1907 - 27 DEAD IN WRECK; DISPATCHER ERRED
Confused Orders and Caused Collision on the Boston & Maine Railroad.
TWENTY-SEVEN ARE INJURED
Passenger Car Telescoped in Crash with Freight in New Hampshire and Occupants Crushed to Death.
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt., Sept.15. - A head-on collision between the south-bound Quebec Express and a north-bound freight train on the Concord division of the Boston & Maine Road occurred four miles north of Canaan Station early to-day, due to a mistake in train dispatcher's orders, and from a demolished passenger coach there were taken out twenty-seven dead passengers, and twenty-seven dead passengers, and twenty-seven others, more or less wounded. Nearly all those who were in the wrecked car were returning from a fair at Sherbrooke, Quebec, 160 miles north.
The conductor of the freight train was given to understand that he had plenty of time to reach a siding by the night operator at Canaan Station, receiving, according to the Superintendent of the division, a copy of a telegraph order from the train dispatcher at Concord, which confused the train numbers 30 and 34. The wreck occurred just after the express had rounded into a straight stretch of track, but owning to the early morning mist neither engineer saw the other's headlight until it was too late.
The identified dead are:
BARRETT, Miss, Manchester, N. H.
BLAKE, Mrs. F. C., South Corinth, Vt.
BRIGGS, Mrs. E. T., West Canaan, N. H.
CONGDON, J. L., Somerville, Mass.
DUNCAN, JOHN G., Bethel, Vt.
GIRON, Mrs. ALVINA, Nashua, N. H.
INFANT CHILD of Irving Gifford, Concord, N. H.
PHELPS, FRED M., Ochiltree, Texas.
ST. PIERRE, Miss ANNIE, Isle Verte, Quebec.
WARREN, Mrs. A. E., Haverhill, Mass.
WEBSTER, Mrs., a dressmaker living in Massachusetts.
The unidentified are:
The BODY OF A WOMAN, bearing a card marked, "Miss Godfrey, Newark, N. J."
The BODY OF A WOMAN, bearing a card marked, "Bridget Johnson."
Boy, 8 years old, who died at Hitchcock Hospital, Hanover.
BODY OF MAN, bearing receipt marked "Frank H. Lowes, Ipswich."
BOY, 4 years old, body badly crushed.
MAN, 40 years old, dark complexion, plain signet ring on middle finger of right hand, small diamond ring on third finger of right hand.
WOMAN, 30 years old, wedding ring and three others with stones on third finger of left hand.
MAN, 55 years old, stout, sandy mustache, dark worsted check suit and tan shoes.
Four other bodies also unidentified.
All the bodies, with the exception of that of Mrs. Briggs, which was taken to her home, and that of Mr. Duncan, which is here, were removed to Concord during the day.
Injured in Hospital.
The following injured were taken to the Margaret Hitchcock Hospital at Hanover, N. H.:
UNIDENTIFIED MAN; both legs broken, arm torn out, and head injured; dying.
SAUNDERS, S., Nashua; left leg and wrist injured.
SAUNDERS, Mrs. S., Nashua; head and back injured.
SAUNDERS, Mrs. C. N., Nashua, scalp wounds.
SAUNDERS, Miss C., Nashua, contusions on face.
SAUNDERS, Miss D., Nashua, internal injuries.
SAUNDERS, FRED, Nashua, shoulders injured.
SAUNDERS, Mrs. HESTER, Brockton, Mass.; head and back injured.
CUNNINGHAM, WILLIAM, Hamilton, Mass.; back and chest injured.
ST. PIERRE, CHARLES, Isle Verte, Quebec; internal injuries.
JACQUES, ARTHUR, Millbury; internal injuries.
MORN HENRY, Nashua; wrist bruised.
MORAN, Mrs., Nashua; concussion of brain.
BATCHELDER, E. A., Somerville; ankle broken.
GAGON, PHILIP, Sherbrooke; internal injuries.
BARETT, JOHN, Manchester; head and breast injured.
RYAN, FRANK, brakeman, White River Junction; right arm bruised and leg cut.
JAMESON, Miss JENNIE, Nashua; hip wrenched.
JANSON, Miss ABBY, Nashua, broken frontal bone.
DEWEY, Mrs. C. A., Manchester; right side injured.
REAGAN, Miss JUNO, North Somerset, Vt., head and back injured.
VINTUMEN, Miss ELLA, Lisbon, N. H., clavical bone broken.
MORAN, Miss DELLA, Manchester; bruised face.
