Atlantic City, NJ Electric Train Wreck, Oct 1906 - Fifty Drown
FIFTY DROWNED AS TRAIN SINKS
Cars Jump a Trestle at Atlantic City.
A SCORE JUST ESCAPE
Many Victims Still at Creek's Bottom.
44 BODIES RECOVERED
Pennsylvania Train from Camden Near the Resort When It Plunged Off.
Special to The New York Times.
ATLANTIC CITY, N. J., Oct. 28.---At least fifty persons lost their lives this afternoon when a three-car train of the Pennsylvania Railroad's newly equipped electric service from Camden to this resort plunged into the water from a drawbridge. The exact number of the dead will not be known until to-morrow, when divers are expected to reach the car, now submerged.
The accident occurred at the Thoroughfare, a stream something like the Coney Island Creek at New York's resort, and similarly situated.
Whether the accident resulted from the spreading of rail or from the failure of overlapping rails to meet nicely at the drawbridge has not been determined yet. The latter theory seems to be held by most of those who have looked into the conditions.
Two of the cars of the train lie thirty feet below the surface of the Thoroughfare late to-night, while the third car hangs from the abutment of the bridge, its front end submerged in the swift-running tide.
It seems probable to-night that this is the worst disaster recorded in recent years at least against an Eastern railroad. Penned in the cars, the doors shut, and the vestibules between tightly closed, making escape practically an impossibility, a hundred passengers were bumped and tossed for fifty yards over the ties of the bridge after crossing the draw and then plunged over into the Thoroughfare. Not a soul in the first two cars had the slightest chance to escape.
Standing at the controller of the first car, Walter Scott, the motorman, in a desperate effort to stop his train, plunged to his death. Boxed in on all sides by doors and glass partitions, he saw himself going to his doom. Behind him in the first coach were thirty or more passengers. In the second coach was a similar number, while about twenty, most of whom were members of a band which has been playing at Young's Pier, occupied the last car.
The accident occurred at 2:20 P. M. The train left Camden at 1 o'clock, and carried, as near as can learned to-night, about [illegilble] passengers; of this number 14 left the train at Pleasantville. As the train dashed across the meadows and approached the new drawbridge built for the electric road over the Thoroughfare. Motorman Scott saw the signals set for a clear track and kept up his speed. Just as he reached the draw, however, the front truck of the first car left the tracks.
The rails on the draw, it is believed, had not been perfectly adjusted. The flange into which the rails set had jammed, and a short space separated them. The motor car left the tracks, dragging the two other cars after it. From joist to joist the train plunged, the heavy iron wheels boring grooves into the wooden cross beams.
The momentum forced the three cars forward for a distance of from fifty to sixty yards, when the first one dived over the side of the bridge into the water. In a flash it had disappeared. It was quickly followed by the second coach. The third car, as it plunged over the side, fell part way into the water, the rear trucks catching the abutment of the bridge, holding part of the car clear.
It was from the third car that those few who escaped death were saved. The first to get from the car was Conductor James Curtis, who was standing at the rear door counting his tickets when the train left the track. He had counted eighty-seven passengers. AS the car lurched over into the Thoroughfare, smashing the glass of the door, he flung himself into the swift-moving current, and succeeded in catching hold of the abutment.
The brakeman of the train, Roland Wood, as the train dashed off the tracks rushed to the rear of the train. As the conductor escaped. Wood threw open the door, and, climbing up on the abutment, hauled several of the passengers up without aid to a place of safety. Those in the front of the car were drowned in their seats, seven members of the Italian band known as the Royal Artillery Band meeting death there. A fourteen year old girl got out of the car by breaking a window. A workman, who had rushed from the tower house to the place where the train went off, saw her swimming about in the water. Throwing a rope to her, he hauled her up on the bridge and cared for her in the tower house.
General Manager Atterbury of the Pennsylvania Railroad arrived here to-night and took charge. The bridge over which the electric road passes the Thoroughfare sits low in the water and is an ordinary wooden bridge without any protection whatever. From bank to bank the bridge is entirely open, there being no uprights or even iron railings on the sides.
Daniel E. Stewart, the aged tender of the Thoroughfare draw, was panic-stricken when the train plunged into the stream. He ran shouting toward the city end of the bridge and begged every one he met to hurry for help.
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