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Railroad Accident Reports

This summary describes selected records of the Interstate Commerce Commission (Record Group 134), the Federal Railroad Administration (Record Group 399), and selected records of the U.S. Railroad Administration (Record Group 14) in the custody of the Civilian Records Staff, National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740, telephone 301-837-3480.

Records of the Interstate Commerce Commission

The Railroad Accident Investigation Reports, 1911-63, (Boxes 1-10, location: 570/83/18/2-3) in the records of the Section of Railroad Safety, Bureau of Safety, consist of the official file copies of carrier accident investigation reports. These reports are required by the Accident Reports Act of May 6, 1910. The records are arranged in report number order.

Also of interest are the Medal of Honor Case Files, 1905-55, (Boxes 34, 1-2, location: 570/83/1) in the records of the Medals of Honor Committee, Bureau of Safety. These records document application and candidacy procedures for Medals of Honor recipients. These awards were created in 1905 to honor persons endangering their lives by saving or try to save others in a rail carrier wreck, disaster, or serious accident, or who endeavored to prevent such an incident. The Medals of Honor, stamped at the U.S. Mint, are accompanied by letters of transmittal from the President. A folder list is available for this series.

These records include affidavits, investigative reports; eye-witness accounts; and newspaper clippings of the incident; agency commentaries on the case and an agency recommendation for or against an award; copies of Medals of Honor regulations or guidelines; requests for a presidential letter of transmittal; a letter of announcement to the recipient or to survivors; and a press release.

Records of the Federal Railroad Administration

There are several series of railroad accident reports dating from 1954-84. Included are two series of published accident report summaries. The Reports of Investigations of Railroad Accidents, 1954-64 (Boxes 1-4, location: 530/32/43/3-4) and the Published Accident Reports, 1947-60 (1 Box, location: 530/32/43/4) are several page printed summaries, prepared by the ICC, which sometimes include copies of photographs. Both series are arranged by accident report number.

The Railroad Accident Investigation Jackets, 1969-71 (Boxes 1-5, location: 530/32/43/5-6) are case files compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board. They are arranged by case file number. Included are correspondence, memoranda, reports, testimony, exhibits, photographs, diagrams, railroad timetables, and related materials.

By far the largest series is the Accident Investigation Report Files, 1969-84 (Boxes 1-106, location: 530/32/43/7-48/7). These records are arranged chronologically using an alpha-numeric scheme, i.e. A-1-72. These records are case files containing similar materials to the Railroad Accident Investigation Jackets. Also included in these files are the Railroad Employee Accident Investigations (FE). A folder list is available for this series.

Records of the U.S. Railroad Administration

The Subject Classified General File of the Director General, 1918-27 (Entry 1) includes general information concerning railroad accidents in file designations A1 (Accidents, Prevention of), A4 (Accidents, Train), and A5 (Accidents, Personal). This file is indexed by the Index to Subject Classified General File of the Director General, 1918-27 (Entry 2) which is arranged alphabetically by subject, name of correspondent, and governmental agency.

The General File of the General Counsel, 1918-37 (Entry 44) also contains general information concerning railroad accidents. This series is arranged numerically by file number and is indexed by the Index to the General File of the General Counsel, 1918-37 (Entry 45) which is arranged alphabetically by subject and name of firm or individual.

All of the above series are located at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Other Sources

  • The California State Railroad Museum, 111 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, telephone 916-323-8073, has copies of the published ICC railroad accident reports dating from approximately 1918-1960.
  • The ICC numbered railroad accident reports, dating 1911-66, are also on-line at http://specialcollection.dotlibrary.dot.gov. This is the address of the U.S. Department of Transportation Library web site. You can search for individual reports on the site.
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