just like that, you see (illustrating) of course, and drag; that is what hangs something or other and derails.

Q. In other words, what supports the weight of that freight car? Answer – It is these arch-bars that carry it, and so long as you keep those four bolts (indicating), and these two bolts; in other words, you keep that tied together, that is what carries your weight. As soon as you take those bolts out, or those bolts break, the weight on there causes this bar to bend back, and the other to bend ahead, and then it comes down.

Q. Just state again what were the pieces that you found coming off that arch-bar and tie-bar in this wreck? Answer – After I had looked at the truck under the car and examined it, I went back there where they were working along in there, where the main part of the wreck was, and looking around in there. I found one piece of this bolt.

Q. The box-bolt? Answer – The head of one box-bolt, just an inch and a quarter of the bolt on the head. That sheared off there just leaving the bolt an inch and a quarter long with the head on it. I picked it up, looked at it, and I realized that is what it was, and I took it over and laid it on the end of a tie back here, and went on. I thought I could get it when I wanted it. I was busy doing something else. Someone told Mr. Flanagan, master mechanic of the C&O, that I had found one of the box-bolts, and he came over to me and asked me. I told him yes I had, and it was lying over there on the end of a tie. I went with him to get it and show it to him, and when I got there the bolt was gone, and I have never been able to locate it since. Then Mr. Flanagan and myself walked back from there to the bridge, and up to Bristow Station, and up there at the switch that leads into the side track back of the station I found a nut-lock, evidently that came off this column-bolt. A nut-lock is a little piece of iron that goes in the bottom end of that bolt, and after you tighten that nut up you bend the other edge down to keep that nut from running off. I found that nut-lock at the switch.

Q. Did you find any portion of the tie-bar? Answer – No, sir. That nut-lock and the head end of those bolts is all that I have ever seen.

Q. We have asked the C&O Railway Company to produce here portions of the box-bolt and the tie-bar, I mean the column-bolt, and I now hand you what they have produced here, and I will ask you if those are the pieces that you saw? Answer – No, sir; that (pointing to the box-bolt) is not what I found; this is the lower end of the bolt and one nut.

Q. Is that a portion of the box-bolt that you saw there? Answer – It is the same size. It is the standard nut for one hundred thousand capacity car.

Q. Can you state whether or not that is the same? Answer – No, sir.

Q. You don’t know whether it is or not? Answer – I don’t know whether that came off that car or not.

Do you know about this column-bolt? Answer – I don’t know whether that is the column-bolt or not. That is the standard size nut. These are supposed to be inch and a quarter. That is the bottom end and the piece that I had was the top end.

Q. You have said what you believe was the cause of that wreck; will you state what Mr. Flanagan’s view of it was, as stated to you at the time when you and he were there investigating it?

Mr. Browning: We are going to put Mr. Flanagan on.

Court: Do you object?

Mr. Browning: Yes, sir.

Mr. Mackey: If it bears on us we object, unless it was part of the res gestae.

Court: Was he there to make any confessions and admissions?

Mr. Keith: He was there as a part of his business.

Court: For the present I will withhold it. If Mr. Flanagan denies it, you can put this witness on by

way of contradiction but not for impeachment.

Mr. Browning: We withdraw the objection.

Court: Go ahead.

Mr. Keith: What did he state.

Court: Mr. Mackey, I don’t think it can affect you.

Mr. Mackey: If they have withdrawn the objection there could not be an exception. Q. Will you

please state what Mr. Flanagan expressed to you as his view of what caused the wreck? Answer – As I said awhile ago, Mr. Flanagan and I went down and looked over this truck-----

Court: Is Mr. Flanagan in the court room?

Witness: No, sir.

Court: Would you like for him to be here?

Mr. Browning: Yes, sir.

Court: You do not object, do you Mr. Keith?

Mr. Keith: No, sir. It is a little against the rule.

Court: I know it, but I will not do it if you object.

(Mr. Flanagan is sent for and comes into court room)

Answer – Mr. Flanagan and I together went up to look at this truck; we both made a pencil sketch of the truck, just the shape and the condition of it there, as near as we could, and talked the matter over, and it was decided between us two that in our opinion that this was caused by the box-bolts shearing off; and after we made the sketch and talked the matter over, then we walked up the track, as I said awhile ago, up as far as Bristow, and found this nut-lock.

Court: Was Mr. Flanagan with you when you found that? Answer – Yes, sir, Mr. Flanagan and I

were together when we found the nut-lock. That is about all the investigation that we had.

Mr. Keith: Did Mr. Flanagan see those holes worn in the arch-bar that you have mentioned?

Answer – I suppose so. Q. You and he did not discuss that? Answer – Not to my recollection. I wouldn’t say that we did. Q. Now do you know what was the rated capacity of that coal car in the register, in the railway equipment register?

Mr. Browning: We object to that. There is no issue that has been made of overloading here.

Mr. Keith: That is a part of the res gestae.

Mr. Hall: One of the witnesses testified that one of the most usual causes for breaking the arch-

bar is overloading.

