Little Falls, NY Train Wreck, Apr 1940


LITTLE FALLS, N. Y., Saturday, April 20 — At least twenty persons were killed, another was believed to be dead and at least seventy persons were injured, some seriously, when the Lake Shore Limited, the New York Central Railroad New York to Chicago express, jumped the track one-half mile east of here at 11:40 o'clock last night.

The total of dead was not known, but Sheriff Charles Malsan of Herkimer County reported to the State police that he believed that when all the bodies were removed from the wreckage the deaths would total thirty-three. Physicians and other rescue workers were obliged to neglect the dead in order to treat the scores of injured who required immediate attention.

There were thirteen unidentified dead at five funeral parlors in Little
Falls. At the Upright Funeral Home there were two men about 50 or 60-years old. In the Newitt Funeral Home there were three men and one woman and at the W. H. Shephardson Chapel there were three men, including a Negro porter. The Francis Cotter Undertaking Establishment had three bodies while another was at the Markwart Chapel here.

Later, as the rescue workers were able to remove much of the debris, Lieutenant John Ronan of the New York State Police said that twenty five bodies had been removed from the wreckage.

Leaves Track on Curve
The derailment occurred as the train, fifteen minutes late out of Albany and twelve minutes overdue at Utica, rounded the west end of the curve by the Mohawk River and came under the underpass of the old route of the State east-west highway to Buffalo.

As the locomotive left the track, it pulled after it a baggage car, a day coach and eleven of the thirteen sleeping cars which, with a final day coach, composed the train. The locomotive plowed on and crashed into a cliff lining the side of the cut. The baggage car and the day coach crashed on top of the locomotive, the debris of the three units filling the cut. Several of the cars behind telescoped the cars ahead.

In the crash against the cliff the boiler of the locomotive exploded and the blast was heard for hundreds of yards around. Near-by residents phoned to the police and ambulances and doctors and nurses were mobilized from Little Falls, from Herkimer, which is six miles away; from Utica, thirty miles distant, and from Ilion and other surrounding towns. State and local police were summoned from a wide surrounding area.

April 20, 1940 edition of "The New York Times"