Surry Summit, NH Train Wreck, Jan 1890

Coroner's Inquest.

At 2:30 p. m. on Monday, Coroner Rowell summoned a jury consisting of Joseph B. Abbott, Solon S. Wilkerson and Julius N. Morse and viewed the bodies, which were brought to the undertaking rooms of Woodbury & Howard. On returning to the court house the following testimony was taken:----

D. C. Howard testified that he had been train dispatcher for the Cheshire road twenty-five years; C. H. Cook was the agent at Westmoreland and his daughter, Miss H. L. Cook, the operator. She has been there fifteen years and he never knew her to make a mistake before; he saw her to-day and she seemed greatly distressed. First heard of the accident at 8:40 a. m. ; on arriving at the scene saw the engineer and fireman confined in the wreck, both evidently dead; witness explained the order which was as described above, and the tape on which the message was received and recorded at Westmoreland was read by Frank A. Spaulding, telegraph operator. Mr. R. Stewart, the General Manager of the road, corroborated the testimony of Mr. Howard, and Dr. H. K. Faulkner testified that the men were evidently instantly killed. The hearing was then adjourned until nine o'clock Tuesday.

On Tuesday at the appointed hour F. A. Perry, Master Mechanic of the road, testified and showed that the lives of the engineer and fireman on the wild train were probably saved by the fact that the forward part of tender frame went under the engine frame, instead of over as in the case of the other train. William Corbett, conductor of No.9, related the circumstances of receiving his orders which were given above. He thought that he was as often ordered to meet at the Summit as at Tenth Section, and there was nothing to lead him to think that the order was wrong. After receiving the order he left for the Summit, and after passing Tenth Section he met the wild train. He was sitting in the caboose and when the shock came he thought the engine had been dumped. The train at once began to run back, and he stopped it. It consisted of eight loaded cars. When he arrived at the engine he could not see way by reason of escaping steam, but after a while he climbed upon the engine of his train and saw the head and shoulders of the engineer who was then dead. He could not find the fireman, and he ran back to East Westmoreland and telegraphed to the train dispatcher. He has been in the employ of the road fourteen and one-half years; has known Miss Cook all this time and had never known her to make a mistake before. The jury then adjourned and made a visit to the scene of the accident.

The verdict of the jury was that the men came to their death at 8:30 a. m., January 6, 1890, and that the collision was caused by the error of Harriet L. Cook in transcribing the order to train No.9, by making it read "Summit" instead of "Tenth Station."

New Hampshire Sentinel, Keene, NH 8 Jan 1890