Portsmouth, NH Railroad Wreck, May 1909

Portsmouth NH train wreck .jpg




One of the worst train wrecks that has taken place for many years occurred shortly after noon today, in the Boston and Maine railroad yard, at the foot of Langdon steet.
The crash was between passenger train No. 29, which leaves Boston at 10 o'clock, due here at 12:10, and a switching engine, No. 483. The locomotives came together with such a crash that the noise could be heard nearly a mile away. Engine No. 483 of the passenger train was completely wrecked, and the tender of the engine pushed nearly half way through the baggage car. The locomotive of the passenger train tipped over, and immediately started to burn. An alarm was rung in from Box 46, at the corner of Bridge and Hanover streets and chemical engine No. 5 soon had a stream on the wreck.
The switching engine, in charge of a hostler crew from the roundhouse, was just backing up on the inward main line, after coming from the coal shed and was nearly clear of the switch, when the Boston train, running at a fair rate of speed, came across from the outward track, and in a fearful crash both engines and the baggage car of the train were piled up in a pile of distorted iron and wood.
The crash came so sudden that none of the men on either engine had a chance to jump. Both engineers reversed the machines, but not in time to reduce the speed to any extent.
Fireman EDWARD HARNDEN of the switching engine was killed instantly, his body being terribly jammed between the tender of his engine and the passenger locomotive, and was burned and scalded. RICHARD PRAY, who was running the shifter, was also pinned in almost the same way as HARNDEN, and when taken out, was barely alive. He has a compound fracture of the ankle and had wounds on the head, while he is suffering from a severe shock. MR. PRAY'S condition is serious but not immediately dangerous.
Engineer LEONARD NEWHALL of the passenger train went over with the locomotive and when tenderly taken by willing hands from the wreck, appeared to have no broken bones, but was burned and severely cut about the head.
The fireman, ALBERT H. STRINGER, of this city, when picked up, was scalded badly on the back and cut about the body and legs. At the hospital it is said he will recover, and that no bones are broken.
Express Messenger WILLIAM BROWN, of Lawrence, who was near the end of the baggage car, when the tender came through, as cut and bruised, and when found was buried under the baggage and express in the car, with Baggage Master HERBERT CARSON.
BROWN was severely injured, but CARSON escaped with few bruises, and a bad shaking up. He refused to go to the hospital, and returned to his home in Boston by a later train.
The list of others reported injured are as follows:
HALLEY BLANCHARD, conductor on the passenger train; cut on face and right leg bruised.
GEORGE E. FULLER, police officer of Melrose, Mass., jammed and bruised about the body.
C. BROWN, Tremont street, Boston, shaken up and bruised, cut on hands.
JAMES RUSSELL, Cornhill street, Boston, shaken up and injured about the body and head.
Unknown Passenger from Gloucester, injured about the legs.
Unknown Passenger from Belmont, Mass.
Several of the citizens living nearby rushed to the aid of the injured. Automobiles were on hand and the railroad men and injured passengers at once rushed to the Cottage hospital. The railroad officials had immediately following the wreck, ordered a couple of physicians to care for the injured as fast as they were brought in.
The correct cause of the accident is not at present known. However, the switch on the cross over tracks leading from the main line was against the passenger train, but being a low switch and on the fireman's side, it was not seen until too late to avert the collision. It is claimed by the switching crew that there was a flagman out to hold the passenger, but he was not seen in time by either the fireman or engineer. According to the rules of the railroad the switching engine had the right of track where it was, but the switch that was turned against the passenger train should have been set for the main line at this time, when a regular train was due.
The officials of the Eastern division came here on train No. 25 at 2:35 p.m. and at once began an investigation.
Both inward and outward tracks were blocked and trains were moved through side tracks. The wrecking crews from this city and Boston were quickly on the scene and worked throughout the day and night to clear the tracks.
Besides the damage to the engines and passenger coaches, the roadbed was dug up for several hundred feet and the ties and rails twisted into a shapeless mass of iron and wood.
The baggage car and the front platform of the smoker suffered the most damage of the entire passenger coaches, but none of the cars following the baggage car left the track.
The switchman's shanty, nearby where the wreck occurred, was completely demolished into a mass of kindling wood, but the switchman CHARLES SHEEHAN, who is on duty there, had time to take in the situation and make his escape.
Both PRAY and HARNDEN are not regular men, but are attached to othe roundhouse, where they perform the work of caring for the locomotive and run them between the house and the coal sheds at Bartlett street, at certain times during the day for fuel.
Much sympathy is expressed for the family of HARNDEN, who was a most faithful worker and a man well liked among the railroad men.

The Portsmouth Herald New Hampshire 1909-05-03