Prince William County Virginia Clerk’s Loose Papers


The Court: Can you gratify my friend, Mr. Hall, and answer that question. Witness



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The Court: Can you gratify my friend, Mr. Hall, and answer that question.

Witness: If your Honor will do so, I would like to have the question read again.

Note: The answer and question above are read.

The Court: He wants to know how did this happen to break if they were all in the same condition,

and the others did not break. Why didn’t the others break there, he wants to know, if you can state it? Answer – I will not undertake to give a definite answer to that, because I can’t. Q. You understand that yur testimony is limited to the condition of the track of the Southern Railway half a mile south of Bristow Station to the point of the accident, do you not? Answer – Yes, sir.



The Court: I only put it at that point because of this gentleman; this gentleman has put it directly

at Bristow grounds.



Witness: Yes, sir, it was a good deal worse right through the station grounds.

The Court: I will put it a mile, if you want.

Mr. Browning: We prefer to have it.

Mr. Hall: We object twice as much.

The Court: My recollection is that Mr. Hyde stated that he estimated from his house to the station

is 600 yards, and then to the accident is 300 yards, which made it 900 yards.



The Court: Q. The track that you said was so defective was at the Bristow Station? Answer –

Yes, sir. From the cross-over near the station down to the point of accident is the worst.



The Court: With that, it eliminates Mr. Hall’s objection.

Mr. Hall: His direct testimony was that this tie-bar was the first to fall by running over the rough

road, and I want to know what track he said.



The Court: I understood him to say that the roughest was just north of Bristow Station. I think

from the evidence that he said that he found those pieces is, I imagine, were they located the probability of break.



Mr. Hall: Q. Now, Mr. Flanagan, as an expert in your line, are you willing to tell this jury that

you believe that a tie-bar in good and proper condition, properly bolted with column-bolts and box-bolts, would be likely to break in passing over a choppy track, to put it within the limit of one mile in extent – I ask you are you willing to tell the jury, your opinion as an expert, that a perfectly good tie-bar would be broken by passing over one mile of choppy track, in the condition that you have described it.



Mr. Browning: One he said would be broken, and the other likely; which do you ask.

Mr. Hall: Either one that he wishes to elect.

Witness: I will say that this is a type of failure that does not occur very often, but I think it is

entirely likely that it would or might occur the result of going over that much of extremely rough track.



By Mr. Hall:

Q. Have you ever made any complaint of any kind whatsoever to the Southern Railway of any defect in that track, either before or after the accident? Answer – It is not in my line to make a complaint, and I have not.

Q. Do you know of any complaint ever having been made to the Southern Railway of that track? Answer – Personally I don’t know of any recent complaint, but there may have been recent complaint, but it would not have come through my department.

Q. And you don’t know of any? Answer – Personally I don’t know of any complaint just previous to the accident.

Q. Do you know when, for the first time, it was suggested that a choppy track might have caused this accident? Answer – It was suggested on the morning that I looked over it, on the morning of February 24th

Q. It was not suggested then to any of the Southern Railway people, was it. Answer – No, we did not discuss those conditions with the Southern Railway people, and none of them were with me at that time.

Q. You have had these bolts in your possession since the accident? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. When you were called upon to produce those bolts at the arbitration, why didn’t you produce them? (Objected to. Question withdrawn)

Q. I believe you said on direct examination that from the marks you discover on those ties, the tie-bar was dragging for some distance? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. As the results of the tie-bar dragging, it caught in a frog, did you say, or the load was so great that it pushed the truck down, and the column-bolt first struck in the frog? Answer – Not the result of the tie-bar dragging, but the result of the tie-bar having broken, the truck sprung and allowed this column-bolt to come down low enough to touch in the track.

Q. The first thing to hit any obstruction was the column-bolt; is that correct? Answer – The nut of the column-bolt.

Q. Did that hit the track before the tie-bar, or after the tie-bar, in your judgment? Answer – In my judgment it hit the track before the tie-bar.

