Illinois Central Commuter Train Crash

Thirty-nine people were killed and more than 200 injured Monday when an electric commuter train that was trying to back up after apparently overshooting a station was rammed from behind by another during the morning rush hour authorities said.

Hospitals said some of the injured were in serious condition.

It was the worst railroad accident in the United States in nearly 22 years.

As the toll of dead mounted, firemen worked to free passengers from the twisted wreckage. Their screams were heard above the noises of torches and wrecking bars.

The crash occurred on a flat stretch of land near the 27th street platform of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, which transports about 35,000 commuters daily between the city and suburbs to the south. One of the trains had four cars; the other six.

A decade of serious transportation accidents started with this accident. 45 persons were killed and 332 injured when an Illinois Central Gulf commuter train overshot Chicago's 27th Street Station, backed up and was hit from behind by a fast moving train. The rear train was an older single level train which completely demolished the rear half of the rear car of the bilevel train in front.

The official report blamed this accident on a long chain of minor events, omissions by well intended persons and seemingly bad luck. Contributing causes included: an engineer new to the run who overshot the station by a wide margin, the conductor of the first train and both engineers who may have failed to follow proper procedures, ambiguous and poorly explained procedures, the following train was going a little fast, one train did not have a speedometer and the other speedometer malfunctioned, the morning was overcast and visibility poor, the trains were hard to see because the ends were painted black, signals were hard to see and were either misunderstood or the procedures poorly designed, the crash protection on the newer bilevel train was poorly designed and/or poorly welded.