BALTIMORE, OCT. 22 -- A former Conrail brakeman told a grand jury that he and the engineer devised a cover story to tell investigators after smoking marijuana shortly before a January collision with an Amtrak train that killed 16 people, according to published reports.

An additional 175 people were injured when the Conrail train skidded through a closed switch and into the path of an Amtrak passenger train in the worst crash in Amtrak history.

Edward Cromwell testified in April that he and engineer Ricky L. Gates devised a story to tell National Transportation Safety Board investigators, the reports said, quoting unidentified sources.

The report first appeared in a news release issued by Baltimore magazine that said the article would appear in its November issue. The Baltimore Sun had a similar story in Wednesday's editions, also quoting unidentified sources.

Gates was indicted in May on 16 counts of manslaughter by locomotive stemming from the crash near Chase. His trial is scheduled to begin in February.

Cromwell, who was not charged, testified under a grant of immunity before the Baltimore County grand jury, the reports said. The grand jury reportedly indicted Gates a week after hearing his April testimony.

One source said that Cromwell told the grand jury that Gates came to his house before the two were to give their statements and told him to "memorize" a version of the story that Gates had prepared.

The safety board's rail accident investigator, John Rehor, who took both statements, said he was unaware of the claims in Cromwell's grand jury testimony, but added: "Whether they got together and worked out their story, I don't think you have to be a genius to figure that out."

The reports quoted sources as saying Cromwell told the grand jury that he and Gates shared at least one marijuana cigarette shortly before the crash.

Traces of marijuana showed up in blood and urine samples taken from both men after the accident, and additional tests showed traces of the hallucinogenic drug PCP in Cromwell's urine.

However, experts said when the results were released that they were unable to pinpoint the time the drugs were taken or whether the drugs affected the workers' systems at the time of the crash.