Turner's Station, NY Circus Train Collision, Sep 1870


A Train of Cars Wrecked at Turner's Station -- One Man Instantly Killed -- Several Injured -- Reticence of the Railway Officials.

Yesterday morning at about 7 o'clock, the Atlantic and Great Western express train from the West ran into LENT'S Circus train at Turner's Station in Orange County, N. Y., smashing several cars, and instantly killing the manager of the circus company. The escape of the other passengers of the two trains is almost miraculous. The "circus train," containing the company and all the appurtenances of LENT'S New York Circus, left Middletown, N. Y., at 5 o'clock in the morning, on its way to Paterson, where the company were to perform yesterday afternoon and evening. The train contained two passenger cars, which were in the rear, and seven freight and other cars, in which were packed the tents, seats, band wagon and all the appliances of the circus company. The horses occupied three cars. When the train had proceeded as far as Turner's Station, it stopped, on account of the heating of a "journal" in the engine. A brakeman, it is said, was ordered back with a signal to stop approaching trains, but he failed to go as directed, around the curve, but contented himself with holding out his signal at a short distance in the rear of the train and between that and the curve which had just been passed a little way west of the station. The circus train stood at the station about twelve minutes. The conductor of the express had been notified at Middletown, that the circus train was to be passed at Turner's. The train was therefore driven down around the curve at full speed, and only when within a short distance was it known by the engineer that the circus train stood on the track directly in front of him. When the train was observed coming around the curve, past the point to which the brakeman had been sent, the engineer of the circus train started his train with the intention of running away if possible, but he was too late. The express train dashed into the rear cars smashing them. The men and women belonging to the circus company were in these cars, and how they escaped instant death is a mystery. The framework of the car, the windows, doors and seats were splintered as if by a powder explosion. Only four members of the company, besides the manager, MR. WHITBECK, are known to have been hurt, and they only slightly. MR. WHITBECK, when the train started, stepped out upon the platform. He had hardly closed the door when the collision came. He was instantly killed, being crushed between the cars. The engineer and fireman of the express train were badly hurt, the engineer being so severely injured internally that his recovery is said to be impossible. The passengers by the express train escaped without injury, although severely shocked and some of them thrown from their seats. The locomotive of the express train, after everything had come to a standstill, stood half covered with the fragments of the rear cars, and before it could be extricated had set them on fire. The locomotive was badly damaged, but remained upon the track. The freight cars of the circus train were thrown from the track, one of them being utterly wrecked. This car contained the band-wagon, which was destroyed. The other property of the company was damaged or destroyed, except the horses. They were in the forward cars and escaped uninjured.
The most diligent inquiries were made yesterday, at the Erie Depot, in Pavonia avenue, for facts concerning the collision, but the officials on duty there, in obedience to orders given sometime ago by the officers in Twenty-third street, denied the occurrence of any accident, and refused to give any information touching the time of arrival of the detrained express train.
MR. WHITBECK was a resident of Hudson, N. Y., and had formerly been a merchant in Albany.

The New York Times New York 1870-09-29