Bardwell's Ferry, MA Train Wreck, Apr 1886


An Express Train Plunges Down an Almost Perpendicular Precipice.

Only Three Persons on Board Known to Have Escaped Injury.

The Coaches Take Fire and the Wounded Passengers are Burned to Death – The Disaster Caused by the Sinking of the Track – A Partial List of the Injured.

GREENFIELD, Mass., April 7. -- A terrible disaster occurred on the Fitchburg railroad to-night, midway between Bardwell's ferry and West Deerfield station, the east bound passenger train, due at Greenfield at 6:05 P. M., going over an embankment 200 feet high. Six bodies have already been taken out of the ruins and it is not known how many others were killed. The train was the eastern express, and consisted of a baggage car, smoker, sleeping car, mail car and two ordinary passenger cars. The train was in charge of Conductor FORSTER, with HERBET LITTLEJOHN as engineer. The point where the accident occurred is the most dangerous on the road. Trains run on the edge of an embankment 200 feet above the Deerfield river. The bank is steep and covered with huge bouilders [sic] and masses of rock. When the train arrived at this point the track commenced to settle under it for a distance covering its entire length. The coaches broke from their trucks and went rolling over and over down the precipice. The engine broke from the tender, tearing up the track for twenty feet. Below rolled the Deerfield river, on the very edge of which the cars were thrown. As soon as they struck they caught fire from the stoves. The sleeping car was an entire wreck. It was occupied by seven passengers, not one of whom at this hour is known to have escaped injury. One man whose name is unknown is imprisoned in the wreck of the sleeper, where he is being buried alive. One little girl was picked up dead.

As soon as the news reached Deerfield a special train was made up and sent to the scene of the disaster, having on board several physicians, section men and a few citizens. On arriving at the scene of the wreck a horrible sight was witnessed. Darkness had settled over the spot. Far down on the river bank could be seen the smouldering embers of the holocaust. It was impossible to tell who was hurt and who was killed. Stout-hearted trackmen were lowered cautiously down the treacherous height and the rescue began.

MERRITT SEELY, superintendent of the National express, of Boston was found in the wreck and taken into the relief car. He had a wound four inches long and half an inch wide over the left temple. His left thigh was broken and also his left leg at the knee. Besides which he sustained internal injuries from which he will die.

D. CRANDALL, postal clerk, was plunged into the river and get ashore with difficulty. He was wounded about the head and his arm was fractured.

The Fitchburg coach was the only one that escaped conflagration. Deputy Sheriff BRYANT, of Greenfield, who was in this car, rescued two children from the flames but one was dead and the other dying. Their parents were on board, but cannot be found. Some of the injured and dead were taken to Shellburne Falls and some of the wounded to Greenfield.

C. P. BELL, of Nashua, N. H., was cut slightly on the head and leg, but was not seriously hurt. He was thrown head foremost into the river and went to the bottom barely escaping drownding [sic].

Conductor FOSTER is reported safe and but slightly injured.

D. C. WELLS of Andover had his shoulder hurt and his head cut. The car in which he was riding was broken in two and stood on end within a few feet of the river bank.
NICHOLAS DORGAN, of Greenfield, had his left arm and ankle broken and was seriously injured internally. A little girl who was a passenger on the train died in his arms from injuries received.

J. E. PRIEST, of Littleton, N. H., had his face and head cut.

Engineer LITTLEJOHN, of North Adams, was badly scalded, it is believed fatally.
A. K. WARNER, chairman of the Greenfield board of selectmen, was badly hurt, but his injuries are not fatal.

Great excitement prevails all along the road between here and North Adams.
Being interviewed by wire to-night at Shellburne Falls, Conductor FOSTER, said: “I am unable to state how many were on the train. Only three men have thus far been found who escaped injury, and they place the number of passengers all the way from 25 to 100.”

No doubt half a dozen were killed outright while falling, and as many more fatally injured. The west bound express was delayed at Greenfield and West Deerfield two hours while the relief train, with surgeons and their assistants, was sent out on its time. The locomotive is a complete wreck but remains on the track, while the tender is down the bank.

The following persons were taken to Shelburne Falls more or less injured:
H. G. LITTLEJOHN, brother of the engineer, with wife and child, both of whom have since died.
A. C. HARVEY, of Boston, badly hurt.
A. R. WARNER, of Greenfield.
H. COULLARD, of Charlement.
E. W. DUNNELLS, of Waltham.
H. G. LITTLEJOHUETE, with his wife and two children, both of whom have since died.
A MISS CORNELL is badly hurt, as it Mail Agent PUTNEY.
A. M. WATERHOUSE is missing.

It was reported in Shelburne Falls that thirteen persons were killed outright, but this could not be verified. Fears are entertained that morning will increase the list of deaths and casualties. A portion of the mail is reported lost in the river. At 11 o'clock to-night men are still working at the wreck. It is learned that the injured at Shelburne Falls number nineteen.

