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Railroads: Sources for Historical Research

Accidents & Safety

The Wreck on the Baltimore and Ohio Road, Washington, D.C. - from a photograph by Bell, 1887. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

A primary concern for commercial and passenger rail throughout its history has been the safe and expedient movement of passengers and freight. Accidents of any type would injure and harm many people but would also cause destruction of goods and cost the railways loss of revenue or increased expense.

Because lives were impacted and a large part of the country's economy relied upon the railroads, the United States Interstate Commerce Commission and the United States Bureau of Safety published annual reports and undertook investigation and analysis of railroad accidents in an effort to determine the cause and ways to prevent future mishaps.

This list of resources is not meant to be all inclusive, but to provide a sampling of the information available relating to accident statistics and safety. The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.