Harlow Bridge, VT Train Wreck, Dec 1867
The most fatal accident that ever occurred in the previous history of the Vermont Central was that known as the Harlow bridge accident, which occurred Dec. 11, 1867, and in which 15 men were killed and wounded, some of the latter being crippled for life. All of these were bridge builders and workmen employed by the railroad company. The accident was a most remarkable one. The bridge over the Dog River, a mile and a half below Northfield, has been burned three days before, and the men were engaged in erecting a trestlework to replace it. They took their meals in Northfield, and were returning to their work in a car which was backed down to the spot by an engine. The engineer, Frank Abbott, considered a careful and responsible man, forgot a moment or two where he was, and did not check his engine until close upon the chasm. Suddenly realizing the danger, he reversed in time to save the engine but the coupling broke, and the car was shot over the abutment and fell 70 feet to the frozen ground below.
The New York Times, New York, NY 7 Feb 1887
The Frightful Disaster on the Vermont Central Railroad.
The Burlington (Vt.,) Free Press of Thursday evening gives a detailed account of the terribly fatal accident on the Vermont Central Railroad, at the Harlow Bridge, near Northfield, on Wednesday afternoon, from which we quote the following:
"The bridge crossed a deep ravine a mile and half below Northfield, through which ran Dog River (these but a small stream) and the highway, seventy feet below the road bed. The end abutments of the bridge are over thirty feet in height and the sides of the ravine slope precipitously to the highway and stream. The workmen had taken dinner at Northfield, and were returning to their work, between 1:30 and 2:00 o'clock, in a train of a single car, engine and tender. This was backed rapidly to the bridge by the engineer, Frank Abbott, till when close to the bridge the fireman called his attention to the rapid rate at which they were approaching the chasm. The engineer then reversed his engine and made every effort to stop, but too late. The car was backed right off the abutment and fell with its living freight of ninety men to the frozen ground and rocks below, killing fourteen outright, injuring another [illegible] that death has followed, and seriously wounding some thirty others, while no one who went down escaped injury. The tender followed the car, falling upon its ruins and the shattered bodies below. The engine stopped on the very brink of this abutment.
The alarm was given, and rescue for the wounded was soon at hand, but owing to the situation of affairs and scanty help at hand, first some two hours elapsed before some of the wounded, who were held to the frozen ground by the shattered beams and ruins of the tender, were rescued.
We learn from a gentleman who saw the wreck that the car did not break in two. The roof broke off. The sides and bottom, still together, but with every seat and movable thing swept out, lay pitching down into the stream. The killed and wounded were many of them Canadians, other were well-known mechanics, many of them were men with families, which are of course thrown into deep desires.
The catastrophe is by far the most fatal one that has ever occurred on any Vermont railroad, and has occasioned a deep sensation along the road and in our community. The sole blame for it appears to rest on the engineer, Mr. Abbott. He was one of the most experienced engineers on the road and esteemed perfectly trusty and capable. We hear that the explanation he gives is the he "never thought", but he was running down the road with a train as usual, till the fireman reminded him of the bridge, when it was too late to stop the train.
The New York Times, New York, NY 16 Dec 1867
Transcribed by Linda Horton. Thank you, Linda!