Philadelphia, PA Trains Collide In Tunnel, May 1900
ASLEEP AT HIS POST.
Towerman's Neglect Causes A Catastrophe.
SEVEN LIVES WERE LOST.
One Section of a Freight Was Standing Still, and the Other, Taking on More Speed to Carry It Up Grade, Collided With Terrific Force -- Engineer and Fireman Killed.
Philadelphia, Pa., (Special) -- Through the negligence of a towerman who lay asleep at his post, a disastrous and fatal freight train wreck occurred here in a tunnel on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. An engineer and a fireman were killed, and fuve unknown tramps are supposed to be dead in the wreck. The property loss is estimated at $185,000. The man who was responsible for the accident, FRANK LAMTELL, surrendered himself to C.O.O. BENT, a superintendent in the employ of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. He is now under arrest.
The known dead are GEORGE LAUB, engineer, and GEORGE BLACKMAN, fireman, both of this city.
Their bodies and those of the tramps are buried beneath the wrecked cars, and cannot be recovered until the fire which followed the collision is extinguished. About thirty firemen of the city fire department were either burned or ovecome by smoke while fighting the flames. None of them, however, was seriously injured.
The tunnel runs under Twenty-fifth street from Callowhill street to Fairmount Park, a distanct of 2,800 feet. It is semi-circular, and the tracks are up-grade from the Callowhill street entrance.
Every night a train known as the New York freight express leaves here for New York. The train was made up in two sections, the first section containing forty-three cars. WHen it reached the tunnel the engine was unable to pull it up the grade, and seventeen cars were detached and left standing about midway in the tunnel while the others were drawn through.
It was the duty of the tower operator, LAMTELL, to set a red signal on the semaphore at the Callowhill street entrance to the tunnel. Being asleep, as he admits, he failed to do this, leaving the white light in view. At 11:30 o'clock the second section of the freight, comprising thirty-eight cars, approached at the rate of thirty miles an hour. Engineer LAUB, seeing the white signal, gave the locomotive extra speed in order to carry the train up the grade. The rapidly moving train collided with the standing cars in the tunnel with terrific force.
Fire immediately broke out, and three oil cars, each containing 4,000 gallons of oil, exploded. Soon the wreckage was a mass of flames.
Owing to the heat and smoke and gaseous air ini the tunnel the firemen entered the tunnel only a short distance without being overcome. Holes were dug in the street to make vents, and the toof of the tunnel was blasted, but to no avail. The bodies of the engineer and the fireman and the five tramps who were said to be on the train have doubtless been cremated.
Shortly after the collision, LAMTELL disappeared and could not be found, until he gave himself up late. When questioned he said: "I did it. Why the white signal remained in place I do not know, but it was there, and the train went through as usual."
"I was asleep or dozing, and why I cannot say, except that I feel myself overworked, but am ready to stand the censure and take what comes to me. I have no excuse to offer."
Chateaugay Record New York 1900-05-18
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!