two thousand twenty
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The Arcadian Weekly Gazette
September 4, 1901

Fifteen persons killed in
the Northern Central smash up
Scores of others injured -- Southbound Sodus Point Train leaves the track between Fairville and Zurich, Thursday evening (August 29) -- Engineer killed outright -- Coaches smashed and passengers are scalded by steam while pinned in the wreckage -- Sad scenes at Northern Cenral Station -- Newark Stricken -- Dr. A. Parke Burgess, and other well known persons dead -- Inquest Friday

By a most remarkable accident in which Train 110, on the Sodus Bay Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad system, bound for Stanley, was wrecked at 5:40 o'clock on Thursday night. Fifteen persons lost their lives, and two score more were bruised, scalded, and otherwise injured painfully. The wreck was exceptional in two respects. It proved to be far more serious than even the wildest rumors which passed from mouth to mouth in Newark after the first news was received, and before any of the details were known, it grew steadily worse, and as Thursday night advanced into Friday, and before sundown of that day, the entire population of the town was mourning the loss of either a relative or a friend.

Again it was remarkable in that no cause for the wreck is in any way apparent. An official of the Pennsylvania system, of long experience, who was questioned as to the cause, said "I have always held that there never was an accident on any railroad without a cause, and that the cause could always be ascertained, but, in this case, I am utterly at a loss to explain it. Absolutely no cause is to be found. The rails had not spread, nor was there anything the matter with the locomotive, so far as we could discover."

Train 110 is a popular train with the residents of Newark who frequently go to Sodus Point. It leaves the Point at 5:15 o'clock every afternoon, and arrives in town in time to allow its Newark passengers to dine at the usual hour. It left the station on time Thursday evening, drawn by engine 3,073 and made up of a combination mail and baggage car, a smoking car, two first-class passenger coaches, and the private car of Spencer Meade of Philadelphia, the former superintendent of the Sodus Bay Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad... At the throttle was William Meagher, and with him in the cab, was Chester F. Flagler, the fireman. Conductor H.S. Merriam was in charge of the train, and the entire crew, with the exception of the baggage master, lived in Sodus Point.

The train made the run to Zurich in the usual time, and with no evident indication that everything about the locomotive was not in proper condition, stopping at Zurich only a minute to discharge several passengers and take aboard several others, among whom were Mrs. Ford, who had been teaching music to a number of regular pupils during the afternoon. The train started south, before it had passed around the slight curve through the gravel pit, and before the conductor had collected the tickets from the Zurich passengers, engine 3,073 left the rails, turned northward to wreck itself and crushed the life out of many of the passengers.

The engine left the rails, apparently at the frog in the switch connecting the gravel siding with the main line, just north of the Heidenreich or Witt highway crossing. It bounded along over the ties for ten or fifteen yards, dragging the baggage, smoking and day coaches from the rails. The first two went over and were broken up considerably as were the day coaches. The pilot of the locomotive struck a big boulder some distance beyond the crossing with sufficient force to turn it completely about and head it in the opposite direction when it toppled over. Meanwhile the passenger coaches came sliding along and as the locomotive fell, the smoke stack and the sand box were torn away and the safety valve over the steam dome snapped off.

The steam escaped from the boiler with sufficient force to break away at least fifteen feet from one side of the car. The fifty or sixty passengers were caught in a seething, scalding volume of steam and boiling water.

The scene which followed can hardly be described. The engineer was hurled from his cab when the pilot struck the boulder, and his lifeless body was picked up 40 feet away, bruised and bleeding. He stuck to his throttle and air valves, however, until he had closed the former and opened the latter before the pilot hit the boulder. The fireman too was thrown out. He was found in an unconscious condition within a few feet of the engineer. About the train all was confusion. The roar of the escaping steam, the shouts of the injured and the sickening crunching and grinding of the broken cars, together with the sharp snapping of the car windows, mingled in one discordant, agonizing wail, which was heard for miles, and which brought the scattered residents of the vicinity to the scene with such assistance as their limited facilities afforded.

By rare good fortune the locomotive fell in a position which scattered the burning coals from the fire box, some distance from the coaches, so that the cars were not burned, Beside, the private car, being of heavy Pullman construction, with six wheeled trucks, did not leave the rails. Thus a good supply of blankets and linen were ready at hand. Dr. Henry Flood of Elmira was in the car, attending Mrs. Meade, who was quite ill.

Dr. Flood, with Mr. Meade and the members of the train crew, none of whom were injured, except Albert Turner of Sodus Point, the express messenger, set at work immediately to give what assistance they could. Word was sent to Newark from Fairville for a wrecking train and for all the physicians and a large supply of bandages and cotton.