Mr. Browning: The declaration was filed, and then an amended declaration and neither one of

those papers charge any negligence in respect to loads.

Court: That is so far as the plaintiff is concerned, but how about one of the defendants when they


Mr. Browning: There is no question at all about overloading or loads. The grounds of defence do

not make any charge of that sort.

Mr. Keith: I think the rule here is that they are called upon to explain the condition of their

equipment at that time. They are in charge of it, and it is a general rule of law outside of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur where one party to a controversy has the evidence he must produce it.

Court: You may call upon the C&O for it, but you are proving it extraneously.

Mr. Keith: That is true.

Mr. Mackey: It might come in under this part of the declaration, “so managed its freight train”.

Mr. Browning: Our position is that we are hailed into court by the plaintiff. Our position is that

we are hailed into court by the plaintiff. Our position is that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies to the Southern Railway Company for reasons with which your Honor is entirely familiar, and I need not repeat them, but the doctrine does not apply to us, and we do not have to explain anything.

Court: We have but a few minutes, and I will leave it open until tomorrow morning.

Mr. Keith: We want to show that, that question is what is the rated capacity of that car, and

objection is made, and for the present the court does not pass on it.

Court: Yes, sir.

Mr. Mackey: The objection is made by the C&O.

Court: Yes, sir; you could not make it.


By Mr. Browning:

Q. You arrived at the scene of this accident a little after five o’clock? Answer – Between five and six. I was on train 25, and I may have been a little bit late.

Q. The Chesapeake and Ohio wrecking train had already arrived when you arrived there, had it not, Mr. Puckett? Answer – I think so. I am not positive. I know our wrecking crew had been there working practically all night. I think the C&O derrick was there.

Q. Don’t you know Mr. Hudson, the Southern superintendent, came with the C&O crew, and got there before you did? Answer – I don’t know when Mr. Hudson got there.

Q. This car under which the truck concerning which you have testified was C&O car No. 25,227, was it not? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Loaded with coal? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. You found the upper end of one of the column-bolts, I understood you to say? Answer – No, sir, of the box-bolt.

Q. You are right, one of the box-bolts? Answer – The top end of one of the box-bolts.

Q. You laid that down on a tie? Answer – Yes, sir, between the two tracks; I was between the tracks. It was on the end of a tie, but I will not say whether it was on the north bound or south bound track, but I laid it down on the end of a tie close to a lever car.

Q. And you went with Mr. Flanagan? Answer – Someone told Mr. Flanagan I had found one of the box-bolts, and he asked somebody to point me out to him, and he came to me and asked if I had found the box-bolt, and I told him I had.

Q. Did Mr. Flanagan show you this piece of bolt? Answer – No, sir, I never saw that piece of bolt before.

Q. Did you ever see this piece of column-bolt before? Answer – No, sir.

Q. Was the piece of bolt you found a fresh break? Answer – It was a fresh shear, sheared off.

Q. How do you know it was a shear? Answer – There is quite a difference between a shear and a break.

Q. What is the difference? Answer – You take a bolt and shear it in two, it has a tendency to mash it, and the break, it breaks right short in two.

Q. Where did you find that piece of box-bolt? Answer – I found it near the switch point where the stock rail was torn out.

Q. In between the tracks, or on the right hand side? Answer – It was right there in that place; I don’t know whether it was between the tracks, or on the outside of the rail, or where, but it was right when the track was torn up.

Q. How far did you carry it? Answer – I just picked it up, and possibly as far as from here to the end of the house, and walked there and laid it on the end of a tie. My derrick was working right there.

Q. How long did you have it in your hand? Answer – I don’t know but not very long.

Q. Five minutes? Answer – I don’t know. I didn’t take the time; I carried the piece of bolt in my hand; I was pretty sure that that was what it was, and I laid it on a tie so I could get it again when I wanted it.

Q. And you were busy at the time? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. You laid it down expecting to make a very minute examination? Answer – We usually take care of those things when we find them in case of a wreck or derailment.

Q. You only made a casual examination of it, if you made it in that way? Answer – I measured it to see the length and size of it; I am pretty well satisfied that that is what it was.

Q. Do you know now what became of that piece of iron? Answer – I do not; I would like to.

Q. Do you know what became of the rest of the bolt of which was a piece? Answer – I never heard of it.

Q. You never have seen that? Answer – No, sir.

Q. Where is the place of the greatest strain upon a truck? Where is the greatest weight, I will say first, upon the truck? Answer – On the arch bar that the spring board sets on. Some weight would be on that and would be on the journal, as far as that is concerned.

Q. The weight on the end of the car, under which a truck is --- Answer – It is on the truck bolster where your hand is on the model.

Q. And that is distributed to the two ends where the journals are? Answer – To the four ends.

Q. If you count all four wheels? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Is not the point of the greatest strain immediately underneath? Answer – The weight is on the bottom bar.

Q. That is the point of the greatest weight? Answer – Yes, sir, that is where the weight is carried.

Q. Now, Mr. Puckett, suppose the tie-bar were to break, what would be the effect upon the journals and the box-bolts? Answer – If the tie-bar was to break before the column-bolt sheared off, it might possibly bend the end of these arch-bars.

