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Benicia, CA Trains Collide In Rail Yards, Nov 1902

TRAIN CRASHES INTO TRAIN AND ENGINEER AND FIREMAN LOSE LIFE UNDER WRECKAGE.

DISASTER OCCURS IN ONE OF THE YARDS AT THE MAIL DOCK, NEAR BENICIA, CAUSING FATALITIES, RUIN OF PROPERTY AND A SERIOUS CHARGE OF DISREGARD OF ORDERS.

Benicia, Nov. 27. - Engineer HARRY FOSTER and Fireman H. W. DAVIS were killed and Brakeman J. J. CUTE was seriously injured in a head-on collision between two freight trains at the mail dock, three-quarters of a mile from here, at 3 o'clock this morning.
The trains crashed into each other in the yards, No. 221, the westbound Oregon freight, running into No. 202, the eastbound Sacramento freight. No. 202 was due to leave Benicia at 3 a.m. and had just got under way when No. 221 loomed up in front of it. Engineer FRANK HOPPER and Fireman JOHN McCARTHY of No. 202 jumped and saved themselves, but Engineer FOSTER, Fireman DAVIS and Brakeman CUTE of No. 221 were caught in the wreckage.
The blame for the accident is alleged to lie with Engineer FOSTER in disobeying the rules of the yard by not having his train under control. He had a clear track but did not slow up. Conductor PLANE of the eastbound train saw the danger and ran ahead in a frantic effort to switch the westbound to another track, but it was too late. When he was within ten feet of the switch the engine thundered over it.

Heaps Of Wreckage.
The wreckage covered the yard, but it was soon cleared. The injured were removed to the railroad hospital for treatment and the dead were taken to their relatives.
Superintendent Palmer said this morning that the disaster seemed to be due to a mistake on the part of FOSTER.
"Of course," he said, "we can only surmise the conditions in the cab of FOSTER'S engine just before the crash came, but it would appear that the blame lies with FOSTER in not following the rules of the time card. He was coming west on a clear, straight track, and ought to have seen Engineer HOPPER'S train at least a half-mile off. It was a bright morning and everything was in plain sight."
"We may learn something when Brakeman CUTE is in a condition to be interrogated. As FOSTER and Fireman DAVIS are both dead we must rely upon the statements of HOPPER, the engineer; McCARTHY, his fireman, and PLANE, the conductor of the eastbound train."
"What FOSTER was doing at the time is a mystery to me. His train was a little behind time and in his haste to catch up he may have temporarily forgotten the approaching eastbound train. He may not have realized that he was so near the switch, as he was still half a mile from Benicia. However, had he followed the rules he would have slowed up and taken the side track. It is possible that his attention might have been distracted by something on the engine which he was fixing. Even in that case the fireman would have been on the lookout. Altogether it is rather mysterious."

Traffic Not Delayed.
Superintendent Palmer said that the damage was comparatively small. Only one of the engines was badly damaged and the damage to the cars is only nominal. There being four tracks within the Benicia yard traffic was not delayed.
HENRY FOSTER, the dead engineer, was 28 years old and a native of San Francisco. He has been in the Southern Pacific Company's employ ten years, and five months ago became an engineer. He had made arrangements to spend Thanksgiving with his wife and child at Los Angeles, their former home, but at the last minute the pressure of business forced him to abandon his plan.
DAVIS, the fireman who lost his life, was born in Oakland nineteen years ago and had been in the railroad's employ three years. A tragic fate has pursued all the male members of his family. Of his two grandfathers, one was Policeman Cashin, and was killed by a burglar, and his father and stepfather met violent deaths.
J. J. CUTE, the injured brakeman, is 21 years old and a native of Stockton. He lives with his parents at 865 Center Street. He has been with the railroad five months.

San Francisco Call California 1902-11-28



article | by Dr. Radut