Q. And then the truck was forced lower down still by the pressure, and the box-bolts were they sheared off next? Answer – The truck was forced down still lower by the pressure, but the box-bolts didn’t shear off or break off until they had gotten within 75 feet of the point where the derailment occurred. The box-bolts were holding the tie-bar in place, which was dragging on the ties.

Q. Then the actual cause of that derailment, the thing that actually threw the car off the track, was either one of two things: The breaking of the tie-bar, or, as Mr. Puckett says in his opinion, the shearing of the box-bolts; is that correct? Answer – I don’t think, if your Honor will permit me, that your question is one I can answer exactly that will be a satisfactory answer. That is the first mechanical defect to develop, was the breaking of the tie-bar.

Q. That was not an answer to my question, and if you can’t answer it, you can say so, and I will try to put it again so you may be able to answer it? Answer – I will be glad to answer it if I can make a direct reply.

Q. I say the actual physical cause of this wreck was one of two things: The breaking of the tie-bar, with the consequences you have described, or the shearing of the box-bolts, as Mr. Puckett testified, producing a shearing motion, which you say you don’t think could happen. Do you get my question? Answer – I don’t think that the actual cause of this derailment was the failing of either of these parts that you mentioned first. I think the actual cause of it was the rough track.

Q. Well, now, we are talking about not what you think, but I am talking about what you can see/ Answer me this question: So far as you know (not what you think) this piece which I hold in my hand, which you identify as the column-bolt of that car, was the first piece of iron to strike? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. The striking of this column-bolt, with certain other consequences you have described, caused the derailment of that train, did it not? Answer – Your Honor, I think his question is misleading. He is trying to make me say that the failure of this mechanical part is directly responsible for the derailment. I will say I don’t think that it was.



The Court: Mr. Hall, of course, would not intentionally – if you can’t answer the question it this

way, and give the facts, that I don’t think a mechanical defect is primarily responsible for this break-down, but I do think the defects in the track caused the mechanical defect to develop, and that the tie-bar is the first mechanical defect to develop.



By Mr. Hall:

Q. I want to ask, after having made that full explanation you can say that this piece of column-bolt which I hold in my hand was not the first physical visible part of the C&O equipment which came in contact with the Southern Railway rails or tracks, or any other part? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. And whether or not the contact of this nut, with the subsequent consequences you have described, did not result in the derailment – so far as you know, now, Mr. Flanagan? I am not asking you what you think, but so far as the physical knowledge is here, was not that the first physical evidence which resulted in that wreck, according to your own theory? Answer – According to my own theory, that is the first visible evidence in the mechanical line.

Q. That is all? Answer – Will your Honor permit me to go a step further? Our knowledge of mechanical conditions of the construction of that truck teaches us to know positively, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that that nut could not have been down low enough to have struck the frog of that switch unless the tie-bar had been broken.

Q. and you think the tie-bar was broken by reason of some defect in the track? Answer – I do.

Q. And just where did you say that tie-bar was broken? About 75 feet, as I understand you, south of where the wreck occurred? Answer – No, I didn’t.

Q. Let us get the distance? Answer – The tie-bar is obliged to have been broken before you pass the frog at Bristow Station.

Q. But it did not break off for sometime after? Answer – No, sir, it didn’t lose off the box.

Q. You said you first found the column-bolt nut somewhere near the frog, just south of the bridge. Answer – Not somewhere near the frog, but against the heel or in the prong of the frog, just south of Bristow Station – just north of Bristow Station.

Q. And after you had passed Bristow Station. Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. And how far is that frog north of Bristow Station? Answer – I don’t think I could give an accurate estimate of that distance, but it is only a short distance north.