Q. Would that be all that it would do? Answer – It would either bend them up, or shear the bolts off; in other words, it would have to shear the bolts off or bend before the trucks could come down.

Q. In this particular case, if the tie-bar was the first piece of machinery upon that truck to bream, it would have had the effect upon the column-bolts that you state you have found, of shearing it off, would it not? Answer – I have not said anything about finding any column-bolts.

Q. Box-bolt. Substitute “box-bolt” for “column-bolt”. Answer – I have never seen one have that effect by the bottom tie-bar breaking.

Q. What would be the effect of the tie-bar breaking across the column-bolt? Answer – As I say, it might cause those bars to bend up and break off at the bend.

Q. Would it, or would it not, have the effect of shoving the center of the top arch-bar down? Answer – No, sir.

Q. It would not? Answer – No, sir.

Q. Would it or would it not have the effect of creating a shearing motion upon the column-bolts? Answer – In a sense it would, yes, sir.

Q. What do you mean by “in a sense”? Answer – After you take the tie-bar off the bottom that holds the two boxes together, you impair the strength of that ruck to a certain extent.

Q. What is the function of the tie-bar? Answer – The tie-bar is to tie the bottom of the box together, to tie the bottom of the truck together.

Q. When that function is taken away, and a weight is upon the car, does it not necessarily force the top of the column or arch-bar down and the lower arch-bar out, thus creating either a shearing or a breaking effect upon the box-bolts? Answer – No, sir; you have got that just exactly wrong. The weight on there (indicating), the top bar pushes ahead and the bottom bar pushes back, which forces a shear. The weight on the bottom bar, you understand, pulls the two ends together, and the different sets in that bar, the diamond shape truck, with this, of course, pulling down on that, would cause the ends of the top bar to bend up and lengthen. If you bend the top bar up, it makes it longer, and the bottom one shorter, and that cuts the bolt in two.

Q. That would have the effect that I asked you if it would not have, wouldn’t it, the effect of shearing? Answer – It would have a greater effect of bending the bar and breaking it off in the bend.

Q. What effect would it have on the journal box? Answer – It would cause that box to turn; it would cause those arch-bars right in that bend (indicating) to bend up; you take the tie-bar off, and put the weight on it, it would have a tendency to cause it to cock up, bend and break.

Q. And the effect of the cocking up of the journal box would be to make the lower arch-bar fall down towards the ties, would it not? Answer – The breaking of what, - the bending of that(indicating)?

Q. Yes, Answer – Of course, when they bend the box goes down and the truck goes down, of course.

Q. And a loaded car running along the track, it would necessarily make that go lower and lower, wouldn’t it? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Until finally it reached the end of the ties or the ballast? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. There is nothing that you saw there that could not have been occasioned, and would not naturally have been occasioned by the accident happening in that way, is there? Answer – In what way? By the tie-bar breaking?

Q. By the tie-bar first breaking, followed by the results we have detailed? Answer – In all my experience I have never seen a thing of that kind. I have never seen the tie-bar break and then the box-bolt shear off. When you disconnect the tie-bar from the bottom of the box it released the shearing to a certain extent, because it leaves that and the weight on there has a tendency to cock that box up, and break the bars, but as long as you hold the box perfectly level then the shearing is greater.

Q. Could you look at the piece of box-bolt I hand you, and say whether that was broken off or sheared off? Answer – That is a break.

Q. Will you tell me whether the piece of column-bolt I hand you was broken off? Answer – That is a break

Q. Both are breaks? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Could you tell whether they are fresh breaks or not? I mean whether it is a break of good sound metal? Answer – I would say that they were at the time they were broken, yes, sir, both of them.

Q. Mr. Puckett, did you see the arch-bar there that day? I think you said you saw a portion of it. Answer – Do you mean the piece?

Q. Yes. Answer – No, sir; the piece that was broken off and gone I did not see.

Q. But you saw the piece that remained on the truck? Answer – Yes, sir, just as much as is on the model.

Q. That was broken? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Wasn’t it broken right through the center of the column-bolt hole, I reckon you would call it? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. It was? Answer – Somewhere near the center, but it whetted off a wedge shape, just the bottom of that tie-strap that is nearly to a point.

Q. If a strain were pit upon the box-bolt, or there was a shearing effect there, before the box-bolt would break or be sheared, would it not create some elongation in the box-bolt holes. Answer – Do you mean just the pressure of it>

Q. The shearing of it? Answer – Just to take a round hole and put the bolt in there and shear it off, is that what you mean.

Q. Yes, sir. Answer – It would not all the way through. It might the top edge, but all the way through the hole it would not have any effect. As I say, where you push it very hard, where they are both the same metal, it might turn the edge a little, but not enough to call it an elongated hole.

Q. Did you measure the holes in the arch-bars of this truck? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. How were they? Answer – They were elongated holes; that is, they were elongated one-eighth of an inch.

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