Shamokin, PA Train Wreck, July 1889



[Special to The World]
Shamokin, Pa., July 17. -- A train loaded with 200 miners returning from their day's labor was wrecked near this place. Two persons were killed, and, as far as could be ascertained, twenty injured. Two of the latter were women.
The dead are:
The injured are:
LEVI ALBRECHT, injuries to head.
JOHN BAKER, shoulder broken.
MIKE BRITTON, back broken.
PAT BRITTON, leg crushed.
JOHN DAHOLT, legs mangled.
JERE FREDERICKS, injuries to back.
MIKE GOBET, injuries to head.
JAS. HODGES, leg broken.
IRWIN KASHNER, leg broken.
JACOB KULP, injuries to face.
WM. LENDERMANN, leg injured.
MRS. JOHN McHUGH, internal injuries.
JOHN METZ, head cut.
J. MILLER, collar-bone broken.
ALBERT REED, engineer, leg injured.
CONRAD RUMHEISER, side injured.
JOSEPH G. SMITH, jaw broken.
JOHN THOMAS, injures to head and body.
NORTON WEAVER, injuries to leg and face.
A woman, ribs broken.
The passenger train was running at its regular speed when the miners, who were standing on the rear platform of the train, saw two freight cars rushing down upon them. The cars had become detached at some colliery and were running wild down the heavy grade. The miners shouted to their companions to jump. Many of them leaped from the windows and the platforms of the coaches, but the runaway cars overtook the train before all were out, telescoping the cars. The train-load of miners was returning to Shamokin from Hickory Ridge Colliery after the day's work. A scene of great excitement prevailed. The list of injured is incomplete, as a number of those who were able to get away went immediately to their homes.
The train left Hickory Swamp, a village four miles east of here, several minutes before 6 o'clock. After a run of one mile the train ran on to the main track. Previous to this time the branch road was concealed from the main track by a "V"-shaped mountain. As the last car passed, the switch flagman, JOHN METZ, who was on the rear end, glanced up the main line and was paralyzed at the sight. One hundred yards behind, enveloped in a cloud of dust, came two loaded coal cars rushing down upon the train like a black meteor.
The passenger train was somewhat behind time and was also skimming down the tracks at a speed of forty miles an hour. Without a second's thought METZ yelled to the inmates of the car and then jumped. He landed safely alongside of a pile of railroad ties, four of which he at once threw across the rails. The pursuing cars cut through them like a knife. By this time the inmates of the two passenger cars which were literally packed, beheld the danger. A wild scene of confusion ensued. A simultaneous rush for the doors was made. A few succeeded in gaining the platforms and safely jumped off, when a jam occurred in the doorway. Then many leaped through the open windows and rolled down a steep embankment.
MRS. JOHN McHUGH, about to be a mother, leaped from her seat and shouted to the men in the rear car, "Clear the way for me!"
Instantly the men, who were fighting like devils to get out, cleared a passage through which the woman ran on to the platform and then jumped off the flying train into the creek. Then the crash came and in a second many of the inmates were writhing about the floors in agony, while others were rushing over their mangled and torn bodies to gain the open air. After the runaway cars struck they passed through the passenger coaches like a bolt, the coal flying about the ears like a battery of Gatling guns. The scene that followed was terrible. All this time the wrecked train kept the track and rushed on to Luke-Fidler Station at a great speed. Two miles down the line, when the engine left the track and the cars telescoped, the most damage was done.
After the vast clouds of dust cleared away the uninjured went bravely to work, and in an hour succeeded in extricating the dead and wounded. The cars that caused the wreck started from the Excelsior Colliery, two miles east of Coal Run switch. There were four cars standing on the siding below the colliery, and it is supposed that mischievous boys, in order to procure a ride, uncoupled the cars and loosened the brakes. When nearing a patent switch, leading to the main track, the brakes were put on, but the boys, unable to tighten them enough, became frightened, jumped off and took to the woods.
Wrecking crews are now on the scene of the disaster, and will have the road open for traffic by morning. The road will suffer a loss of $15,000.

The World New York 1889-07-18