There have been four passenger fatal accidents on the South Shore Line. June 19, 1909, April 10, 1926, January 18, 1993, and June 18, 1998,
killing 23 passengers. Here is a brief summary of known accidents on the line ...
April 12, 1909
When the line opened July 1, 1908 there were no signals. Trains ran based on schedule and meet points were scheduled where the first train to arrive was to wait for the train it was scheduled to meet. On April 12, 1909 westbound train No. 30 overran a meet point at Clark, just west of Gary and collided head on with train No. 33 at Cavanaugh injuring 47 persons.
June 19, 1909
Eastbound train No. 59 overran a meet point at Wilson and collided head on with westbound train No. 58 at Shadyside, killing 12 and injuring 52. The combined injury and damage claims from these two accidents led to a change in management for the railroad plus the installation of automated signals.
April 10, 1926
Eastbound train No. 63 and westbound train No. 64 collided on a gauntlet section crossing the bridge over the E.J.& E. about four miles west of Gary. A relay in the automatic signaling failed giving a false proceed signal to the westbound train. One passenger was killed, eleven other passengers and four employees were injured. In post accident testing the relay was found to hold open (triggering the wrong indication) for more than an hour after being deenergized. As the relay contacts fell there was also a period of time with a dark indication. In addition to the signal problem, it was found that both trains were exceeding the railroad's 15 MPH speed limit for the gauntlet section. (It is estimated that both trains were traveling at 15 MPH at the time of impact, despite braking efforts.)
ICC Report (375k PDF)
January 1, 1928
Eastbound train No. 73 collided into the rear of Eastbound train No. 17 at Parsons, Illinois (2.2 miles east of Kensington, 900ft east of 130th St.) pushing it into the rear of Eastbound train No. 71 which was stopped at Parsons with motor problems. Train 17 was having problems of it's own when it pulled up behind Train 71. The motorman of Train 73 was killed and 48 passengers were injured. The impact speed was estimated at between 15 and 50 MPH. Train 17 was being flag protected at the time of the accident. There were no automated block signals in place.
ICC Report (399k PDF)
January 23, 1943 - Grade Crossing
Eastbound train No. 21 struck a southbound double trailer gasoline truck that was driven past the flashing crossing lights at State Highway 912 in Hammond, Indiana. The motorman was killed and five others on the train were injured.
ICC Report (504k PDF)
February 17, 1947 - Grade Crossing
Westbound train No. 26 struck a bus owned by C.S.S.& S.B. with 26 maintenance of way employees as passengers at Andry Rd. Twelve bus passengers and the driver of the bus were killed, the 14 other bus passengers, two train passengers and two train service employees were injured. The train was traveling at an estimated speed of 60 MPH at the time of the accident. The collision rendered the train air brake system inoperative. The train was stopped using the hand brake after traveling 4,294ft beyond the crossing.
ICC Report (401k PDF)
March 4, 1952
Eastbound train No. 29 collided with a parked equipment train and terminated Eastbound train No. 203 at Gary station. The accident occurred due to the motorman's failure to properly read the approach signal. A misaligned switch directed the train to the yard instead of the eastbound through track. 180 passengers, 3 employees not on duty, 1 trainmaster and 5 train service employees were injured.
ICC Report (726k PDF)
April 25, 1954
Illinois Central southbound train No. 201 collided with C.S.S.& S.B. southbound train No. 901 as 901 was leaving Van Buren station in Chicago. Train 901 was traveling at 4 MPH and Train 201 was traveling at 10 MPH. 99 passengers and three employees were injured. The engineer of train 201 failed to stop not less than 100ft of a standing train in violation of the rules in effect for that section of track.
ICC Report (319k PDF)
April 14, 1967 - Brake Failure
Eastbound train No. 29 collided with six automobiles along LaSalle St in South Bend and derailed at the end of the line. The train was estimated as going 30-40 MPH at the time of the collisions. As Train 29 entered South Bend at Bendix it was traveling 70 MPH. When the engineer attempted to slow the train the brakes failed. While passing through the curves east of Bendix the pantographs fouled the catenary and power was lost (preventing use of the air compressor to recharge the brakes as well as reversing power to slow the train). The hand brake on the car was also found to be inoperative. The engineer, conductor, eight passengers and seven automobile passengers were injured. (A similar brake failure accident occurred one week later.) The failure of the brakes on train 29 was traced back to striking a 1/4" steel cable at Olive, 8.1 miles west of Bendix.