LATER – Engineer LITTLEJOHN is dying. HENRY C. COULLARD will die before morning. Three more dead bodies have been found at the wreck.

The train at the time of the accident was running at the rate of about twenty miles an hour. FRANK LANK, of Boston, a salesman for a New York firm, jumped from the train, and is believed to be the only person who saw the cars go down the embankment. He says there were three passengers in the drawing car.

The Quincy Daily Whig Illinois 1886-04-08



Last Evening's Accident on the Fitchburg Railroad.

Passengers Suffering from Fire and Water.
To-day's Dispatches from Greenfield. The Killed and Injured – Searching for the Dead in the River and Under the Wreck – Some Very Narrow Escapes. Eight Bodies Now at Springfield.

BOSTON, April 8 – A Springfield special giving another account of the railroad disaster, after detailing the facts already covered, continues: “The track suddenly gave way and the train of six cars tumbled down the cliff into the Deerfield River. The waters, swollen by the recent rains, poured into the cars. Three cars immediately caught fire. Then came the struggle to escape. Some were choked by water and perished; others were crushed under the wheels and knocked about until they were dead. The flames spread and completed the horror. The engine tipped over, but did not leave the embankment. The Troy and Boston day coach ploughed into the loose rocks and backed half way down the banks. The baggage and mail cars, two sleepers and one day coach plunged into the river. Every man looked to himself. Groans, shrieks and a frightful and indiscriminate scramble ensued. Thirty men and a few women are reported to have escaped, many of them bruised and injured. About twelve went to Shelburne Falls, the others to Greenfield. Probably no more escaped. How many are still under the wreck or in the river no one known.”

The following comes from North Adams: “So far as can be learned twenty have been seriously injured and seven killed, with a score of others more or less injured. A wrecking train was sent from Shelburne Falls which, with a relief train from Greenfield, did much to alleviate suffering. Large gangs of men are searching for the dead and missing. Thus far three are know to have escaped uninjured. The accident occurred without warning. The track literally tipped up and spilled the entire train down the embankment. Some of the passengers went into the water and narrowly escaped drowning. Fireman RICHARDSON lost part of his hand. He ran to West Deerfield and telegraphed the notice of the wreck. The east track is torn up for a distance of twenty rods and will delay operations at least two days on the track.
The western track is clear and trains for the east will probably use it in passing the scene of the wreck.

GREENFIELD, Mass., April 8.
Two more bodies, the last to be extricated from the ruins, have been identified as C. A. TEMPLE, of Wakefield, Mass., and CHARLES H. DURGIN, of Boston. Two young girls, whose names are unknown, are reported to be among the killed.

MERRITT SEELY, superintendent of the National Express Company, who was injured last night in the accident on the Fitchburg Railroad, died this morning at 6 o'clock. He has a son in Boston and three children in Great Barrington. Brakeman SPENCER was the one whose body was found in the wreck last night with the bodies of two unknown commercial travelers. Engineer LITTLEJOHN is living this morning, but it is doubtful if he lives the day out. Two bodies were brought here this morning by a wrecking train. One was identified as E. E. HAYDEN, agent of the Fisk Manufacturing Company, of Springfield, Mass. His right hand and head are badly burned. The other man was about 65 to 70 years old. His handkerchief born the name “J. R. GOULD, Abington, Conn.” NICHOLAS GARGAN, of Greenfield, agent of the Fleischmann Yeast Company, had his shoulder fractured and was injured internally. W. H. WILCOX, living near Syracuse, N. Y., was injured slightly. C. P. BELL, of Nashua, N. H., was injured about the back and left leg, but not dangerously. He fell into twelve feet of water, battled with the swift current and saved his life by grasping a jagged rock, to which he clung until he gained his breath and then swimming ashore. He says there were several persons in the water below him, but he saw none of them get ashore, and he believes they were drowned. The search for bodies is still progressing. Letters were found at the wreck addressed to J. W. PRIEST, Littleton, N. Y. He was found here this morning, only slightly hurt. Thirty-five passengers and ten train hands were on board. JOHN CROWLEY, of North Adams, was on the train, and is wildly insane. These bodies have been found, and are at Shelburne Falls: VIOLA LITTLEJOHN; O. LITTLEJOHN; R. F. WHITEHOUSE, of Boston; MARK SPENCER, brakeman; CHARLES TEMPLE, a commercial traveler, well known throughout New England. He was a high Mason. The body of MR. WHITEHOUSE was found in the river under a car. There was a terrible gash over the right eye and across the forehead. He was probably stunned and drowned. A body just found at the wreck is believed to be that of Agent WHITEHOUSE, of the New England and Boston line. The body of CHARLES DURKIN, of Boston, has also been recovered.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., April 8.
Eight bodies from the wreck at Bardwell's Ferry have been brought here up to this hour – 10 A. M.

Brooklyn Eagle New York 1886-04-08