TWO FREIGHT TRAINS COLLIDED, THEN TWO PASSENGER TRAINS RAN INTO THE WRECK - THREE MEN KILLED AND SEVERAL INJURED.
PROVIDENCE, R. I., Dec. 4. - The worst wreck ever experienced by the New-York and New-England Railroad occurred at East Thompson, Conn., at 6:30 o'clock this morning. Four trains collided with each other, killing three men and injuring four others.
The trains in collision were the Long Island and Eastern States Line limited express from Brooklyn to Boston; the boat train from Norwich, bound for Boston; the regular freight going east from Putnam to Boston, and the Southbridge freight from East Thompson, bound west. The scene of the accident is about ten miles from the Rhode Island line, and the nearest station of importance in Woonsocket, sixteen miles away.
The two freight trains were on the north track and the two passenger trains on the south track when the accident occurred. There were in reality two collisions, the first occurring on a spur track to the north of the two main lines which run through East Putnam.
At the hour named on the spur track, having the right of way on the west-bound track, it was a foggy morning, and without warning the east-bound freight from Putnam suddenly rushed down upon the Southbridge freight. Both engines were demolished and the freight cars on the spur track were forced back with terrific force.
A flat car and two long freight cars were pushed over the bank running along the track. Cars were also thrown over on the main line, and before any one could think, down dashed the Long Island and Eastern States Line Limited Express from Brooklyn. A second later the engine of this train had turned completely around, and lay on the bank below the tracks, a wreck. Near by lay the headless body of the engineer, Harry W. Taber, and the mangled remains of the fireman, Gerald Fitzgerald.
The express consisted of two passengers cars, Nos. 171 and 172, and the two Pullman vestibule sleeping cars Cato and Midland. There were twelve passengers, nine of them in the sleepers. One passenger was killed. he was in the Pullman car Midland.
The fourth train struck this particular car. This was the boat train from Norwich, bound east. There had not been sufficient time for any person to go up the track to warn this train before it turned the curve leading into East Thompson. The curve hid the scene from the engineer of the boat train. The result was that it crashed into the rear end of the Long Island train.
Immediately the cars took fire, and the Midland burned. A young man in the rear end of it lost his life. The only remains found were a watch and a few charred bones.
The conductors on this train, on which all the loss of life occurred, escaped uninjured. They were George H. Cross of Boston and Frank E. Jennison of 212 East Thirtieth Street, New York. Michael J. Flynn was the regular fireman on the limited, but he was taking a day off and was on the train bound for Boston. He was uninjured, but his substitute was killed. Two years ago a similar accident occurred, and Flynn's substitute was killed in a wreck.
Of the passengers in the "Midland," W. T. Colburn of 120 West Forty-seventh Street, New York, was bruised, and Frank Barber and John Chandler of Boston had flesh cuts in the leg. Their car, it is stated, was lighted by kerosene.
The second Pullman, "Cato," was a solid vestibuled car lighted by gas, which the conductor turned out as he escaped.
The other passengers on the train were: Mrs. G. Christine, 584 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn; B. L. Kilgour, Boston; J. G. Piodela, Hempstead, L. I.; J. N. Flanders, Boston; George W. Dalton, Brooklyn. They were not injured.
Of the cars of the limited train nearest the engine one was but little damaged The others had the windows and frames torn out on one side for half its length. The tender of the Long Island engine was knocked to pieces.
The boat train was in charge of Conductor C. H. Ingalls of Dorchester, who had only his thumb hurt. Edward Hurley of South Boston, engineer, and William M. Londe of Dedham, fireman, were thrown down the embankment and rendered insensible for a time. They were not seriously hurt, but their engine caught fire from the blazing Pullman car. The express car was burned. The smoker and a regular coach were pulled out of danger. There were over thirty persons on the train and they were thrown violently forward by the shock of the collision, many of them sustaining severe bruises.
No one was reported as seriously injured on the two freight trains.
It was late to-night before the work of clearing this part of the wreck was half done. The station is in an out-of-the way place, the telegraphic facilities amount to almost nothing, and information of the affair was not received until the morning was well advanced.
One of the station officials gave as the cause of the accident the statement that East Thompson was not notified that the freight was coming down from Putnam. The Southbridge freight he considers was in its proper place. The reason that the two trains which follow each other going to Boston were wrecked was because there was no one in a position to warn them in time, The fog and the curve in the road prevented the engineers of the fated trains from seeing the obstruction until it was too late.
The Fire Department from Webster, Mass., was summoned to extinguish the fire, but the "Midland" was completely destroyed. The bodies of Fitzgerald and Taber were removed to Webster, and after being prepared for burial were forwarded to Boston, where the men reside.
The damage to the railroad company will exceed $300,000.
Superintendent Lovering of the Adams Express says that his company is a sufferer by the smash-up, but to what extent he is unable to state.
Superintendent Grant of the New-York and New-England Railroad attributed the accident to the dense fog, which he said obscured the vision of the engineers and prevented them from seeing each other's trains. At midnight the main tracks were cleared and the work was still in progress at the spur track.
The New York Times
New York, New York
December 5, 1891