Erie Railroad

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Erie Railroad Company v. Tompkins

That's a world that former men of the Erie Railroad don't want to live in. Wells, who had a habit of saving artifacts destined for the scrap heap over the years, donated the elements of the display, valued in the hundreds of dollars. A maker's plate, steam whistle and fire poker are part of the display. It's very forgotten history, and now it's just buried," Baker said. It recalled the era of steam, when a big beautiful machine could run like a top and make next to zero noise while producing impressive power.

When they're not focused on a particular task at the museum, the Erie campfire men shoot the breeze about anything, ranging from nicknames given to former co-workers usually coinciding with your initials, or an act of deemed stupidity committed , to the sometimes ill-advised orders of management around the yards and shop.

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Wells recalled an occasion when his truck was totaled because a yard-boss miscounted the number of cars in a trainset. However, with the last generation of railroaders "aging out," according to Baker, there are fewer and fewer to tell the tale of Hornell's rightful place in history, as a hub of several divisions for the Erie. It was a very important place for the Erie Railroad. Tarpley, 18 How.


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City of Dubuqe, 1 Wall. See Cheever v. Wilson, 9 Wall. Carson, 19 Wall. Gilmer, U. Northern Trust Co. Osenton, U. See, e. Thus, bills which would abrogate the doctrine of Swift v. Tyson have been introduced. See also Mills, supra, note 4, at ; Dobie, supra, note 6, at ; Frankfurter, supra, note 6, at ; Campbell, supra, note 6, at State statutes on conflicting questions of "general law" have also been suggested. See Heiskell, supra, note 4, at ; Dawson, supra, note 6; Dobie, supra, note 6, at The doctrine has not been without defenders.

Tompkins also contended that the alleged rule of the Falchetti case is not, in any event, applicable here because he was struck at the intersection of the longitudinal pathway and a transverse crossing. The court below found it unnecessary to consider this contention, and we leave the question open.

see url The case presented by the evidence is a simple one. Plaintiff was severely injured in Pennsylvania.


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While walking on defendant's right of way along a much-used path at the end of the crossties of its main track, he came into collision with an open door swinging from the side of a car in a train going in the opposite direction. Having been warned by whistle and headlight, he saw the locomotive [p81] approaching and had time and space enough to step aside and so avoid danger.

To justify his failure to get out of the way, he says that, upon many other occasions he had safely walked there while trains passed. Invoking jurisdiction on the ground of diversity of citizenship, plaintiff, a citizen and resident of Pennsylvania, brought this suit to recover damages against defendant, a New York corporation, in the federal court for the southern district of that State. The issues were whether negligence of defendant was a proximate cause of his injuries and whether negligence of plaintiff contributed. He claimed that, by hauling the car with the open door, defendant violated a duty to him.

The defendant insisted that it violated no duty and that plaintiff's injuries were caused by his own negligence. The jury gave him a verdict on which the trial court entered judgment; the circuit court of appeals affirmed. Defendant maintained, citing Falchetti v. The plaintiff insisted that the Pennsylvania decisions did not establish the rule for which the defendant contended. Upon that issue, the circuit court of appeals said p. We need not go into this matter since the defendant concedes that the great weight of authority in other states is to the contrary.

This concession is fatal to its contention, for upon questions of general law the federal courts are free, in absence of a local statute, to exercise their independent judgment as to what the law is, and it is well settled that the question of the responsibility of a railroad for injuries caused by its servants is one of general law. It also held the question of contributory negligence one for the jury. Defendant's petition for writ of certiorari presented two questions: whether its duty toward plaintiff should have been determined in accordance with the law as found by the highest court of Pennsylvania, and whether the evidence conclusively showed plaintiff guilty of contributory negligence.

Plaintiff contends that, as always heretofore held by this Court, the issues of negligence and contributory negligence are to be determined by general law against which local decisions may not be held conclusive; that defendant relies on a solitary Pennsylvania case of doubtful applicability and that, even if the decisions of the courts of that State were deemed controlling, the same result would have to be reached.

