Northfield, VT Train Wreck, Aug 1910
SEVEN KILLED IN A WRECK OF TRAINS AT NORTHFIELD, VERMONT.
OIL TANK CARS EXPLODED AFTER THE COLLISION -- VICTIMS BURNED BEYOND RECOGNITION IN WRECK FIRE -- ENGINEER MAY BE TO BLAME.
WILLIAM BRUNDENELL, Northfield, Vt., conductor southbound train.
JOHN DEBUQUE, St. Albans, Vt., fireman southbound train.
LEON LABUQUE, brakeman southbound train.
MR. LANE, conductor southbound train.
J. W. BERRYMAN, engineer northbound train.
Two Strike-Breakers, names Unknown.
WILLIAM A. WYNN, St. Albans engineer southbound train, hip and shoulder broken; in serious condition.
D. S. HAMEL, St. Albans, brakeman southbound train, injured about head and body.
JESSE SMITH, Haverhill, Mass., brakeman southbound train; hip broken.
Northfield, Vt., Aug. 22. -- Seven bodies, most of them burned beyond recognition, have been recovered from the charred and tangled mass of wreckage which marks the spot where two freight trains of the Central Vermont system met head-on at Northfield Falls at 8:15 yesterday morning.
Three other men were injured, one probably fatally.
In addition two or three cattle tenders who were accompanying a shipment of stock on the northbound train, and whose names are not known, have been missing since the wreck and are believed to be among the dead.
As far as is known no member of the crew of the northbound train escaped with his life.
The majority of the victims of the wreck are believed to have been burned alive, pinned beneath the wreckage of the cars.
Following the collision two tank cars, full of crude oil, exploded and burned fiercely, keeping the wrecking crews and rescuers at a distance for hours. Twenty-two cars were burned before the fire was checked.
Happened In Danger Spot.
The northbound train consisted of 35 or 40 heavily laden cars bound from White River Junction to Montpelier and St. Albans. The southbound train consisted of locomotive, tender and caboose, and was coming to Northfield to take the members of the Vermont National guard to Burlington, whence they were going to Pine Plains, N. Y., for their annual encampment.
The accident happened on a sharp curve two miles from here at the most dreaded spot on the line, between St. Albans and White River Junction. It was only a few hundred feet away from the place where a disastrous head-on collision occurred a few years ago in which several trainmen were killed.
The southbound train, it is said, had the right of way over the single track, and the northbound train was to stop at Northfield to let it pass.
Mixup Or Delay.
Apparently there was either a mixup or delay in regard to putting out the signal here or the engineer of the north bound train failed to see it.
According to one report the telegraph operator here, who had orders to hold the northbound freight to meet the southbound train, failed to get his signal board down in time, and rushed out with his orders just as the freight train went through at 30 miles an hour on a down grade. He made frantic efforts, it is said, to attract the attention of those in the caboose, but was unsuccessful and the crash came a few minutes later.
The locomotive on the northbound train was demolished by the impact and eight cars of lumber, furniture and oil were hurled down a 20-foot bank, soon becoming a mass of flames.
Fire Hinders Rescue Work.
News of the accident reached Northfield within a few minutes, but by the time the volunteers arrived at the wreck the fire had gained such headway that all efforts at rescue were unavailing and they could do nothing to help the sufferers toward whom the flames were rapidly creeping.
It was nearly noon before the fire had been sufficiently controlled to allow the wreckers to work and to commence the removal of the bodies. Even then parts of the wreckage were still afire and cars over which the oil had been scattered continued to burn for hours. Twenty-two cars were consumed.
At the rear of the long train was one carload of dynamite and one carload of gasoline, but there were not derailed.
The Northfield fire department was summoned and pumped water on the burning mass for several hours. The damage to rolling stock and freight is estimated at $50,000 or more.
D. S. HAMEL, the brakeman on the southbound train, when seen said he saw the approaching train, saw the engineer jump, but before he could get from the window the collision took place. When he regained consciousness he was under the pile of lumber from the cars of the northbound train, having been hurled a distance of 30 feet.
He was pinned underneath several of the large timbers and used his left leg to dig through the dirt sufficiently to allow his body to pass through, enabling him to get where assoctance could reach him.
Although the officials of the Central Vermont road have had little opportunity today to look into the cause of the wreck and have not placed the blame upon any one as yet, it is reported that the engineer of the northbound train ran by a signal that had been set by the operator at Northfield.
Tonight the operator, L. P. MURRERE, is a nervous wreck. He has been unconscious the greater part of the day and no effort has been made to secure from his his version of the wreck's cause.
Tonight the railroad officials are giving their best efforts to the reestablishment of the service, which has necessarily been suspended since the wreck occurred. To remove the piled up wreckage will require days of work and so a temporary track running around the wreck is being placed in position and it is hoped to have this in readiness for use by midnight or, at the latest, early in the morning.
Several valuable trotting horses were in one of the cars of the wrecked freight train and all are reported to have been either killed in the crash or burned in the fire which followed.
Lowell Sun Massachusetts 1910-08-22