Long Island, NY Train Wreck - Disaster on the Rail

DISASTER ON THE RAIL

Long Island Collision.

A Train From Rockaway Beach Crashes Into Another From Coney Island – Fifteen Persons Almost Instantly Killed and Many Others Hurt.

Fifteen dead and several score injured is the record of a wreck that occurred at midnight on the main line of the Long Island Railroad, in the outskirts of Long Island City, N. Y.
It was the worse railroad disaster that ever occurred on Long Island. Eleven persons were killed outright, two died on the way to the hospital in Long Island City, and two more died next day in the hospital. One of the killed was COLONEL E. A. BUCK, of the Spirit of the Times. There were sixteen injured in the hospital, and of these it was believed that three would die, while the condition of several others was very serious. More than seventy other persons were hurt, and after receiving medical attendance at the wreck went to their homes.
One account of the terrible accident says that at 11:03 o'clock a crowded train of six cars, drawn by Engine No. 10, left Rockaway Beach for Long Island City. Twelve minutes afterward a train even more densely crowded left Manhattan Beach (Coney Island). When just past Laurel Hill station the coupling of the Manhattan Beach train broke between the third and fourth cars. The engine and first three cars stopped, backed up and the coupling was reattached. The was at Haberman's crossing. The night was black as ink.
Trainman THOMAS FINN was sent back, but before he had gone far the train started slowly and FINN ran after it, and had just swung himself upon the rear platform when the Rockaway train, going at fully fifty miles an hour, came rushing round the bend. In less than two seconds it crashed into the rear of the Manhattan train. It was exactly 11:45 when the crash came, as several watches on the persons of the dead stopped at the minute.
The impact was awful. The two rear cars were split from end to end and the third was lifted from the track and thrown clear to one side. Fortunately the coupling on the Manhattan train broke at the same spot as before, between the third and fourth cars, and the force of the blown simply drove the rest of the train forward at almost full headway. Engineer DONALDSON did not stop to see what damage had been done, but, pulling the throttle wide open, rushed his engine and two cars to Long Island City, a few miles away, as rapidly as possible. This peculiar conduct meets with the approval of the officials of the road, who say that if he had stopped it would only have made the confusion worse and delayed relief. Be that as it may, the alarm had been given before he reported it. The appeal came from the Long Island Chemical Works, half a mile from the scene of the accident. It was by telephone, and the unknown sender prayed the officials to send all the doctors and ambulances to the wreck, as scores had been killed and hundreds injured.
At the moment of the death crash everything but self preservation was forgotten. Men struggled and fought in the darkness, but it was only for a moment. They became still again and waited for something more, they did not know what. When it did not come they awoke from their apathy and began to work. They found that the left side of the two last cars of the Manhattan Beach train had been smashed to kindling wood, while the right halves lay on their sides filled with groaning and wounded humanity.
The hissing steam, the cries of the women and children and the shrieks and groans of the injured were appalling. For nearly two hours the wounded and dying lay shrieking and moaning beside the track. Dead bodies were impaled in broken pieces of the Manhattan Beach train, and one man hung across the seething boilers. The engine had been stripped of everything save its cover of steel. The roof of the last car of the Manhattan Beach train had shot forward over the plowing engine of the Rockaway train, carried away smokestack and cab, and then, such was the fearful force of the shock, shot clear over and through the roof of the first car of the Rockaway train.
Almost before the first horror of the shock was over ex-Alderman Patrick White of Newtown began to organize the uninjured. By voice and example he urged them to clear away the wreckage. As fast as the injured were taken out the were carried to the slope in front of the tin shop, where, by the light of the train lamps, their wounds were hastily tied up by Drs. Knapp and Godfrey, who were on the train. They took their coats off and worked like army surgeons on the field.
In a short time a relief train from Long Island City, with several doctors on board, arrived at the scene of the accident, and the injured received proper attention, while the dead were conveyed to the morgue at Newtown.
The responsibility for the accident was said to rest between ROBERT J. KNOTT, the signal man in the tower were it occurred, and Engineer CONKRITE, who was in the cab of the Rockaway Beach train. KNOTT declared the danger signal was set that should have blocked the Rockaway train. CONKRITE vowed that it was not.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1893-09-01

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