Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: Officials ruled a deadly train crash was caused by workers ignoring a key safety rule

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

The fatal train wreck that killed six employees at Spokane’s Parkwater rail yard a month earlier was caused by a shoddy switching procedure, which allowed a switch engine to use the main line track.

That was the conclusion of the railway inspector for the U.S. Department of Labor. All members of the switch train crew were fired as a result.

The inspector noted that, under the rules, no switch engines were permitted to use the main line track if any first-class train was due within five minutes.

At Parkwater, however, adherence to this rule had grown lax over the years. It had become customary for switch engines to use the main line if a first-class train was delayed. In this case, the first-class (passenger) train was delayed, but not as late as the switch crews thought. The report noted that the engineer of the switch engine told a colleague “he would have time to come back ahead of No. 41, or words to that effect.”

The engineer was wrong, with fatal consequences.

From the fire beat: Mrs. B.L. Davis and her family narrowly escaped injury when their house on East Cleveland Avenue burned down. She was well aware of the irony inherent in the timing.

“Fire Prevention Day, and our house burned down,” she noted sadly. “… Better Homes Week, and we have none to live in.”

Also on this day


1950: U.S. forces cross the 38th parallel and invade North Korea.

1975: The U.S. decides John Lennon won’t be deported due to a U.K. pot conviction.

More from this author