THREE CHILDREN cut and bruised, not seriously, also went to the hospital.
The south-bound train started from Sherbrooke last evening, where it picked up two sleepers from Quebec and two more on the way down. It consisted of the baggage car, passenger coach and smoking car in that order with the sleepers in the rear. The train left White River Junction at 3:50 A. M. to-day, forty minutes late, and was followed twenty minutes later by the Montreal Express over the Central Vermont Railroad. The Quebec train is known as No. 30 and the Montreal train as No. 34.
Train Dispatcher's Mistake.
In the meantime a north-bound freight train, known as No. 267, had arrived at Canaan, eighteen miles down the road, at 4:10 A. M., on time. According to Division Superintendent W. R. Ray, J. R. Crowley, the night train dispatcher at Concord, sent a dispatch to John Greeley, the night operator at Canaan, that No. 34 was one hour and ten minutes late. The order which Conductor Lawrence of the freight train showed after the accident distinctly states that No. 30, instead of 34, was an hour and ten minutes late.
Conductor Lawrence, believing that he had sufficient time in the hour and ten minutes to reach the side track at West Canaan, four miles beyond, before No. 30 reached it, ordered his train ahead. The superintendent declared that the accident was due to the mistake in placing a cipher after the three in the number of the train, instead of a four.
The morning was a dull, misty one in the Western New Hampshire mountains, and the long freight train with a score of heavily loaded cars lumbered up the long grade toward West Canaan at the usual speed. On the other side of the curve was the Quebec Express, sliding down the single track with her heavy load of passengers and the four heavy sleepers in the rear. The freight train was on a straight piece of track about a mile in length, and the Quebec Express had rounded a curve into this stretch when the two engineers saw the headlights of the opposite train burst out of the fog.
Both engineers set their brakes and then jumped, while the two great locomotives crashed into each other and rolled into the ditch.
Car Torn from End to End.
The baggage car in the rear was hurled back into the passenger coach like a great ram, and tore it asunder from end to end. As it did so the rear end of the car rose up so that when it stopped at the forward end of the smoker, which was behind the passenger coach, it was well inclined. A few windows were broken in the smoking car and all the Pullmans were uninjured.
But the ill-fated passenger coach there was death from end to end. This car was filled to every seat with more than fifty people. Shortly before the accident a few of the men had gone back into the smoking car in the rear, leaving the women to get a little sleep in the straight seats. One of these who escaped said that as the train was rounding a curve some one the front of the car began to sing, so that nearly every one was awake when the crash came.
Those who were in the other cars recovered their dazed senses, jumped out to the side of the track, and hurried to the demolished passenger coach.
Fortunately, with the engines off to one side, the wreckage did not take fire and add further horror to the already dreadful scene. The trainhands and the passengers from the sleeping cars groped their way among the ruins and began the work of rescue. The bodies of the dead were laid beside the track, while the rescuers turned their attention to those who needed aid. Great beams were lifted, pieces of joists were thrown aside and the mangled forms were dragged out and laid on the back of broken seats or open blankets from the sleeping cars. Wounds were hastily bound up and deep cuts stanched by strips of bedding from the sleepers. The little band worked diligently and faithfully in the dawning light before the doctors came.
The neighborhood is a sparsely settled one, but the few farmers were easily aroused and lent every aid to the work of succor.
In the meantime the word had been dispatched to this place and to Concord and Hanover, and within and hour a large force of physicians were hurrying to the scene.
Saves Montreal Express.
The accident was not without its heroes, and one of these was Frank Ryan, a brakeman on the express. Ryan was caught in the wreck and had an artery severed. He was unconscious for nearly fifteen minutes, and when he regained his sensed his first thought was of the Montreal express which, he knew, was thundering down on the wreck with no brakeman in the rear to wave a warning signal. In a few husky words, Ryan told of the approaching danger, and the Montreal express was stopped only a quarter of a mile from the rear of the wrecked train.
The sun, which rose about the time the time the first doctors reached the scene, disclosed to them the full extent of the disaster. The sides of the passenger coach lay on either side of the track. A little further on was a tangled mass of iron and steel, from which the steam was still rising, and which had once been two locomotives. Off to one side was a crowd of people hurrying from one writhing form to another in a vain attempt to ease the pain. On the other side of the track all were silent as one by one the bodies of the dead were laid in an ever-increasing row, until sixteen lifeless forms were resting side by side.
The New York Times
New York, New York
September 16, 1907
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