Hastings, NY Train Wreck, Dec 1891

Fatal Results of a Railroad Accident at Hastings, N.Y.

A Careless Signal Man to Blame for the Horror.

Twelve human lives were sacrificed in the wreck on the Hudson River Railroad near Hastings, N.Y. It was the most serious disaster in the annals of that road during the past twenty years, and one man's ignorance and carelessness was responsible for it all.

Summed up in a word it amounts to this, that by a carelessness almost beyond the mind of man to understand, and for which there is not the remotest shadow of excuse or palliation, seven men and women were slaughtered outright, four more so horribly scalded, burned and mangled that they died a few hours later, and half a dozen others so fearfully injured that if they survive they will carry to their dying day the fearful traces of the ordeal which they went through. And all this because a employee who was sent back to signal a train preferred to sit in a station and smoke a cigar instead of standing at his post on the tracks and attending to his duty.

The Niagara Falls express, which left the Grand Central Station, New York City, at 7:30 o'clock in the evening, was stopped three-quarters of a mile south of Dobb's Ferry, because of the temporary break down of the engine of a train ahead. Behind the Niagara express was rushing onward the heavy St. Louis express. As soon as the Niagara Falls train stopped Conductor GEORGE WILKINS sent his rear brakeman, HERRICK, back 1000 yards with a red lantern, with orders to stop the express.

He took his red lantern, and walked back toward Hastings. For some unknown reason he utterly ignored his orders and went back to Hastings, where he entered the station and began to talk to Station Agent DE LANNOY. On rushed the heavy express while the safety of the train ahead, hidden by a curve, and of its passengers, was in the hands of a man who gave no thought to his duty nor to the danger his negligence involved. The express dashed past the station, and HERRICK realized the tragedy that was inevitable. It was too late.

With his red lantern in his hand he staggered out upon the platform and listened for the crash. It came like a rumble of distant thunder.

Engineer JAMES DONOHUE, when too late, had seen the train ahead as his own iron monster, Engine No. 872, one of the most powerful on the line, swept around the curve. He reversed his engine, applied the air brakes and leaped just in time to save his life.

The engine struck the sleeping car Gibralter and tore it to pieces. Clear through the car it went, while from its broken pipes poured out volumes of scalding, suffocating steam, that cooked human flesh. Twenty-two people were in that fated car. By as miracle two escaped.

The scenes that followed were terrible. Passengers from the other cars peering into the wreck saw human forms, and ran for the tools provided by the road for just such cases in order to release them. Three axes broke to pieces when put to use, and then the dead and dying men and women had to be pulled out as best they could. Many residents of that thickly settled district had heard the crash, and came to the rescue.

Women came, bringing mattresses and bedding, and bravely helped the surgeons in their work. A corps of doctors were soon at work from the near village.

Not a wheel of the Cincinnati express left the track. Its engine was demolished. The train was backed to Hastings, and after the track was cleared all uninjured passengers were transferred to it and continued their journey north.

The wounded were taken to Dobb's station, and the dead – twelve in number – to Tarrytown, to Vanderbilt's undertaking establishment.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1892-01-01


Additional Information from:
Ticonderoga Sentenial New York 1891-12-26

The official list of the dead is as follows:
MRS. A. N. BALDWIN, of New York.
THOMAS W. POLLEY, of the firm of GEORGE H. POLLEY & Co., Boston.
ABRAHAM KNIGHT, Wagner Palace Car conductor.
MISS LIBBIE VAN ARSDALE, a school teacher of New York city.
MISS MABEL SLOCUM, of Lockport, N. Y.
MISS LIZZIE FORD, of Brooklyn.
J. W. WHITE, colored porter on Wagner car.
DR. S. E. BEST, dentist, of New York.
EDWIN S. WILCOX, of the law firm of JOHNES & WILCOX, of New York.
The Names of the Injured.
The Injured are:
MRS. HOMER R. BALDWIN, of New York, seriously.
MISS ANNIE FORD, slightly.
D. B. MURPHY, of New York, seriously.
HARRY A. JACOBSON, slightly.
J. R. BAGNALL, of Poughkeepsie, probably fatally.
Of the twenty-two persons who were in the ill fated car, but six escaped serious injury. They were:
J. C. GOULD, of New York.
MISS GREYER, of Poughkeepsie.
HOMER R. BALDWIN, of New York.
MR. and MRS. A. B. TREMAINE, of Brooklyn.