Elmira, NY Railroad Accident, June 1867



Elmira, N.Y., June 26. - A horrible railway smash-up took place at five o'clock this morning on the line of the Erie Railroad track, about ten miles east of Elmira. Two lives were lost, a number of persons slightly injured by the concussion or by scalding water, and a fearful wreck made of the train. I was a passenger on the train, and was startled about daylight by a sudden reeling and jolting of the cars, a confusion among the passengers, and a cry that people were being killed in the forward car. I hastily reached the platform and the ground, while passengers of both sexes were leaping out of the windows. The train had stopped. The engine, tender, and foremost cars were smashed and piled up in the most wonderful manner. The engineer, ELDRIDGE, lay dead under the baggage-car, with his heart riven and exposed, his head, jaw, and neck broken and cut, and his whole body mangled frightfully. Near him lay his brother-in-law, the fireman, in the agonies of death, his body hardly less mutilated; in a few minutes he also was dead. The baggage-master and mail agent were somewhat shaken up, but not injured to any extent, and had escaped most miraculously. None of the passengers were seriously injured.
It was speedily found that the cause of the accident was a broken rail and a rotten cross-tie. Two adjoining rails had sunk at the coupling; the engine had caught in the projecting forward rail, had run off the track to the right, climbed the embankment some twenty feet, and then, having by some means unfastened itself, along with the tender, was run into by the baggage and passenger cars.
The engine and tender were whirled clean round, smashed, turned backward nearly 200 feet on one side; while the express car was whirled round on the other side and ran into by the car in its rear, which forced it along several hundred feet on the other track, and in turn was dashed into by the next car. The momentum of the train being then lost, the hinder cars came to a standstill. In the meantime, the hot water from the boiler made its escape, and was drifted through the cars, which were flooded, doing little injury, but forcing the passengers to escape through floors and windows as best they could. A more complete wreck could not be imagined.
The corpses were laid out on the green sward and covered with branches, a message was sent to Elmira, and, in the course of an hour or two, a train came down and took all parties to this place, to find our way eastward as soon as the track is cleared.

The Evening Telegraph Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1867-06-29