Q. The column-bolt nut, where did you find it? Answer – Right in the prong of this frog here (indicating at No. 10 turnout)

Q. The box-bolt you found where? Answer – In the prong of the frog immediately north of the public road crossing at Bristow Station. The box-bolt nut was found about 75 feet south of this frog here, where the derailment occurred, - this frog to the switch leading into the coal trestle.

Mr. Mackey: Marked No.10 turnout on the map? Answer – Yes, sir, and it is marked No. 10 up

there, too, is the reason I changed that. I don’t know of any equipment found there, but Mr. Hudson told me he found the box-bolts near this frog to the switch leading into the coal trestle.



By Mr. Hall:

Q. And the tie-plate was found where? Answer – The tie-plate was found very near the point where I found the box-bolt nut.

Q. Near the coal trestle? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. If then, according to your theory, the column-bolt nut was found in the frog north of Bristow Station, how do you reconcile that with the testimony in this case of five witnesses that they saw fire flying from that car when it passed Bristow Station. Answer – I don’t know that I should try to reconcile that with the statement of these gentlemen, but I can say with frankness that to the best of my knowledge and belief that there was nothing hanging down from our cars which should have made any fire fly along at that point. It is entirely likely that fire might have been flying from the brake shoes, if the brake was applied at that moment. That being a descending grade, brakes, I understand, are generally applied at that point.

Q. You said those holes in the arch-bars were elongated to some slight extent; is that correct? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. You said that it did not exceed more than 1/32 of an inch? Answer – In accordance with my observation I think it was about 1/32 and certainly not more than 1/16.

Q. Did you measure those with calipers? Answer – No.

Q. Did you guess at it? Answer – I didn’t guess at it, but I think I can easily tell with my eye whether a hole is 1/8 inch round.

Q. You think that with your eye you can tell whether those holes were between 1/16 and 1/32, but you don’t think Mr. Puckett could measure the thickness of an arch-bar except on the circumference? Answer – To the best of my knowledge and belief there has not been such question.

Q. Didn’t you testify on the direct examination that the arch-bar hole was 1 5/16 inches through, that it could not be measured at the surface except with the carpenter rule? Answer – I said that it could not be measured except at the surface with a carpenter’s rule, but you can’t measure it down in the center of the hole with a rule, because you could not get the rule in there. The only way to measure the diameter of a hole is to put something in there like calipers that will gauge it. You can measure it, but not the center.

Q. You could not measure with a rule, but you can measure a circular hole with your eye, and tell whether it is 1/16 or 1/32 out of a true circle; is that correct? Answer – I think so with my eye I can tell if the hole is 1/16 out of round easily.

Q. But yet you could not measure with a rule an arch-bar hole, with a rule marked off in 1/32 of an inch, whether it was one and a quarter or one and a half of an inch? Answer – I could measure at the surface, but you could not measure it all the way through the bar.

Q. What do you mean, that it would be more on one side than on the other? Answer – I mean an arch-bar might have been sprung or stretched in such way that the hole might have been larger on one side than the other, and there would have been a different size in the center from it would have been on either side of the bar.

Q. We are talking about the thickness of the bar? Answer – I understand that. I didn’t say the edges, but the thickness.

Q. That is all we want to know, is, the thickness. If a gentleman measured it, and said it was an inch and a quarter with a carpenter’s rule, it was not an exact measurement? Answer – No, sir. I said any mechanic can take a rule and tell whether a bar is an inch and a quarter.

Q. You say you can measure it and tell accurately whether an arch-bar is an inch and a quarter? Answer – That is the only time I have ever had an opportunity to see it. I say you can measure the thickness of an arch-bar with a rule.


J. W. Meredith, another witness called on behalf of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company, being duly sworn, testified as follows:
By Mr. Browning:

Q. Mr. Meredith what is your age? Answer – Fifty-eight.

Q. What position do you occupy, if any, with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company? Answer – I am General Inspector of track of the Chesapeake & Ohio.

Q. What previous positions, if any, have you held with the company? Answer – I began as a track laborer, and then I was made track foreman, work-train conductor, supervisor of tracks and general inspector of tracks.