Drs. A.A. Young, E.P. Thatcher, Newell E. Landon, J.A. Reed, G.H. Craft, G.D. York and J.W. Barnes, together with J.M. Pitkin and several other business men from Newark went out on the train. Meanwhile the report spread rapidly in Newark. First it was rumored the north and south bound trains collided. Then slowly, bit by bit, through the telephone exchange, the true situation was discovered. Next came the rush to the Northern Central railroad station for details. Half the population of Newark sought to get upon the station platform to learn whether or not their relatives and friends were injured.

Soon after 9 o'clock the first relief train came down. In it were ten men and women injured so seriously that they were carried from the car to the station waiting room on car cushions, and fifteen or more others who were able to recline in the seats and were able to walk to the waiting room with the assistance of Charles Wakeman and Mr. Pitkin. Even then the real extent of the wreck was not realized, for few persons thought of the fact that those caught in the steam were forced to inhale the scalding vapor into their lungs and thus sustain fatal internal injuries. The west-bound train over the West Shore railroad came in while the injured were being carried from the train. It was held one hour and ten minutes, until a temporary ambulance car could be arranged and attached to it. In this were placed E.A. Bradley, Mrs. E.A. Bradley, L.H. Hood and Mrs. L.H. Hood, of Seneca Falls, Mrs. E.H. Hare of Greenfield, Mass., Mrs. Elizabeth White, of Newark, Isaac Moore and Miss Isophene Moore, of Newark, George F. Guier, of Baltimore, Md., Miss Susan M. Stitzer of Millingburg, Pa., and M.N. Wilson of Macedon... Word was sent ahead by telegraph to the Rochester hospitals and when the train reached the station, ambulances were in waiting to convey the suffering men and women to the hospitals with all possible speed.

The scene at the Northern Central station was one never to be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Men and women making anxious inquiries about their relatives; weeping silently as the injured were borne away. Young Howard Tubbs, wild and delirious, begging to be put out of his misery, and the patient, silent form of Dr. Burgess, speaking comfortingly now and then, telling those who came to aid him to leave him until all the women and children were cared for. The injured girl nurse refusing to leave the fatal car until the children in her care were carried out. All blended into a picture of suffering and heroism not often witnessed, even by those accustomed to scenes of this nature.

Meanwhile another relief train came on from Elmira, with four physicians and the father of Howard Tubb, who died in great agony just before his father's arrival. The first train had returned to the scene... It returned to Newark shortly before 11 o'clock with 40 or more passengers, all of whom were injured more or less seriously, and all of whom were in great agony from the scalding they received.

In addition to those brought in by the railroad company, many others were brought to Newark in carriages and wagons furnished by friends or relatives, so that a complete list of the injured was not made up until Saturday...

The Dead:
  • Bradley, Mrs. E.A., Seneca Falls
  • Bradley, E.A., Seneca Falls
  • Burgess, The Rev., Dr. A. Parke, Syracuse
  • Burgess, Mrs. A. Parke, Syracuse
  • Burleigh, Miss Frances, Newark
  • Edwards, Mrs. G.C., St. Paul
  • Ford, Mrs. Elizabeth, Newark
  • Fox, Mrs. W.H., Clifton Springs
  • Hare, Mrs. E.H., Greenfield, Mass.
  • Hood, Mrs. L.H., Seneca Falls
  • Kane, Mrs. Anna, Elmira
  • Meagher, William, Sodus Point
  • Todd, Miss Pleasant E., Newark
  • Tubb, Howard, Elmira
  • White, Miss Elizabeth, Newark
From the publishers:

Publishers of the Arcadia Weekly Gazette were devastated to learn of the train wreck. Their parents were passengers on the train and died the next day. W.C. and F.D. Burgess wrote a letter to the Gazette's readers, explaining who had taken over the editorial duties of the paper, and promising to, in the future, express their gratitude more fully and pay proper tribute to their parents.

Photo on loan from Dick DeVolder of Newark.

SOURCE: Courier-Gazette


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2 Comments to "Fatal Train Wreck of 1901"

  1. Gil Burgess Said,

    Although sad that my great-grandparents were victims of this wreck, I also took note of other people mentioned including Dr. E.P. Thatcher (paragraph 10) who on a snowy December 9 two years later delivered my mother, Pauline Jagger Burgess, in East Palmyra. Also, it should be noted that the Northern Central had been bought by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

    Posted on Tue Dec 08, 09:44:00 AM EST

  2. Gil Burgess Said,

    And it should be noted that Spencer Meade was the son of civil war General Meade

    Posted on Tue Dec 08, 09:46:00 AM EST


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