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Grand Gorge, NY Train Wreck, May 1922

The Wreckage Scene





Six employes of the track department of the Ulster and Delaware railroad, among them being WILLIAM LAFFERTY, track supervisor between Oneonta and Arkville and well known in this city, met instantaneous and a shocking death yesterday morning between 11:20 and 11:30 o'clock when a south bound extra freight collided with the work train at a point about 1 1/2 miles south of the Grand Gorge station. The unfortunate victims of the accident were seated in the caboose of the work train which was backing up on the single track from Roxbury toward Grand Gorge and they were caught as in a trap, the slight frame of the caboose being crushed into splinters between the big locomotive of the freight train and the heavy hoisting crane which was next to the caboose in the work train. Every one of the victims suffered fractured skulls and several of them sustained frightful mutilation. None others of those on the two trains suffered any injuries of a serious nature, though some were bruised and badly shaken up. It is hinted that the accident was due to a misunderstanding of train orders.
The men killed are:
WILLIAM LAFFERTY of Oneonta and Allahen.
ORA WORTH of Hobart.
FRED CHASE of Grand Gorge.
FRED BORST of Grand Gorge.
FRED LOUDON of Grand Gorge.
ABRAHAM JOHNSON (colored) of Oneonta and Kingston.
The work train was in charge of Conductor GUY B. MATTICE, residing at 3 Hickory street, this city, and Engineer A. J. PELHAM of Kingston. It had been at work between Grand Gorge and Roxbury, picking up waste metal along the road, cleaning out the sluices and unloading steel rails. WILLIAM LAFFERTY of this city, track supervisor over the roadbed between Oneonta and Arkville, was in charge of the men. The train was headed toward Kingston, but was backing toward Grand Gorge. Next to the caboose at the rear was the heavy car upon which rested the hoisting crane, and between it and the locomotive were two flat cars, one loaded with rails and the second with old metal.

Three Jump To Safety.
The extra freight was composed of loaded coal cars and was in charge of Conductor JOSEPH REDMOND of 50 Liberty street, this city, and Engineer C. NEEBE of Kingston, and it was proceeding, it is said, upon orders to run to Arkville. The front end of this train crashed into the rear of the work train as it was backing toward Grand Gorge. Conductor MATTICE of this city and ALONZO HOLT and JACOB STEINHELBER, both of Grand Gorge and track employes, were upon the platform of the caboose and when the freight train hove in sight they jumped and managed to scramble up the steep hillside on the east side of the track out of the way of the wreckage when it commenced to pile up. STEINHELBER complained of some injuries to his back and was later attended by DR. DOUGLAS, construction surgeon at the New York city water works at Prattsville. None of the three were seriously injured. Conductor MATTICE went on to Kingston, picking up milk between Roxbury and Kingston, and had not returned to Oneonta last night. HOLT, who at first was dazed, rallied later and remained at the scene for hours, assisting the work in the transfer of mail and passengers around the wreck.
The caboose inside of which were seated the six victims, was crushed into a million pieces between the locomotive and the crane, and for the men there was no escape. Their bodies were badly mangled, though the bodies were so found that they were without much difficulty removed. Fortunately the wreckage did not take fire and there was not great delay in removing the bodies.
Hurried calls were sent to Grand Gorge and Roxbury, and DR. J. A. GAUL of the latter and M. J. VOGT of the former place responded promptly, but they found that the six men were dead before their associates could reach them, and that none others required medical attention.

Oneonta Daily Star New York 1922-05-27

article | by Dr. Radut