Portage, PA Train Wreck, Jul 1903



The Collision Occurred Half Mile West of Portage Early This Morning - Fireman Ramsey, of Altoona, Has Toes Crushed - Tie On Wire Held Down Distance Signal, and Engineer Fleck Thought He Had Clear Block - Express Train Was Composed of Six Carloads of Thoroughbreds.

The sixth section of train 19, on the Pennsylvania, ran into the rear end of a freight train half a mile west of Portage this morning at 7:30 o'clock, wrecking ten cars of the freight and the engine of 19. One man was injured – Fireman J. R. RAMSEY, aged 27, of 1307 Sixteenth street, this city. His left foot was caught by a wheel after the run-in, crushing his great, second and third toes so badly that the great toe will have to be amputated and the two others will lose their ends. He also sustained a slight laceration of the scalp.

Train 19 was composed of six cars of horses. It was being hauled west by Engineer W. L. FLECK, aged 42, of 1311 Seventeenth street, and was in charge of conductor GOODMAN, of Pittsburg.
The freight train was being hauled by engine 1830, and was composed ob sixty empty cars. The freight had been stopped by a train ahead.

Evidently the man in the tower at Portage had set the block signal right, but it showed up white.

Investigation afterwards revealed the fact that the distance signal was held by a railroad tie, which had been thrown on the wire last night, when it was unloaded with a lot of other ties along the track.

Engineer FLECK, when he saw the white block, supposed he had a clear track. When he came upon the freight train there was little time to stop, and the collision resulted, although train 19 was almost stopped when the crash came.

The engine of 19 was hurled to the side of the track, and the front part went over the bank, the end of the tender remaining on the rails. Fireman RAMSEY was on the tank at the time, and he was brushed off by the wreckage and caught in the debris. His left foot was caught under a car wheel.

Engineer FLECK remained on the engine, not having time to jump, and miraculously escaped without a scratch. None of the horses or the horse cars were injured. The horses were all valuable race horses, consigned to western tracks.

The wreck blocked all four tracks, and wreck crews were summoned from Gallitzin and Conemaugh to put things in shape. Traffic was delayed several hours.

After Fireman RAMSEY was removed from the wreck he was taken to Portage, where DR. TROXELL of Gallitzin temporarily dressed his injuries. He was brought to Altoona on Altoona accommodation and admitted to the hospital where his toes were amputated.

Altoona Mirror Pennsylvania 1903-07-28