South Wallingford, VT Train Wreck, Feb 1876

A SLEEPING-COACH BURNED.

ACCIDENT ON THE HARLEM EXTENSION ROAD--TWO PASSENGERS BURNED TO DEATH----SEVERAL OTHERS INJURED.

From Our Own Correspondent.

POUGHKEEPSIE, Thursday, Feb. 24, 1876.

A terrible accident occurred yesterday evening to the Montreal Express, which left that city last Wednesday afternoon. The train, which consisted of an engine, baggage car, one passenger coach, and a Wagner sleeping car, was detained some time at Essex Junction, on the Central Vermont Railroad. After entering upon the Harlem extension the train was proceeding at a rapid rate to make up for the lost time, when, on nearing the little hamlet of South Wallingford, thirteen miles from Rutland, a broken rail was encountered. The engine passed safely over, but the passenger and sleeping car, with its ten or a dozen slumbering occupants, upset after leaving the track, and went rolling down a twenty-five foot embankment, landing in a marble yard. The car was wrecked, and, the passengers being thrown from their berths by the shock, a painful scene ensued.

It was nearly midnight and the weather was intensely cold. The passengers were escaping from the car as best they could, assisted by those from the passenger car and the villagers attracted to the spot, many of them in their frantic haste coming forth with only their night clothing to shield them from the keen air. As fast as the injured were taken out they were removed to places of safety in the depot building. It soon became evident that the car was on fire, and before the work of rescue was complete Mr. Bissell, of the Sherman House, Chicago, who, with his son, occupied a berth in the forward end of the sleeping-car, got safely out, but being made aware that his son was still in the burning car went back to save him, and being overpowered by the smoke was burned to death. The position of the charred remains showed that the father must have been overcome while entering the window, as the body was found inside the car and the feet projecting through the window. The charred body of young Bissell was also found, and he had evidently been suffocated in the attempt to escape the car. Nearly all the passengers in the car were more or less injured, and immediately after the accident the engine proceeded to Danby, the next station, five miles distant, and brought back Dr. Whipple and another physician to attend the sufferers. Among the occupants of the car were Francis Tierney and wife, of Chicago, both of whom were injured about the face and head, but who were taken out of the car before the flames had gained headway. A. P. Pitkin, of Hartford, Conn., who was in his berth at the time of the occurrence, was thrown out an injured severely on the head. The sleeping-car conductor and the regular conductor were both in the forward end of the car when the accident occurred, and both were slightly injured. Mme. Pierrot, of Philadelphia, was also injured and an unknown man who belonged in Chicago was injured slightly. Several others, among them W. Chipman of Montreal, and Frederick Woodbridge, were slightly cut or bruised. Several of the passengers lost all their clothing and effects, escaping only in their night clothes. Mr. Pitkin, who escaped in drawers and shirt only, had in his clothing a $600 gold watch and a wallet containing $150, besides a number of valuable papers and memoranda.

The villagers did their best to render the situation of the injured comfortable, and several instances of kindness were recorded as especially noteworthy. One of these was that of Mrs. Palmer, of Rutland, who took off her own clothing to shield a lady, who had been taken out in her nightclothing, from the inclement weather. The passenger car contained, it is reported, some fifty passengers, but fortunately none of them sustained serious injury, although the alarm and excitement which prevailed for a time were of the most intense character.

The New York Times, New York, NY 25 Feb 1876