A committee was appointed by the Legislature of Connecticut to examine into the muse of the sad railroad accident at Norwalk, made a report on the subject on the 7th inst. The conclusions of the committee coincide with the views we have taken of the subject, and attribute the cause of that accident more to a bad railroad system than to the inefficiency or bad conduct of any individual connected with the train which was precipitated through the opening of the draw bridge. The committee have acquitted the engineer ot any wilful act in producing the disaster and plainly state that the danger was created in entire conformity to the express orders ol the company. The signal, they believe, was not sufficient, and the train was run at a speed entirely unsafe. The committee in their report also say, the public demand a rate of speed which on the road as originally constructed can scarcely be run with salety. The road was contracted too cheaply to warrant the highest rate o speed,the grades are too heavy, the curves of too small radius, and the bridges are not o as permanent a character as they should be a large outlay has been made for a double track, and still more is needed to remedy many defects in the original construction o the road, which the Committee are informec by the President, the Company now have under consideration. Another cause tending t( produce this and other disasters is, the wanl of a thorough supervision of the road by its officers. So far as the Committee could ascertain, the whole duty of supervision is devolved upon Mr. Whistler, the Superintendent; they have the fullest confidence ir his ability and fidelity, but say that the duties are too great for one man, and thit the personal supervision of the President of tht road would very much tend to insure propel obedience to rules on the part of employes and reduce the chances of disasters. In conclusion the committee expressed the opinion hat the weight of responsibility for the calamity must rest upon the company, for not guarding more securely against the dangers which were known to exist, and which were created by their own ordersagainst the negligence even of their own employees in such a place of danger. They say that cons-idera-;ions of a pecuniary nature should not operate to prevent care. We believe that railroads can be built and ;rains run upon them at a velocity of 80 mile" ner hour with greater sati-ty than they now can on the majority of our railroads, at the rale of 25 miles per hour. But our railroad companies are not blameable altogether lor our present inefficient railroad system. It was difficult, and still is t> obtain heavy subscriptions for the construction of railroads: minied men want a dollar to go larther with u- than a pound in England, henre our cheap railroads. The daily papers of this city have Of.en tboded with editorials and communica tions on the subj ct of railroad management since the Norwalk accident. We have not seen a really sensible article on the subject in one of them; every man seems to have his own favored panacea fsr the prevention of accidents, such as some new way of managing the signals, switches, or something else. The remedy for the evils of railroad accidents is well known to all who are practically acquainted with the subject; it is more money; and although it is very true, as the report of committee says, that the weight of responsibility ior the accident must reston the railroad company, and that considerations of a pecuniary nature should not operate to prevent care, we do say that some of the responsibility must also be thrown upon the people for allowing any railroad of inefficient construction, in fixed and rolling stock to go into operation. Single tracks should not be allowed ; the rails should be heavier and better secured than they are upon any of our railroads; all the tracks should be fenctd in, the bridges should be of the most substantial character, and every measure and means adapted to perfect our railroad system. Every good engineer knows exactly what is wanted and what should be done to make our railroads more safe; we wish that our monied me,;the companies, could be made to feel more deeply on the subject. The New York and New Haven Railroad is under the superintendence ol George W. Whistler, Jr., a very able and competent engineer, nnd so far as public opinion was understood up to the time of the Norwalk calamity, we think it was decidedly in favor ol its general management. We do not altogether agree with the report that the supervision of the president is strictly necessary, as the superintendent is assisted by a number ol subordinates which necessarily leaves him more time to look after the weightier affairs of the road. Neither do we see the force of the clause in the recent bill of the Connecti cut Legislature, which refers to the residence of the president, making it incumbent on him to live in Connecticut. What difference can it make at which end ot the road he may happen to be located. There is something in this which appears unworthy of a legislative body; it looks as if some one had conceived a personal prfjudice against Robt. Schuyler, for it does not seem to be applicable to any other individual acting in a similar capacity. Whether Ro bert Schuyler ought to be president of this particular road is not for us to say, but we can say that he is an able and efficient man and is well acquainted with the railroad interests of the country.
This article was originally published with the title "Reform our Railroad System" in Scientific American 8, 41, 323 (June 1853)