Newark Bay, NJ Commuter Train Wreck, Sept 1958

The Newark Bay rail accident occurred on September 15, 1958 in Newark Bay, New Jersey. A Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRRNJ) morning commuter train, #3314, ran through a restrictive and a stop signal, derailed, and slid off the open Newark Bay lift bridge. Both diesel locomotives and the first two coaches plunged into Newark Bay and sank immediately, killing 48 people.[1] A third coach, snagged by its rear truck (bogie), hung precariously off the lift bridge for two hours before it also toppled into the water. As the locomotive crew was killed, the cause of the accident was never determined, and was never reinvestigated.

There were three signals spaced at three-quarters of a mile, a quarter of a mile, and 500 feet (150 m) from the draw bridge, and an automatic derailing device fifty feet beyond the third signal. The bridge span had to be down and locked electrically before the signals and derail devices could be cleared for movement on the track. Conversely, all the devices had to be in their most restrictive positions before the bridge could be unlocked and raised. The train ran through two signals and was derailed automatically; the automatic derailer was designed to knock the wheels off the track so that the resistance of the ties and ballast against the train's wheels would bring a slow-moving derailed train to a stop. Train #3314, although derailed, was moving at such a great speed that it did not have sufficient distance to stop before diving off the bridge.

Forty-eight people died in the wreck, including former New York Yankees second baseman George "Snuffy" Stirnweiss and James Carmalt Adams, the brother-in-law of author Kurt Vonnegut. The railroad had a number of legal actions brought against it, which were all settled out of court. The two locomotives, #1532 and #1526, were raised, rebuilt by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors (EMD) and returned to service. Locomotive #1532 retained its original number, while the #1526 was renumbered #1531. They served primarily as freight locomotives, although the #1532 was photographed in passenger service after its return from EMD. The Newark Bay lift bridge was last used during 1978 and was determined to be a hazard to navigation; it was demolished during the 1980s.