Q. How long have you been general inspector of tracks, Mr. Meredith? Answer – Since January 1912

Q. How long were you track foreman? Answer – Track laborer four years and eight months; track foreman about seven years, or something like that, or eight years. In 1882 I was made supervisor of track, and remained supervisor of track until January, 1912.

Q. You were supervisor of track twenty years then? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Mr. Meredith, did you go down to the accident on the 23rd of February, 1915, at Bristow? Answer – I went there on March 3, 1915.

Q. Did you make any examination of the tracks there? If so, tell us what examination you made, and what you found? Answer – Do you want me to begin telling where I got off the train?

Q. Yes. Answer – I got off the train at Nokesville, and walked continuously – I walked to the point.



The Court: Commence describing the tracks half a mile south of Bristow Station, if you please.

Answer – I was on the ground at Bristow on March 3rd, north and south of that station ---



Mr. Hall: We want to object to any evidence of the track on March 3rd unless it is proven that the

conditions were the same on March 3rd as on February 23rd , when the accident happened. In view of the evidence by a dozen witnesses that there had been a heavy rain after the accident, there should be some qualification.



The Court: Mr. Meredith, would the fact of a very heavy rain change the physical condition of

that track so that it would not be in the same condition on the 3rd day of March as it was on the 23rd day of February? Answer – I hardly think so. Q. Could you say whether there had been any change made in that track shortly before you came there? Was there anything to indicate that it had been changed in any way? Answer – At the point of the accident? Q. I do not mean that, but south of Bristow Station, and from Bristow Station down to the point of accident? Answer – No, sir, no fresh work. Q. You could not say that there had been no change? Answer – No, sir. Q. Could you tell, by looking at it, that it had not been affected by rains, or storms, or washouts? Answer – I think so. Q. You can testify that there had not been any change in the track from the 23rd of February up to the time you looked at it? Answer – I think I can say clearly in eight days there had been no change so far as weather is concerned.



The Court: You make objection, and I over-rule it.

Mr. Hall: And we note an exception.

Mr. Browning: Will you tell the jury what condition you found the track in, the northbound or

eastern track, from Bristow Station to a point one half mile south of Bristow Station? Answer – I found what we consider very choppy track – low joints and low places.



The Court: Had the condition of those joints been brought about by rain? Answer – No, sir, I

don’t think so. I think it was not. Some of it probably was, but not much of it, as a good deal of it was on fills and places that rains did not affect so much. Q. If they had affected it – did you say rain did effect it? Answer – I say it did not affect it very materially so you could tell anything that would do much damage to it.



Mr. Hall: He now qualifies it.

The Court: I understand you to say, in the first instance, that you could tell, by looking at it, that

the physical condition of the track had not been altered or changed within ten days or a week from the effect of the rain; do you still adhere to that? Answer – Yes, sir. Q. You are absolutely certain? Answer – Yes, sir.



The Court: Go ahead.

By Mr. Browning:

Q. You started, Mr. Meredith, to describe the condition of that track from Bristow Station to a point one half mile south of Bristow Station; you started to describe it, and I will ask you to continue. Answer – It was low joints and low places, and what we would consider very choppy track. It was rough track.

Q. Will you state whether or not that track was up to standard? Answer – Why, no, sir, not by any means.

Q. What do you mean by low joints and low places and choppy track, Mr. Meredith? Answer – I mean just like holes in a country road. I reckon that would be about as easy way as I could explain it. It was poor surface in the track, as we call it.

Q. Explain a little more in detail what are low joints? Answer – Low joints are placed that have settled from probably the surface over them having a joint there. A joint is always weaker than the center of a rail, or the quarter of a rail, and they become low, and have to be constantly picked up. Centers are sometimes so, from causes; for instance, putting in ties and taking the general surface will cause low places. A new tie will settle while an old tie, a tie on the old firm bed will stand fast.

