Brooklyn, NY train wreck, Jan 1904


Three Fatalities and Many Injured in Brooklyn Collision.

Electric Train, Crowded with Passengers, Crashes Into Rear End of Stalled Locomotive and Cars.

Three were killed and many injured in a rear-end collision on the Kings County Eelevated [sic] Railroad in Brooklyn yesterday morning. The colliding cars caught fire, and others were hurt in the panic which ensued.

A four-car train of the Fulton Street Division drawn by a steam locomotive pulled out of the East New York yard at Alabama and Pitkins Avenues yesterday morning at 7:20, bound for Manhattan. A few moments after it had reached the main line of the elevated tracks the steam coupling apparatus between the locomotive and the first car became disarranged and the train stopped. Three minutes later, while repairs were being made, a five-car motor train of the City Line Division, carrying about 300 passengers bound for Manhattan, crashed into the rear car of the steam train, which carried no passengers.

The motor train was running at the rate of eleven miles an hour, and the result of the sudden and violent impact was the death of three men. About twenty were injured.

The killed were:
O'BRIEN, JOSEPH, thirty-four years old, car coupler, 52 Williams Avenue.
FERGUSON, WILLIAM, forty-five years old, road foreman of engines, 155A Hull Street.
ZULEEG, JOHN, fifty years old, yardmaster, 103 Liberty Avenue.

he three men were working at the coupling apparatus. O'Brien and Ferguson were killed instantly. Ferguson's body was crushed, and heavy brass keys found in one of his pockets were flattened by the force of the collision. Zuleeg died half an hour later in the Bradford Street Hospital without having regained consciousness.

After the accident Edward J. Wanzer, the motorman of the electric train; William Schneider, the acting conductor of the steam train, and George Becker, the switch tower man, were arrested on a charge of homicide.

Wanzer, whose face and scalp were lacerated, is forty-six years old, and lives at 145 New Jersey Avenue. He said:

"If there were any signals I did not see them, for the same reason that I did not see the train ahead of me. Everything was obscured by steam that was coming up from an exhaust pipe under the tracks and by smoke and steam from the engines in the yards."

Becker, it is said, gave the motor train a clear road signal, although the steam train was stalled. He said that trains often stopped for a moment at that point to let employes get on or off the cars. He is forty years old, lives on Vienna Avenue, and belongs to a family of railroad men.

When a train is stalled on the main line it is the duty of the conductor to walk back and set flags warning following trains. This, it is said, Schneider did not do. He is only twenty-one years old, an Austrian, and has been employed as a guard for eight months. He lives at 157 Allen Street, Manhattan.

Coroner Phillip T. Williams, who ordered the arrests, said:

"It seems to me that the conductor of this empty train was more to blame than anyone else in that he did not send any of his crew back to flag trains."

Wanzer was released under bail on an order from Magistrate Tighe. Becker and Schneider were paroled by Capt. Buchanan in charge of Brooklyn Rapid Transit Claim Agent Joseph Cain. All will appear in the Gates Avenue Police Court this morning.

The noise of the crash was heard for blocks around, and fire started immediately after the collision, the dangling iron work of the first car of the motor train and the rear car of the steam train, which were partially wrecked, making a short circuit with the third rail. Patrolman Crean saw the flames and turned in an alarm.

Engines and firemen responded promptly, and Capt. Buchanan brought the reserves from the Liberty Avenue Station. Every window of the crowded passenger car was shattered and the car itself telescoped into the rear car of the steam train. Passengers rushed out onto the tracks, being warned by the policemen under Capt. Buchanan and the firemen to look out for the deadly third rail. The current was almost immediately cut off from that section, however, and the extra danger was averted.

Hysterical women in two or three instances were prevented with difficulty from jumping to the street below, and the police reserves prepared to catch any that should try. All the passengers that were able walked the tracks to the Pennsylvania Avenue station, which the train had just left.

Ambulances from the Bradford Street, St. Mary's, and Bushwick Central Hospitals were soon on the scene. Although the majority of the passengers were women, only one was hurt. The following were hurt badly enough to require treatment at the Bradford Street Hospital:

FRANK, MRS. EMMA, thirty-five years old, 227 Milford Street, leg broken and possibly fractured skull.
MENENDER, RAYMOND, sixty-one years, cigar-maker, Essex Street and Pitkin Avenue; severe contusions and lacerations of the face and shoulders.
SMITH, GEORGE, thirty-five years, printer, of Pine Tree Road, Aqueduct; contusions of both legs and lacerations of the face.
BECKWITH, GEORGE, sixteen years, 925 Belmont Avenue; contustions and lacerations of scalp.
RILEY, EUGENE, twenty-five years, clerk, 2,260 Pitkin Avenue; lacerations and wounds of the scalp.

A number of the injured went home after being treated at the scene of the wreck. Some of them were:

BROWN, STEPHEN D., 353 Euclid Avenue; lacerations of the face and head.
EHRICHS, WILLIAM C., Ozone Park; gash on head and lacerations of face.
WEYMAN, MARTIN, 527 Linwood Street; cut hands and lacerations of face.
BRAUN, FERDINAND, 96 Magenta Street, contusions of body and lacerations of face.
FRANKENSTEIN, PHILLIP, 2,263 Pitkin Avenue, contusions and lacerations.
HUMBERT, CHARLES, 560 Linwood Street, contusion of the leg and body, and laceration of face and scalp.
CALAHAN, HAGAR, forty years, 335 Euclid Avenue; contusions and scalp wound.
PEEKEROLL, A. H., twenty-five years, 401 Linwood Street; lacerations of face and hands.
WIEKE, A. A., thirty years, 178 Linwood Street; contusions of shoulder and lacerations of face.

Capt. Buchanan, who with Inspector Murphy was on the scene from the first, does not understand how under the circumstances the loss of life was so small. Two of his policemen, Crean and Eggleston, dashed into the blazing cars and carried several half-conscious passengers to the street below. Eggleston wrapped up Mrs. Frank in a blanket, and by means of the ladder, which led to the street, carried her down and placed her in the police patrol wagon. The firemen soon put out the flames and the worst of the panic was over.

General Manager J. F. Calderwood. Assistant General Manager George R. Folds. General Superintendant Dow S. Smith, and Superintendant W. O. Wood of the elevated lines were at the scene until 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. Folds said later that evidently there was negligence on the part of somebody, but that they could not determine upon whom to place the blame until after a complete investigation had been made.

State Railroad Commissioner Baker also was at the scene of the accident, and said that he proposed to make a thorough investigation.

The New York Times, New York, NY 8 Jan 1904