No constitutional question was suggested or argued below or here.

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And as a general rule, this Court will not consider any question not raised below and presented by the petition. Olson v. Johnson v. Manhattan Ry. Gunning v. Cooley, U. Here it does not decide either of the questions presented but, changing the rule of decision in force since the foundation of the Government, remands the case to be adjudged according to a standard never before deemed permissible. Tyson [, 16 Pet. The laws of the several states, except where the Constitution, treaties, or statutes of the United States otherwise require or provide, shall be regarded as rules of decision in trials at common law in the courts of [p83] the United States in cases where they apply.

Expressing the view of all the members of the Court, Mr. Justice Story said p. In the ordinary use of language it will hardly be contended that the decisions of Courts constitute laws.

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They are, at most, only evidence of what the laws are, and not of themselves laws. They are often reexamined, reversed, and qualified by the Courts themselves, whenever they are found to be either defective, or ill-founded, or otherwise incorrect. The laws of a state are more usually understood to mean the rules and enactments promulgated by the legislative authority thereof, or long established local customs having the force of laws.

In all the various cases, which have hitherto come before us for decision, this Court have uniformly supposed that the true interpretation of the thirty-fourth section limited its application to state laws strictly local, that is to say, to the positive statutes of the state, and the construction thereof adopted by the local tribunals, and to rights and titles to things having a permanent locality, such as the rights and titles to real estate, and other matters immovable and intraterritorial in their nature and character.

It never has been supposed by us that the section did apply, or was designed to apply, to questions of a more general nature, not at all dependent upon local statutes or local usages of a fixed and permanent operation, as, for example, to the construction of ordinary contracts or other written instruments, and especially to questions of general commercial law, where the state tribunals are called upon to perform the like functions as ourselves, that is, to ascertain upon general reasoning and legal analogies, what is the true exposition of the contract or instrument, or what is the just rule furnished by the principles of commercial law to govern the case.

And we have not now the slightest difficulty in holding that this section, upon its true intendment and construction, is strictly limited to local statutes and local usages of the character [p84] before stated, and does not extend to contracts and other instruments of a commercial nature, the true interpretation and effect whereof are to be sought not in the decisions of the local tribunals, but in the general principles and doctrines of commercial jurisprudence.

Undoubtedly, the decisions of the local tribunals upon such subjects are entitled to, and will receive, the most deliberate attention and respect of this Court; but they cannot furnish positive rules, or conclusive authority, by which our own judgments are to be bound up and governed. The doctrine of that case has been followed by this Court in an unbroken line of decisions. So far as appears, it was not questioned until more than 50 years later, and then by a single judge.

In that case, Mr. Justice Brewer, speaking for the Court, truly said p. Whatever differences of opinion may have been expressed have not been on the question whether a matter of general law should be settled by the independent judgment of this court, rather than through an adherence to the decisions of the state courts, but upon the other question, whether a given matter is one of local or of general law. And since that decision, the division of opinion in this Court has been one of the same character as it was before. In , Mr. Justice Holmes, speaking for himself and two other Justices, dissented from the holding that a [p85] court of the United States was bound to exercise its own independent judgment in the construction of a conveyance made before the state courts had rendered an authoritative decision as to its meaning and effect.

But that dissent accepted p. Tyson, and insisted p.

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Thereafter, as before, the doctrine was constantly applied. The writer of the dissent, Mr. Justice Holmes, said, however p. I should leave Swift v. Tyson undisturbed, as I indicated in Kuhn v. No more unqualified application of the doctrine can be found than in decisions of this Court speaking through Mr. United Zinc Co. Britt, U. Without in the slightest departing from that doctrine, but implicitly applying it, the strictness of the rule laid down in the Goodman case was somewhat ameliorated by Pokora v.

Whenever possible, consistently with standards sustained by reason and authority constituting the general law, this Court has followed applicable decisions of state courts. Mutual Life Ins. Johnson, U. See Burgess v. Seligman, U. Unquestionably the issues of negligence and contributory negligence upon which decision of this case [p86] depends are questions of general law.