Norwich, CT Train Accident, Jun 1889


Coroner Park's Idea of New Freight Cars Should be Constricted.

NORWICH, Conn., July 2.---Coroner Park has filed another unique verdict in the case of John Pender of New London, a brakeman, who met his death by falling from a car one night last week. After reciting with much particularity the known and supposed circumstances, the coroner continues:

"I find that John Pender's death is directly chargeable to the perilous requirement of brakemen on freight cars as now constructed, in being furnished with a footway of a board or boards from fifteen to twenty inches wide on the top of the cars and being required at all hours, and in all weather, to pass on this narrow footway over cars of different heights to set brakes---in which duty a mis-step, or a slip, sends them to their death---and so an army of our most active young men go yearly to their death, a sacrifice to mammon!

And there was no way to avoid it! I say yes! A thousand times yes! One way may be: Let freight cars be constructed with a short platform at either end, where the brakeman can stand and operate his brake. The construct a walk about a foot wide from and near the brake along the side of the car with an iron rod or rail to prevent falling off, so that a brakeman can start out of the caboose and set his brakes from car to car without peril of life or limb.

Freight cars may average eight feet wide or more, so that such safe walk may reduce the capacity of the car for freight at the most only one-eighth, requiring about nine cars instead of eight for the same capacity of freight and in the same ratio for any train, so that by adding two or more cars to a freight train the lives of brakemen would be as safe as if inside. If greedy stockholders kick at this reduction of capacity, let them kick. The country and humanity will approve. There will be loss of weeping widows and fatherless children to provide for. Let this waste of life be stayed. Let the humane enterprise be entered upon at once, though it takes time to accomplish the mighty change."

The New Haven Evening Register, New Haven, CT 2 Jul 1889