Jersey City, NJ Train Collision on Elevated Trestle, Nov 1909




Cars of New Steel Type Stood the Shock, but Smoker Crumbled and Turned Over.

Four persons are dead, two are in hospitals in a serious condition, and a score or more other persons were more or less badly injured in a wreck on the Pennsylvania Railroad in Jersey City yesterday morning. The wreck was caused by a peculiar collision between two engines both running in the same direction on parallel tracks, and that the loss of life was not greater the railroad men say is due to the fact that the cars in which the passengers were, with a single exception, were of the new steel type.
The collision was between the engine drawing the 8:47 A. M. express from Philadelphia and a detached engine that was backing into the terminal to take out one of the morning trains for Long Branch, N. J. The Philadelphia train was crowded with passengers, most of them commuters from nearby towns in New Jersey. The persons killed were the engineers of the two engines, the fireman of the Long Branch engine, and a track walker who was caught in the wreckage when the Philadelphia trains engine jumped the track and crashed into the engine that was coming in.
This is the casualty list:
DROSKIE, SPECIO, a track walker, address unknown.
McCLURE, JAMES, of Newark, N. J., fireman of Long Branch engine.
MONROE, JOHN, of Perth Amboy, N. J., engineer of Long Branch engine.
SPILLEY, JOHN, of Trenton, N. J., engineer of Philadelphia train.
ALLISON, A. C., of 81 Nassau Street, New York; internal injuries; St. Francis's Hospital.
ANLEVSKI, JOSEPH, of 171 Morgan Street, Jersey City, trackwalker; compound fracture of the skull; expected to die.
BINNS, FREDERICK E., of 55 Sawyer Street, Elizabeth, N. J.; shock; sent home.
BROOK, MISS ANNA G., of 57 Elm Street, Elizabeth, N. J.; bruises and cuts; in St. Francis Hospital.
CLARK, S. H., of Metuchen, N. J., scalp wounds; in City Hospital.
DONALDSON, MAX, of 42 West 135th Street, New York City; serious internal injuries; City Hospital.
DOUGLASS, WILLIAM L., 12 Emmet Street, Newark; cut and bruised; went home.
EWING, WILLIAM, of Allendale, N. J.; unconscious from shock and possible internal injuries; doctors say he will recover; in Christ Hospital.
HUDHIZER, CHARLES, Rahway, N. J.; shoulder sprained; went home.
MAYNAR, RAYMOND, Rahway, N. J.; bruised and cuts; went home.
M'GARRY, FREDERICK, baggage-master of Philadelphia train; cuts and bruises; sent home.
MEAD, DANIEL, of 374 South Nineteenth Street, Newark; fireman of Philadelphia train; internal injuries; City Hospital.
QUINN, MELVILLE J., of 15 Hedden Terrace, Newark; cuts and shock; went home.
ROLFE, JOHN, of Metuchen, N. J.; arm sprained; sent home.
SENDAY, GEORGE L., of 244 Wright Street, Newark; possible fracture of the skull; may die; in St. Francis Hospital.
SIEBERT, WILLIAM, of Trenton, N. J.; mail clerk on Philadelphia train; shock; sent home.
SIMPSON, HENRY F., mail clerk on Philadelphia train; three ribs broken; sent home.
SMITH, GEORGE, of 107 Elizabeth Avenue, Newark; shock; sent home.
SPEAR, KENNETH, of Metuchen, N. J.; cuts on head; sent home.
SPITTLEHOUSE, G. E., of Elizabeth, N. J.; shock; in St. Francis Hospital.
TENCH, GEORGE, of 224 Light Street, Newark; internal injuries; in St. Francis Hospital.
WEIL, MRS. E. G., of 36 Camp Street, Jersey City; bruises; proceeded to New York.
ZELARSKI, S., of 43 Herman Avenue, Newark; shock; sent home.
Met on Elevated Structure.
The scene of the wreck is near a little flag station in the Jersey City municipal limits known as Waldo. The engines came together on the elevated structure over Railroad Avenue, a few hundred yards south of Brunswick Street. The place is densely populated. The railroad structure passes through crowded tenements that line both sides of the avenue. The structure carries four tracks at the point of the accident, two outgoing and two incoming, and it was on an incoming track that the collision occurred. Both engines were wrecked and several of the steel cars twisted, but not one of the cars gave way under the strain.
The car in which most of the passengers were injured was the smoking car, which was third from the engine. That car was turned completely over, its top overhanging Railroad Avenue. Every glass in it was broken, parts of it were twisted, asif they were made of slender wire, yet of the hundred or more persons who were in it, at least half of them escaped without a scratch. These passengers were tumbled all over the car when it was overturned, and when the people who rushed to the rescue by the hundreds, got there they expected to find it full of dead and dying, so badly battered was the car from the outside.
Scores of men and boys clambered through windows unaided, some of them half dazed, but comparatively few of them bearing any marks.
In the cars in the rear of the smoker were hundreds of women, and the scenes there following the collision bordered on a panic. Some of the women swooned and others fought to get out. Persons on the trestle above had hard work in keeping some of the excited people from jumping into the street forty feet below.
Those who were injured in the smoking car were rescued by the police.
