White River Junction, VT Train Wreck, Feb 1887

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An Excursion Train Bolts From a Bridge Through the Thick Ice of White River---Passengers Burned is The Wreck.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., 8:30 p. m., February 5.---The night express to Montreal which left here at 8:15 last night, ran off a bridge at Woodstock, Vermont, two miles north of White River Junction, and the sleepers and passenger cars and bridge were entirely burned. It is reported that a large number of people were injured; and the number of killed and burned is also reported to be large. The conductor was fatally burned 1 and 2 o'clock this morning on the Central Vermont road.

The train which was wrecked at Woodstock bridge this morning as it left White River Junction, where it is made up, consisted of one sleeper and passenger coach from here. One Chicago sleeper connected at White River Junction, one Boston sleeping car and one mail car from Boston, and one other passenger coach, one baggage and express car. Frank Wesson, son of T. B. Wesson, of this city, of the firm of Smith & Wesson, pistol manufacturers, was among the killed.

Boston, February 5.---A dispatch from Bradford, Vt., to the Associated Press says: The night express, which left White River Junction bound for Montreal, filled with passengers from Boston and New York for the carnival was wrecked at the first crossing of White river. A rail broke and the engine, one baggage car, one passenger and one sleeping car went over the bridge sixty feet into the river. Before the engineer or anyone could get to the wreck the cars had caught fire and burned. The bridge also was burned, and inside of twenty minutes all was consumed.


CONCORD, N. H., February 5.---The train was about an hour and a half late leaving White River Junction. It consisted of a locomotive, baggage car, postal car, two passenger coaches and two sleeping cars, and was running at the usual rate of speed. When about 200 yards south of the end of the bridge near the old Windsor Station, a broken raid was struck. The locomotive, baggage car and postal car broke away from the rest of the train, passing over the bridge in safety. The rest of the train was thrown from the rails and continued on the road bed till it came near the bridge, but there it ran over an abutment, and all of the cars fell into White River, some 50 feet below. The gorge at this point is frightful and when the cars went down there was a terrible crash. As soon as possible the detached part of the train was stopped and run back to the scene of the disaster. The screams of the injured were heartrending. Assistance also came from people living in the vicinity, and everything was done to rescue and relieve the injured.

Soon after help arrived it was discovered that fire has started in the first passenger coach, and soon the entire train was ablaze, thus adding a new horror to the already frightful catastrophe. Those present were powerless to stop the fire, and devoted themselves to attempting to rescue those imprisoned in the wreck. The rescuers met another and unexpected obstacle in the heat, which had become so intense they were obliged to relinquish their efforts to save the sufferers and were compelled to retreat to a place of safety for themselves and to become the unwilling and horror stricken witnesses of the awful holocaust. In addition to this and adding to the terrors and sufferings of the passengers, the weather was intensely cold, and the heroic rescuers were hindered thereby in their work. No water could be obtained with which to check or extinguish the flames. The ice was several inches thick on the river and there were no appliances at hand to raise it.

It had not been and probably never will be, possible to tell accurately how many lives have been lost. From the best data obtainable, there were about 80 persons in the four cars destroyed. The lowest estimate places the probable number of killed at 30, and it is possible that twice that number may be correct. A great many were killed outright by the tremendous fall and crush of the cars, but several cases are known where people unhurt or only slightly injured were fastened in the wreck and burned to death. One lady and one man were rescued from the sleeper, badly bruised and almost naked, their clothing being torn from them in hastily pulling then out of reach of the fire.

The bridge caught fire and was destroyed. The night was freezing cold, and , but fore the hospitality of a farmer named Thomas Pingere, who lived near the scene of the accident, who filled his house with sufferers, many who escaped the wreck with little or no clothing would have frozen to death.

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