1887 - THE HARTFORD DISASTER, FEB. 5, 1887
The writer was personally cognizant of the history of this horrible railway disaster. He visited the scent of the wreck about day light on the morning of the accident; visited and conversed with the survivors from the ill-fated train, from time to time, during their convalescence; observed the reprehensible conduct of the officials of the Central railroad, in their premature attempts to effect settlements with the mangled, tortured survivors of that holocaust. Justice, humanity and decency were set at defiance by the attorneys and the Vial-lainous ame damnee representing said corporation, who did not hesitate to villify and traduce those who were not obsequious to their will, or ready to be their time severs at the price of an annual pass.
The following report of the railroad commissioners concerning the disaster of Feb. 5, 1887, is an acceptable showing of facts, but the number of passengers aboard the train is, and ever will be a matter of mere guess-work. As to the speed of the train on approaching the bridge and crossing it, it is sufficient to say that the Leightons, who live near the bridge, concur in saying that the speed of trains was rarely ever perceptibly diminished while crossing it. It is too much to believe that the ill-fated train, which was nearly two hours late, was slowed up to one-half of the schedule rate before reaching the bridge. Under positive proof that he was running in excess of schedule time, Engineer Pierce could not escape the penalty of manslaughter. As to the responsibility of the corporation, testimony recently given conclusively shows that the track from the end of the said bridge, for several hundred feet had been not long before the accident, relaid with much worn iron----some of it re-curved in a cold state, and that it was unfit to use for mogul engines, and the very heavily loaded trains constantly passing over it. The sum and substance of the commissioners' report is as follows:
The facts and circumstances attending the above named disaster, as developed by the testimony taken by the board, and an inspection of the premises shortly after the accident occurred, are as follows:
Train No. 50, known as the "night express," left White River Junction for Montreal at 2:10 o'clock, on the morning of the 5th instant.
The train was on hour and thirty minutes late. The schedule place of meeting the night express bound south from Montreal to Boston, is Randolph. That train was correspondingly late, and train No. 50 was under orders to meet it at Randolph as usual, and started out accordingly at the hour above indicated.
The number of passengers aboard the train was seventy-nine. The trainmen were the conductor, engineer, fireman, two brakemen, baggage man, express messenger, two postal clerks, a Pullman conductor, and two Pullman porters.
The distance from White River Junction to Hartford (formerly known as the Woodstock) bridge, is about four miles. South of the bridge is a curve of three degrees and forty=five minutes in the track, which becomes straight again about 142 feet from the bridge, and so continues for some rods beyond the bridge. From a point some fifty rods south of the bridge to a point about 142 feet there from the grade is slightly downward, when it becomes level and so continues to a point just a point just beyond the bridge.
At a point 510 feet from the abutment at the south end of the bridge, while the train was moving at a speed of less than twelve miles an hour, the rear sleeper "Pilgrim" was thrown from the rails, but kept the roadbed until it came upon the bridge, when the rear end swung to the right side of the track to the deck of the bridge, and thence to the frozen river below, a distance of forty-three feet, drawing with it the sleeper and the two coaches in front, all of which were crushed in the wreck upon the ice. The coupling between the Boston coach and the combination mail and smoking car broke or unclasped, so that the rest of the train was saved.
Fire soon broke out from the wreck in several places, and it is clearly in proof before the board that some of the cars immediately took fire and within fifteen minutes of the time they fell to the ice they were all enveloped in flames, which reached and set fire to the bridge, which soon fell alongside the burning cars, the wind blowing the flames of the burning timbers directly upon them. The intensely cold weather---eighteen degrees below zero---added to the peril of those who survived.
The list of passengers who lost their lives in the disaster is as follows: EDWARD F. DILLON, Springfield; JAMES A. STONE, Burlington; EDGAR WILDER, St. Albans; D. D. WOODWARD, Waterbury; SAM'L 8, Westcott, Burlington; GEORGE J. BELL, Bellows Falls; MRS. WILLIAM DEVINO, Winooski; FRANK L. WESSON, Springfield, Mass. , HARRY BROOKS, Boston, Mass,; FRANCIS FLYNN, Worcester, Mass. ; PETER BLAIS, Warren, Mass; FRED BLAIS, Warren, Mass.; FRANCIS BOULANGER, Holyoke, Mass.; MISS ANASTISA BOULANGER, Holyoke, Mass. ; MISS NANCY DUNBAR, Somerville, Mass.; MISS DELIMA BRODEUR, Nashua, N. H.; LOUIS B. JAMES, New Haven, Conn. ; CHARLES CADIEUX, Rockville, Conn.; HERBERT A. THAYER, Chateaugay, N. Y.; CEPHAS MILLS, Iroquois, Ont.; PETER McLAIN, Actonville, P. Q.; DIEUDONNE MAIGRET, Shawinigan, P. Q.; MISS ARMINIE GUIRARD, Upton, P. Q.: MISS AGNES ROGERS, Lakefield, P. Q.