Safety Board Report (346k PDF)
January 21, 1985
A few days of cold weather caused major damage to the line in Gary between Clark and Gary Metro Center. After some repairs the South Shore was left with the westbound track out of service and the eastbound track had a "drop pan" area with a signal in it. Trains were required to drop their pantographs and coast past the damaged section of catenary. Westbound trains had no signal on this track, eastbound trains that stopped at the signal would not be able to restart and would have required assistance from a diesel to get started again. While the eastbound train in this accident did pass a red signal without stopping or reporting it, the NTSB placed primary blame for this accident on the dispatcher for not controlling his trains. He gave permission for the westbound train to enter the eastbound track without verifying the location of the eastbound train that was scheduled to be at the same station at the same time. The collision occurred 1490 ft west of the west end of the Gary Metro Center platform.
79 passengers, 6 crew members and 2 off-duty crew employees were injured in the collision. Damages were estimated to be $2.4 million dollars. The dispatcher was demoted to engineer, the three man crew of one train were dismissed for violating rules.
(Train 123 eastbound led by car 17, Train 218 westbound led by car 26. Both cars were replaced in 1992. Cars 1, 9, 21 and 27 were also involved.)
NTSB Report (3.23m PDF)
October 30, 1986
A driver of a flatbed truck apparently ignored flashing warning lights and drove around a lowered crossing gate at a crossing in Gary injuring 32 on a train. (Car 37 was damaged in this accident and was later repaired.)
April 1, 1987
The engineer of a Chicago South Shore and South Bend passenger train was killed and four people suffered minor injuries when the lead car of the train rammed a portion of an empty coal car that rolled down a siding and partially blocked the South Shore line near Burnham. Rust on the rail was given credit for preventing a 'red' signal from being displayed to the oncoming train. (Car 41, the third car replaced in 1993, was likely the lead car involved in this accident.)
January 18, 1993
In the first passenger fatal accident since 1926, Train 7 from Chicago ran a red signal on the western approach to the gauntlet bridge, went into emergency stop, and paused for 5 to 30 seconds before being hit by Train 12 from South Bend. The lead cars, Car 27 eastbound and Car 36 westbound, sliced into each other killing 7 passengers, including a 10 year old boy. 95 people were injured. The NTSB held both engineers at fault, Train 7 for running the red light and Train 12 for failing to react.
A second bridge was added at the site in 1997 and the gauntlet is no longer in operation. The engineer of Train 7 was the dispatcher in the 1985 accident. NO CRIMINAL CHARGES WERE FILED, but both engineers were fired. Damages were estimated at $854,000.
(Cars 27 and 36 were destroyed. These cars were rebuilt in 2001. Cars 14, 16 and 31 were also involved.)
(Photograph of the gauntlet bridge in 1998)
NTSB Report (1.46m PDF)
June 18, 1998
The first train of the day, Train 102 from Michigan City to Chicago, collided with a steel roll trailer left parked over the South Shore line while the driver waited for a passing train on the parallel Conrail line at Midwest Steel's main entrance. The NTSB estimated that the engineer had less than 6 seconds to react. Three passengers, including an off-duty South Shore employee, were crushed as the steel roll pushed through the first car, nearly reaching the center. Five others were injured of the 19 on the train that morning. Damages were estimated at $886,000.
The truck driver was cited for 15 violations, including being 70,000 pounds overweight, having malfunctioning brakes, and a trucker's log that was nearly a month out of date. He also tested positive for marijuana. The Federal Railroad Administration reduced rail speeds from 65mph to 40mph within 1.5mi of the crossings and banned trucks over 55ft long from crossing the rails. An overpass bridge was built and Midwest's grade crossings were closed.
(Train 102 was led by car 11 which was destroyed. This car was rebuilt in 2001. Car 45 was the second car of the train.)
(Photograph of the crossing and damaged car in 1998)
NTSB Report (1.16m PDF)
Damage photos on flicker: 1 2
Railroad Special Investigation Report
On the day of the June 18th accident Senator Richard Lugar and Congressman Peter J. Visclosky wrote a letter to the NTSB chairman citing three previous accidents and expressing concern over the safety of operations at NICTD. The NTSB produced a detailed report on the safety of NICTD grade crossings, safety programs and corporate safety culture.
NTSB Special Report (449k PDF)
September 2, 2006
"Train 600 was to meet a Eastbound CSS freight at Tamarack. Back when they were still under ABS and spring switches all WB moves headed into the siding. Train 600 went into the siding while the freight held the main. 600's engineer thought that the freight was the usual short train and figured it would clear the signal before he got there, so they started to pick up speed (On an approach signal!) After crossing Brown Road they put the train into emergency before crashing into the side of the freight train and ripping open a covered hopper full of sand. The head two cars of 600 (Cars 106 & 17) derailed and almost tipped onto their sides."
Rail Equipment Accident/Incident Report to FRA (19k PDF)