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Chicago Historical Information

1972, October 30: Illinois Central Commuter Train Crash

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.

  National Transportation Safety Board. Railroad Accident Report:   
    Collision of Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Commuter Trains,    
    Chicago, Illinois Oct. 30, 1972. Report # NSTB RAR-73-5. 

Deaths, Disturbances, Disasters and Disorders in Chicago
Compiled by Reference Librarians Ellen O'Brien and Lyle Benedict
Municipal Reference Collection, Chicago Public Library

Last Updated: 01/1997

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