At the time of the wreck the speed at which the Philadelphia train was said to be going varies all the way from 15 to 30 miles an hour. The speed of the engine that was backing in must have been equal. The engines had just whisked by the signal tower known as the "C. U.," just below which is the switch. This switch upon investigation was proved to have been property set. The impression is that a defective rail caused the collision. The Philadelphia train was running on Track No. 3 and the Long Branch engine on No. 2, and the engines came together just as the Philadelphia train was passing the switch.
After leaving the track the Philadelphia engine bumped over cross ties until it smashed into the Long Branch engine on the parallel track. Every car in the Philadelphia train was derailed.
Engine Men Buried In Wreck.
The report of the impact of the engines was heard for blocks. The Long Branch engine was almost completely wrecked and when it went over a mass of wreckage, JOHN MONROE, its engineer, and JAMES McCLURE, its fireman, were buried in a mass of twisting iron and escaping steam and it is believed both were spared torture by instant death.
SPILLEYS engine finally came to a sudden stop, the engineer being thrown underneath, the tender when it turned turtle and killed, although not instantly. SPILLEY stuck to his post to the last. He realized what was happening, and knew he was gone.
MEAD, his fireman, who escaped serious injury, was the first to go to the rescue of his chief, and when he got to the place where SPILLEY was penned dying beneath the debris, SPILLEY reached out his hand, saying he was done for, and then calmly told him good-bye. Five minutes later death had taken him. When the rescuers reached him they found MEAD weeping and still grasping the hand of his dead chief.
MEAD owes his life to the fact that the side of the engine cab in which he was riding was about the only part of the engine to remain intact. The side occupied by SPILLEY was almost reduced to kindling wood. Bad as was the wreck of this engine, it was not to be compared in completeness to that of the Long Branch engine, in the wreckage of which the engineer and fireman both were killed.
An Heroic Mail Clerk.
The car next to the engine was the mail and express car, and in this car was revealed another hero of the wreck. HENRY SIMPSON, one of the United States mail clerks, is the man. This car, which was the only one not of steel, was badly wrecked, and SIMPSON as thrown about so violently that he suffered three fractured ribs. When the rescuers got to him they found him suffering intense pain, but he refused to heave his post until property authorized mail agents were sent to relieve him. He struck to the end and was then sent home.
It was rumored that in the mail car was $1,000,000 which was on its way to the sub-treasury in this city from the Philadelphia Mint, but his report lacked confirmation, and is not believed to have been true. If it was it got to its destination safely, for none of the mail or other matter in the car was disturbed. In the express car there was $40,000 belonging to the Adams Express Company. This money was placed under guard, and later taken to the company's offices.
GEORGE SENDAY and WILLIAM EWING, two of those badly injured, were both in the smoking car at the time of the collision, and were among the first to be taken out of the wrecked car by the rescuers. Both were hurried to hospitals, where it was said the MR. SENDAY'S condition was critical. MR. EWING, it turned out, was not as badly hurt as he appeared to be when taken from the wrecked car.
At least a score more persons than those whose names were given, it was said, had received minor injuries following the wreck, but they refused hospital attendance, and most of them proceeded to the ferry by trolley. That there were some cool heads in the smoker when it was crashing over the crossties immediately preceding its turning turtle was shown by what some of those who escaped said.
GEORGE E. SMITH, of Newark, who was a passenger, said the sensation when the car was rumbling and crashing over the elevated structure was terrifying. Many of those in the car, he said, were panic-stricken, expecting mementarily to be dashed to death, but several men showed their grit by shouting to the others to keep their heads and hold on to their seats.
Such expressions as "Keep your head," "Don't lose your nerve," and "This is the time to keep cool," he said, were shouted from all parts of the car. The calmness of these men, MR. SMITH said, undoubtedly saved many persons from serious injury in the first wild scramble to get out.
All the available police reservesin Jersey City were immediately summoned to the scene of the wreck, as were the ambulances from every hospital in Jersey City, in addition to several fire companies. The police found the situation on their arrival a hard one to handle, at least 10,000 persons being massed under the elevated structure and in the side streets leading to Railroad Avenue in the immediate vicinity. Hundreds of the persons scaled the embankment just south of Brunswick Street, where the superstructure begins, and to get these people off the tracks and to establish adequate police lines in the streets below required a hard half hour's work.

The New York Times New York 1909-11-07