Middlefield, MA Train Collision, Jan 1873


From the Springfield (Mass.) Union. Jan. 25.
A most disastrous accident occurred on the Boston and Albany Railroad last evening, a short distance beyond Middlefield. The first of the afternoon freights from Pittsfield, which was several hours late, was passing over the second bridge west of Middlefield station when a brake-beam broke, and falling down, threw three cars of the train off the track upon the bridge, breaking the rods and smashing the girders of the bridge, and of course greatly weakening the structure. Almost at the same instant, the second freight west from this city, drawn by the locomotive New York, and pushed up the grade (as has been the custom lately) by another engine from behind, came upon the bridge. The additional weight of this train, and its collision with the cars of the other train, which had been thrown off the track, caused the bridge to crumble like so much paper, and the New York dropped instantly a distance of twenty-five feet into the stream below. The horrors of the situation were increased by the fact that the engineer at the rear of the up train, ignorant of the accident, continued for a short time with a full head of steam, to push the fated train up the grade, thus hurling one car after another into the abyss. He soon perceived, however, that there was trouble ahead, and shut off steam in time to prevent the wreck of the entire train. But eight of ten cars of the up train, with three of the down train, went crashing down in the darkness. The wreck proved to be of such magnitude, and the danger of working around it so great, that it was not till 1 o'clock this afternoon that the frightfully scalded and mangled bodies of the engineer of the New York, GEORGE STEBBINS, of West Springfield, and his fireman, EDWIN A. THOMAS, of this city, were recovered from the ruins. CHARLES BASHFORD, a brakeman, who boards on Arlington avenue, in this city, was terribly scalded. He was brought home on a caboose car, which came to the city about 2 o'clock this morning; but survived only till this forenoon. Two men who had merchandise on the train, and a Canadian on his way to Buffalo with a car load of horses, were also injured severely, the two first having limbs broken. Two or three brakemenbesides BASHFORD are also reported injured, but not seriously. Engineer STEBBINS was highly esteemed by his fellow members in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and, in fact by all who knew him. He leaves a wife and child five months old in West Springfield, in destitute circumstances. THOMPSON, the fireman, was twenty-two years old, unmarried, and has relatives at Wickford, R. I.
We understand that Master Mechanic EDDY and many of the engineers have protested repeatedly against the pushing of trains up the grade from the rear, as in case of accident, the foremost engineer is powerless to stop the train, and the rear engine, as was done last night, becomes merely an instrument of destruction.

The New York Times New York 1873-01-27