Albany, NY Train Crashes into Landslide, Dec 1884


The Atlantic express of the West Shore Road is due at Jersey City at 7 o’clock in the morning. It lost a few minutes south of Albany yesterday morning, and a little before 5 o’clock was booming along to make up time when it crashed into landslide at a bend in the road about a quarter of a mile above Highland Station. The engine mounted the pile of dirt and rocks and swerving to the left fell flat on its side across the track for north-bound trains. The tender parted from the engine, and it attempting to get over the debris turned almost completely around, at last, also, falling on its side. It wrenched off the coupling between it and the baggage car so violently as to send the baggage car plunging up an old dirt road on the mountain side, followed by the smoking car, two first class coaches, and the Pullman sleeping car Herkimer.

When the momentum was exhausted the baggage car started down hill and telescoped the smoking car. Then the baggage car, smoking car and forward coach toppled over. The concussion of the baggage and smoking cars tore away the iron framework that held in place the smoking car stove, and the stove was upset, scattering live coals along the underside of the smoking car. There was a fresh wind, and in a few minutes the car was ablaze. The second first class coach had been tipped at an angle of about 50°. That so wrenched the coupling joining this coach to the sleeping car Herkimer that it was impossible to disconnect the two cars. As no extinguishing appliances were at hand the fire soon spread along the line of cars, including the Herkimer, and destroyed them. Three other sleeping cars were on the train, but they were uncoupled and moved back out of danger.

When the engine struck the side, John Digman, the engineer, and James Gorman, the fireman, were hurled out. Digman went ahear of the engine and came down on all fours across a rail. He cut his hear slightly. Running back toward the wreck he found Gorman moaning on the ground near the tender. Digman tried to raise him. Gorman said something was weighing down his legs. It was all Digman could do to roll off a stone that had fallen across the fireman’s thighs. Then it was found that his right leg was broken. The cab of the locomotive had come off. Digman called for help, who turned the cab top over and threw their coats in it as a bed for Gorman, in which he was placed.

There were several soldiers in the smoking car, who were bringing Samuel Barnett, a deserter, to Fort Hamilton. They broke the windows and climbed out. Barnett, who wore handcuffs, cried piteously that he was hurt and couldn’t move. Conductor Decker jumped upon the car, caught Barnett by the coat, and pulled him through a window. Barnett limped off feebly, saying that there was still another man in the car. The conductor slipped out of his coat and dropped in through the window from which Barnett had emerged. By this time the car was blazing at one end, while smoke rose heavily from the the other. There were 150 passengers. Nearly all of them gathered near the car to watch for the conductor, few supposing that he would come out alive. After two or three minutes, that seemed much longer, he reappeared at the window, gasping and weak. He had crawled the length of the car, feeling in and under each seat. No one was there.

A physician on the train and Dr. Lamore, of Highland, attended to the injured. The fireman’s leg was set, but it was found that one of his ankles had been crushed and that he was injured internally. Barnett had a rib broken. C. B. Taylor, an express messenger, dislocated his shoulder and was cut in the head and arms. A few other passengers were bruised, among them C. F. Barrager, on the right hand and side. He called in the afternoon at the company’s offices at Weehawken and said he should claim $10,000 damages. There were not more than 30 of the 150 passengers in the day coaches. It was impossible to get out the greater part of the baggage.

The sleeping cars, with all the passengers, were sent back to West Park, where they lay until 9 o’clock, coming down with the regular train to the wreck. There they were transferred to a relief train from Cornwall, which Conductor Decker brought to Jersey City, reaching there at 11:15. The wreck was cleared up so that trains could pass it by noon. Barnett and Taylor came down on an afternoon train, when Taylor walked to his home in Jersey City, and Barnett was carried to Governor’s Island. A stretcher met the 8 o’clock train at Jersey City last night, and Gorman, who had lain at Highland all day, was taken to St. Francis’s Hospital. He is in a critical condition, and will probably lose his foot at any rate. The engineer reported for duty at New-Durham last night, and Conductor Decker went on his regular trip to Buffalo.

The New York Times, New York, NY 17 Dec 1884