Bernalillo, NM, Train Wreck, July 1885

From Fort Worth Daily Gazette (Fort Worth, Texas), Tuesday, 21 July 1885, p. 1, col. 3–4


A Midnight Passenger Train in New Mexico Goes Dashing into a Fifteen-Foot Precipice.

Two Men Killed Outright and a Third Has Since Died — Others Probably Fatally Injured

Special to the Gazette,

ALBUQUERQUE, N. M., July 20. — A horrible railroad accident occurred on the Santa Fe railway nine miles east of Bernalillo, N. M., and twenty-seven miles from Albuquerque, yesterday [Sunday, 19 July 1885] morning on the east-bound train, which left Albuquerque at 11:15 that night, and in which three men lost their lives. Two of them were killed outright and a number were so horribly injured that their


Your reporter obtained permission from Superintendent BARR, who left Albuquerque with the wrecking train for the scene, to accompany him. The sight presented was a truly horrible one to see. The fated train’s conductor was Charles JONES. Henry WILSON was the engineer and Ed LYON the fireman. The train consisted of engine 104, one car of fruit, the Wells-Fargo express car, one combination mail and baggage car, one immigrant car, one combination regular coach and three Pullman sleepers. There were but few passengers on the train and most of them were


in the pullmans. The train was making time speed. The track was known to be good and was thought to be in perfect condition. Harry WILSON, the engineer, with the lever in his hand and with his eyes upon the shining rails in front, saw nothing but duty and a clear track ahead. Without warning the scene changed abruptly. The ponderous engine


into the earth. The air was filled with an unearthly roar and rattle and crash, and the fiend-god of terror, death and destruction smiled in ghastly satisfaction over the scene which pen cannot describe or human imagination depict. The slumbering passengers were roughly awakened from their uneasy rest. The trainmen heard the well-known but unwelcome sound of an accident and wreck, and the train, which a moment before was a thing of life and animation, now showed up beneath the stars a crushed and dismal picture of silence, wreck, death and


The night was dark, rendering the scene more appalling, and amid the groans of the wounded men, women and children and the hissing escaping steam from the now dismantled engine, confusion and terror reigned supreme. Lanterns were soon brought into requisition. The cause of the accident was clearly realized and the result of the terrible accident was


The train had just passed over a small bridge that spans one of the mountain’s treacherous streams and was making rapid speed to Wallace, where the entire working force of the train changes. Bridge No. 751 crosses a stream just beyond a large bridge. The ditch comes at a right angle with the track and from an easterly direction. During Saturday night a cloud burst or a heavy rain in the mountains filled the ditch to overflowing and the water


The rails were evidently left in position. The washout left a cut fifteen feet deep and twenty feet long. The engine cleared the hole and turned on her side to the left of the track twenty yards distant. The tender fell into the opening. The fruit car caught upon the tender and was smashed to pieces. The express car passed over this debris, but leaving the track a short distance beyond. The mail car and immigrant sleeper both


without uncoupling and followed the express car along the track. The regular coach stopped with the forward end resting on the pile of debris and the three Pullmans remained on the track unharmed. No blame could possibly be attached to the engineer or to the railroad company. It was one of the those peculiar rainfalls that usually occur without warning in the mountains.


The bodies of HARRY WILSON, the engineer, and FRANK ATKINSON, a laid-off fireman who was on his way to Wallace after making a visit to a young lady he was engaged to marry, were brought to Albuquerque. They were killed outright. Their bodies were embalmed by Undertaker Montfort.

HARRY LYONS, the regular fireman, was taken to San Marcial horribly scalded and internally bruised. He has since died.

JOHN DENNET, the express messenger, who was most seriously wounded, was also brought to Albuquerque. His death is expected at any moment.

Neither the conductor nor any of the brakemen were hurt. Several passengers received bruises which will incapacitate them for some time. A track has been laid around the wreck.