Roslindale, NJ Train Wreck, Mar 1887
Part of a Train Falls Through a Bridge Near Boston.
More Than 100 Persons Killed or Injured in the Crash.
A railroad bridge disaster, even more extensive in its destruction of life and limb than the recent Central Vermont horror, befell a suburban train on the Boston and Providence Railroad Monday morning. The collapse of an iron bridge beneath a train dashed six cars to pieces on the highway, fifty feet below. Of about two hundred people who went down in the wreck twenty-nine were instantly killed, two died during the day, seven were reported dying and eighty were severely hurt. The prompt summons of a Fire Department detail prevented the additional horror of fire, and the victims suffered death or injury only by mutilation.
The accident happened at a bridge over Spring street, on the Dedham branch, in West Roxbury District, about five miles from Boston Common. The train left Dedham at 7 o'clock, and consisted of an engine and nine cars in charge of Conductor W. H. ALDEN and Assistants MYRON TILDEN and WEBSTER DRAKE.
About 300 persons were on board and were pretty well distributed in the several cars. In less than two minutes after leaving Roslindale station the engine crossed the bridge. And a second later Engineer WHITE found that his train had parted and looking back was horrified to see that the bridge had gone and several of the cars had disappeared. He immediately stopped his engine, and found that three cars were remaining on the embankment and the other six were in the highway below. He then sounded the whistle, and ran his locomotive ahead to Forest Hills, the junction with the main line, and gave the alarm.
The first man to reach the wreck was J. H. LANNON, a fish dealer. He was driving up from Forest Hills toward the scene of the disaster when the engine of the wrecked train came down the track whistling wildly. The locomotive slowed down on the Forest Hills crossing, and LANNON stopped his team, shouting to the engineer: "What's the matter?"
"My train has gone through Tin Bridge, Telegraph to Boston," was the reply.
LANNON ran to the station with the message, which was quickly flashed over the wires. Them he hastened back to his team and drove up the road to the wreck. When he reached it the cries and groans were coming from all parts of the awful heap. Bruised and wounded people were crawling out from the pile. He found an axe and climbed upon a car that lay in the trench, two others being beneath it. He through most of the cries of the injured came from this car. He crawled through a window and went to work. A woman first demanded his attention. She was pinned down by the feet, and two seats and the body of a man lay upon her. The body and the seats were soon got out of the way. Working on the wood and iron that held her down caused her to scream with fresh agony, and it was some moments before she was released. LANNON dragged her to a window, and two men helped him lift her out.
Four men, three of them dead, and two women were taken from this car by these three men. By this time the firemen had arrived, and they, with the uninjured from the wreck, were hard at work, first rescuing the imprisoned ones who were injured, and afterward digging out the dead from the shapeless tangled debris.
There were a score or more men on the train whose injuries were so slight that they were able to go to the assistance of their fellow passengers after the first moments of paralyzing horror. Those who could be rescued were got out in a few minutes, and the search for the dead was prosecuted with less haste. At only one point did fire appear in the upturned wreck of the smoking car, the last on the train. A stream from a chemical engine quickly quenched the flames. It was a scene of horror for about an hour. Dead, dying, and badly injured were strewn upon the ground just as the rescuers placed them in the first haste to get them from the ruins. At the bottom of the embankment, near one abutment, lay the mutilated bodies of seven girls, in a row. Indeed, fully half the killed and injured were shop girls who were on their way to their work. There were many brave girls among the injured, for they bore their sufferings without moan or complaint after they had been taken from the ruins. Surgeons from the neighborhood arrived very promptly, and within an hour all the appliances necessary for such an emergency were at the scene.
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