Orange, VA Train Plunges Through Trestle, July 1888




Eight Persons Killed and Twenty-Five Severely Injured -- Scenes At the Wreck.

Charlottesville, Va., July 12. -- Express train No. 52 on the Virginia Midland Railroad left Orange Court House, south bound, on time at 1:50 this morning, Conductor C. P. TAYLOR, Engineer WATKINS, and Fireman KELLY. About two miles south of Orange is a trestle 48 feet high, which was known to be weak, and the railroad company was engaged in filling it in. The train was moving at a speed of six miles an hour crossing the trestle, under regular orders. The engine had passed safely over most of the trestle, when the smoker, mail, baggage, and express cars went down with a great crash, dragging down the engine and tender and two passenger coaches. The sleepers remained on the trestle. The engine went down, pilot end foremost, thus communicating no fire to the wreck. All lights were extinguished in the fall. As soon as the accident occurred the engineer, who was but slightly injured, walked back to Orange and telegraphed for assistance. DR. W. C. H. RANDOLPH, and other physicians left here on a special train for the wreck. The dead and some of the wounded were taken to Orange, while the more seriously hurt were brought to Charlottesville and placed in the cottage hospital, hotels, and homes of friends.
As far as can now be ascertained five were killed. C. COX of Alexandria of the engineering department of the Piedmont Air Line was instantly killed. H. T. WHITTINGTON of Greensborough, N. C., postal clerk, lived 10 minutes, and H. C. BRIGHTWELL, postal clerk, of Prospect, Prince Edward County, Va., lived until he reached the hospital; W. D. PARROTT of Albemarie County, postal clerk, was badly injured, as were also J. O. WEST and J. L. WALTHALL of Washington, D. C., postal clerks, and LOUIS JENKINS of Lynchburg, postal clerk, slightly injured; MR. POTTERFIELD, express agent, was seriously injured; Z. JENNINGS of Lynchburg, a passenger, reveived internal injuries; Conductor C. P. TAYLOR of Alexandria, who was in the car next the smoker when the accident occurred, was hurt about the head and one leg was injured. The number of injured is estimated at about 25.
Washington, July 12. -- General Manager RANDOLPH has received further details of the accident. In addition to the list of killed three more persons were found dead in clearing away the debris. They were passengers. Two of them were men and one was a woman, but at the latest accounts they had not been recognized. It was one of the passenger coaches in the middle of the train that ran off the track, causing the accident. It broke down the trestle, dragging back the mail and baggage car and engine, which had passed beyond the point where the trestle broke, and pulling them to ruin with it.
This train is always well loaded because of the through connection it makes between Boston and New Orleans, Augusta, and Atlanta. On an average it carries between 150 and 200 passengers. One of the sleepers was destined for White Sulphur Springs, to be dropped at Charlottesville. This car, however, was the last of the train and remained on the track.
MR. C. A. NICHOLSON of Baltimore, one of the survivors of the accident, has arrived here, and relates his experience as follows: "It was a horrible thing, he said, "and it is a miracle how any one who went down in that terrible fall escaped. It was in the dead of night and we had got nearly accross the bridge, when it suddenly gave way. The engine had reached the other side, but was pulled back by the falling baggage car and fell on top of it."
"The mail car was knocked out of recognition and the smoker was totally demolished. I was in the sleeper that went down. I don't know how I escaped. When I was awakened I looked out and found the car hoisted high in the air, resting on the remains of the cars below. The couplings connecting us with the other sleepers had given away and they remained on the track. We went to work as soon as possible, though it was pitch dark, and did our best to rescue the injured. The scene that followed was of indescribable horror. The shrieks and moans of the injured, the shouts of the wildly-excited passengers, and the hissing of the steam were terrible to hear."
The passenger cars were crushed out of all shape, while the sleeper was held high in the air by the ruins of the broken coaches. A little stream runs under the trestle, and the recent rains have swollen it to far beyond its wonted proportions. It is feared some were pinioned below its surface and perished in its waters.

The New York Times New York 1888-07-13