Surry Summit, NH Train Wreck, Jan 1890
The cause of the accident was as follows: A wild train in charge of Conductor Styles and Engineer Henry F. Stratton left Keene at about 7:45 with orders to meet No. 9 and No.11 at Tenth Section, a turn-out about four and one-half miles East of Westmoreland. Train No. 9, which was the regular local freight, left Bellows Falls at the usual time in charge of Conductor Corbett and Engineer SLATE, with directions to wait at Westmoreland for orders. The orders given from the dispatcher's office at Keene to Miss H. L. Cook, the operator at Westmoreland, were that trains No. 9 and No.11 might run to Tenth Section to meet the wild train from Keene. These orders were correctly received and repeated back by Miss Cook, and are found correctly recorded upon her telegraph register. But when she copied the order for the conductor and engineer of train No. 9 it read "must meet wild train at Summit" instead of "at Tenth Section." The order given to No.11 was correctly copied and that train was waiting for the up train at Tenth Section when the accident occurred. The "Summit" turnout is two miles East of Tenth Section, and the collision took place about half a mile beyond Tenth Section. When she learned of her fatal mistake, Miss Cook was nearly wild with terror and remorse. She has been the operator at Westmoreland for fifteen years and this is the first error she has ever made. Mr. Stewart has a record of all mistakes or disobediences of orders by employes(sic) since 1871, and Miss Cook's name is not found upon the book.
The place where the accident occurred was just West of the "Westmoreland ledge". The wild train had pulled over the hill and was running slowly. The fog was so dense that the engineer could see only about two cars ahead and he did not have time either to jump or reverse his engine before he was thrown forward and stunned by the collision. His fireman, Edward Winchester, knew nothing of the coming catastrophe until he heard the crash. Both were uninjured except slight bruises. The tender of this engine was set tightly against the cab and had either of the men been standing in the opening they would have been crushed to death.
SIDNEY W. SLATE, the engineer who was killed, was a man of about forty years and had been in the employ of the road as fireman about ten years. He had been running an engine but a short time. His home is in Bellows Falls and he leaves a wife and two children. CHARLES W. GIBSON came from the West and was employed for some time at the Vermont Farm Machine Works at Bellows Falls. He began firing on the Cheshire road about three months ago. He was about twenty-four years old and unmarried. Charles W. Hill of Bellows Falls, the head brakeman of the local train, was evidently sitting on the fireman's seat in the engineer's cab and was probably thrown through the window, striking upon his head and suffering concussion of the brain. There is little doubt that he will recover. Thomas Hicks, another brakeman, received a gash in the face, and one or two others were slightly injured.
New Hampshire Sentinel, Keene, NH 8 Jan 1890
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