And that of the trainmen is as follows: SMITH C. STURTEVANT, St. Albans, Vt., conductor; EDWARD BROCKLEBANKS, Lebanon, N. H., brakeman; M. R. BURGESS, Boston, Mass., Pullman conductor; A. J. HAMMER, Malden, Mass., colored porter "Pilgrim"; J. H. JONES, Boston, Mass., colored porter "St. Albans."
The list of passengers known to be injured is as follows: Hon. Henry Mott, Albrugh; Henry W. Tewksbury, West Randolph; Julius C. Hutchins, Montgomery; F. W. Tuttle, Tungridge; William Devino, Jr., Winooski; Miss Persis H. Follet; Sharon; Miss katie Cahill, Boston, Mass.; Frank M. Pratt, Springfield, Mass.; J. Herbert Cushing, Middleboro, Mass.; Joseph E. Jacques, Fitchburg, Mass.; Andrew A. Wheeler, Fitchburg, Mass.; Howard A. Smith, Gloucester, Mass.; Fred A. Fisher, Gloucester, Mass.; Bennie Boulanger, Holyoke, Mass.; Mitchell Lacaillade, Lawrence, Mass.; August LeBoeuf, Lynn, Mass; Alex Lavalle, Greenfield, Mass.; Mrs. Mary J. Graham, Bedford, Mass; Mrs. Charles Kastner, Boston, Mass; Miss Annie Murphy, Boston, Mass; Miss Polly Arel, Chicopee Falls, Mass.; Miss Margaret Walsh, Greenfield, Mass,; Horace Juneau, East Pepperell, Mass.; J. S. Sult, New Haven, Conn.; H. G. Wilcox, Malone, N. Y.; Louis Combremont, New York City, N. Y.; James Kiley, Burke, N. Y.; Joseph Jeannette, Sciota, N. Y.; O. S. Boisvert, St. Angeline, P. Q.; Moses Pouliot, Quebec, P. Q.; George Lowe, Montreal, P. Q.; Joseph Libby, St. Valere, P. Q. ; Mrs. W. S. Bryden, Montreal, P. Q.; Mrs. O. Boisvert, St. Angeline, P. Q.; Miss Emma Lovell, Montreal, P. Q. ; Miss Maria E. Sadler, Ormstown, P. Q.; One trainman, George H. Parker, brakeman, was injured.
There was but one house within a long distance of the scene of the week, and the only help at hand were the few who were left on the engine and the mail and baggage car, and such of the passengers ad were not wholly disabled. This corps did all that men could do to save lives in the few minutes they could work upon the wreck.
The cars struck the ice upon the right side or the right top corner as the train ran, and they were crushed diagonally toward the surface. The management of the train appears to have been as follows:
Conductor Sturtevant was in the forward passenger coach collecting fares and examining tickets when the first trouble in that car was noticed. He immediately pulled the bell and Engineer Pierce took the alarm thus given from the bell and instantly let on full brakes. Then looking back he saw the rear sleeper swing off the bridge. He thereupon let off the brakes, opened the throttle of his engine, and pulled away from the rest of the train, stopping his engine and the two cars saved as the rear car, combination mail and smoker were partly off the bridge.
As soon as the engine was stopped on the dump, beyond the bridge, Engineer Pierce ran back over it, met Brakeman Parker, who had jumped from the rear of the forward coach before it went upon the bridge and was following up the train, and sent him to the Junction to give the alarm and get help there as quickly as possible, which he did, getting a team at Centerville, a half mile below.
Then Engineer Pierce, Fireman Thresher, Baggage Master Cole, Express Messenger Robbins, and Postal Clerk Perkins took axes, shovels and bars, hurried to the rescue of the sufferers, and worked manfully until driven from the wreck by the flames. The rescued hurried, or were helped, to the house of one Oscar Paine, about twenty-five rods away.
The attempts to stop the fires within the cars availed nothing, as the same could not be gotten at in season, and accordingly all the efforts of those confined. The cars were all heated by coal stoves, and lighted by lamps with mineral sperm oil which was 300 degrees fire test. The brakes were the Westinghouse automatic air brakes.
There were flange marks on the ties and frozen earth, and also indications of heavy blows upon some of the ties and earth for several rods before the bridge was reached, continuing to the abutment; also abrasions as scrapings of the inner dentations as if made by dome substance as hard as itself, trying to climb those rails.
The new iron bridge on the Central Vermont railroad to replace the one destroyed, as related in the foregoing account, was completed November 6th, 1887.
History of Hartford, Vermont, July 4, 1761-April 4, 1889. The first town on the New Hampshire grants chartered after the close of the French war
by Tucker, William Howard
February 5, 1887
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