Altoona, PA Horseshoe Curve Train Wreck, Feb 1947
Two Engines, 11 Cars Derailed
A railroad spokesman said two locomotives and 11 cars of the 14 car train were derailed, some rolling down an embankment.
The injured were rushed to hospitals at Altoona, where attendants became so busy they couldn’t count the casualties. Mercy and Altoona hospitals later reported they had a total of 85 casualties and more were arriving.
The accident disrupted all railroad telephone communications in the area, the spokesman said, increasing the difficulty of obtaining information and details.
The “Red Arrow” is one of the Pennsylvania’s crack passenger trains. It had eight sleepers, one diner, one coach and the rest baggage and mail cars.
TOM LYNAM, an Altoona photographer, said he saw three or four bodies lying around and injured passengers were moaning inside an overturned car.
“I shone my flashlight inside and saw arms and legs sticking up” he said. “Some railroad workers with acetylene torches were cutting the wreckage to release passengers who were pinned down. The injured were being carried away on stretchers.
“One woman was calling for her daughter, who was in a car that went down a 100-foot embankment.
It was a pretty weird sight and made me feel shaky. My two brothers, who drove from Altoona with me, became so nervous they could hardly hold still.
Witnesses told of a clergyman, identified as the REV. LEIBERMAN, of Canton, O., praying and calming passengers in the car at the bottom of the embankment.
The casualties were removed to Altoona by train.
The lines two eastbound tracks were open, but the westbound pair were blocked Traffic was rerouted.
LYNAM said the wreck occurred on a long slope leading to Cresson Mountain----the highest and most picturesque of the Alleghenies. It’s altitude is 2,100 feet.
A railroad spokes man said this was the status of the train: plunged down the embankment--two engines, mail car, one passenger Baggabe [sic] car, a coach, two sleepers; overturned but remaining on embankment--- diner, two sleepers; derailed but upright.--- Three sleepers; still on rails---one sleeper, one coach one express car.
JOHN BAIR., Swarthmore, enroute to Gettysburg college, where he is a student, a passenger on the Jeffersonian, another Pennsy train, described the wreckage as “a big mess”.
The Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, PA 18 Feb 1947
Transcribed by Edna Schlauch.