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Newark, NJ Trains Collide, July 1871





A "switch" was "misplaced" yesterday morning on the New York and Newark Railway, and another terrible accident occurred to make an additional blot on the dark history of American railroads. Four faithful men were killed in the discharge of duty, and eleven other persons were more or less dangerously wounded.
At 8 1/4 yesterday morning, the 7 3/4 train from New York, drawn by the locomotive Aurora, and the 8:05 train from Newark, drawn by the engine Plainfield, were approaching the Passaic Bridge, which is about two miles this side of the Newark Depot, from opposite directions, the Aurora on the north track going west, and the Plainfield on the south one going east. Both trains were exactly on time, and both were moving with great velocity. About a quarter of a mile west of the river lies a pretty little piece of woods through which the railroad runs, crossing a wide marsh on this side of the grove, and entering the outskirts of Newark immediately on the other side. In this copse an extra track has been laid, diagonally across the regular tracks, for the use of a dirt-train, and this additional track of course makes a switch necessary. Just as FRANK KERMAN, the engineer of the Plainfield sighted through the trees the Aurora's train thundering toward him, at the rate of thirty miles an hour, yesterday, he also got a glimpse of the switch signal, and his blood ran cold as he saw that the switch had been left open, and that in one minute his train would be thrown into the same track with the approaching one. He whistled down brakes three times violently, and attempted to slow up, but only a hundred yards intervened -- the New York train came thundering on unconscious of danger --
and before the speed was percaptibly reduced the Plainfield caught the wide switch and was thrown off on to the ties, pitching into the Aurora almost simultaneously, striking her on the quarter.
In the marshy field on the side of the track just on the very edge of the wood, not forty feet from the track, Theodore Wilson and George Jazors were mowing, and the terrible scene was enacted almost over their heads, they being, with two exceptions, the only eye-witnesses of it. Wilson says: "I was mowing with my back turned when I heard the Plainfield whistle furiously, and turning saw her train approaching the swith at high speed, the Aurora being then distant about a hundred yards, toward the river. I suddenly saw pieces of wood fly out of the tender of the Plainfield, and then the engine itself began bouncing over the sleepers. The motions of the train were like three jumps, the whistle screeching furiously all the while, and the jolting on the sleepers making such a noise that it was heard at my father's farmhouse, half a mile off. I hardly had time to realize the danger before crash !! the two came together with a sound like thunder, both boilers bursting simutaneously. The engines seemed to stand on their hinder wheels, and plow into each other, twenty feet up in the air. The smoke and steam rushing out almost obscured the view, but the Aurora could be seen to balance in the air a second and then came crashing into the ditch, the tender shooting over from behind and falling on top of her with a fearful crash, shaking the house at a half mile's distance. Two of the cars attached to her telescoped at once and caught fire.

Continued on Page 2.

article | by Dr. Radut