Q. Now, from Bristow Station to the bridge, was the point of accident pointed out to you? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. What was the condition from Bristow to the point of the accident? Had there been any track work done along there? Answer – Just south of the bridge they were working on it the day I was there, and north of the bridge – and south of the bridge. The force seemed to be divided.

Mr. Keith: We object. As a matter of fact, it is not proper to go into any change of condition after.

The Court: I think you are right about that, but I don’t think it would hurt you. If they were

working on it, I don’t suppose that, that would do any harm.



Mr. Mackey: They were changing the conditions after the accident

Mr. Browning: I am simply not going to question him about the parts that they had changed.

The Court: The jury will understand you must not consider any changes made after the accident

or to that time.



Mr. Browning: Q. Where any change had been made, of course you could not determine what its

previous condition was, but from Bristow down to the point where they were working, what was the condition of the track?



Mr. Hall: He had just testified that there had been no change, and now he comes and says that

they were working on the track between Bristow Station and the bridge. There have been

changes in two particulars since he began to testify.

Mr. Browning: I am now picking up the portion from Bristow Station down to the point where

the track had been worked.



The Court: Mr. Meredith, confine your evidence to the portion of the track you are able to testify

was in the same condition as on the evening of the 23rd of February. If you have any doubt about it, refer to no track except such track as you are willing to testify positively as to the exact condition it was in on the 23rd of February.



Witness: I am talking from Bristow Station to the bridge, am I?

Mr. Browning:

Q. How far south of the bridge had this force gotten? Answer – I would say four or five and maybe six rail lengths south of the bridge, and some more of them north of the bridge.

Q. In what direction were they coming – south? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. From Bristow Station down to that point (this point four or five rails, or how far south they had worked), what was the condition of the track? Answer – The track was a little choppy, but better than it was south of Bristow Station.

Q. What is the effect, Mr. Meredith, of the character of track that you saw from south of Bristow Station upon a loaded freight car, if any, if you know? Answer – It has this very springy shock or springy effect on a heavy loaded car, or on any loaded car.

Q. What has that a tendency to do, if anything, to the car, if you know, or equipment? Answer – I think the shock has a tendency to cripple the truck or the car in one way or another from the blow, from the constant springing.

Q. Do you know the function of a tie-bar? (Pause) Do you know what the purpose of a tie-bar is on a brake? Answer – A tie-bar on a brake?

Q. A tie-bar on a truck, I mean to say? Answer – Yes, sir, I have seen many a one.



Mr. Keith: Ask if he has mechanical knowledge, because he might have seen a great many

without knowing about it.



By Mr. Browning: I thought his experience was sufficient to qualify him.

Q. What has been your experience with freight cars? Answer – I have been around them, and I have been with them, and ran a work train, as I told you, and all those kinds of things. I don’t know as I could just explain very fully just what my experience has been with them, and yet I don’t know that I understand your question exactly.

Q. In wrecks on the C&O Railway line, have you any duties? Answer – Yes, sir. For twenty yers I went to all wrecks on my division.

Q. You went to them for what purpose, and with what duty? Answer – I went there as supervisor of track to repair the track, and to help determine the cause of the accident, and so on.

Q. And, in your position as inspector of tracks, state how much you come in contact with the equipment of the road the rolling stock? Answer – But very little. I have very little to do with the rolling stock of the road. I am in the maintenance of way department exclusively, and have very little to do with the rolling stock – practically nothing, only when we have derailment or trouble.

Q. Does your position, in carrying out your duties as inspector of tracks, do you make any provision, or not, concerning rolling stock? Answer – No, sir.

Q. What portion of that track, Mr. Meredith, south of the station, or between the point where that force had worked south of the bridge, up to a point half mile south of Bristow Station, was the worst? Answer – The south of the station and through the station grounds through the cross-over and in the station grounds, and so on.



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