Surry Summit, NH Train Wreck, Jan 1890


Two Freight Trains Collide on the Cheshire Road Near the Surry Summit.---Engineer S. W. SLATE and Fireman C. W. GIBSON Instantly Killed.---Accident Caused by the Mistake of a Telegraph Operator. Scene of the Wreck, Coroner's Inquest, etc.

One of the saddest accidents in the history of the Cheshire road occurred about 8:30 Monday morning, just above the Surry Summit, so called, and within a short distance of the house of Mr. Scoville, in Westmoreland. Two freight trains, one the local freight from Bellows Falls to Keene, drawn by the engine "Ashburnham", and the other an extra freight going North from Keene and drawn by the mogul engine "Edward C. Thayer," came together in a "head" collision, without a moments warning, upon a curve just above the rock cut at the Summit. Engineer S. W. SLATE and Fireman C. W. GIBSON of the local freight were instantly killed and some of the train men slightly injured. A considerable amount of property was destroyed. The news of the accident was received at the train dispatcher's office in this city shortly before nine o'clock and a special train was quickly made ready to take to the spot immediately the doctors and a few of the employes(sic) of the company with tools for extricating those who were pinioned in the wreck. By courtesy of the Master Mechanic and Train Dispatcher, a Sentinel reporter was at once allowed to board this train upon which were Doctors Twitchell and Faulkner, Mr. F. M. Davis with telegraph instruments, Messrs. D. C. Howard, F. A. Perry and several of their employes.(sic) The run to the scene of the wreck was quickly made. The sight that first met the eyes of the spectators was a ghastly one. Standing firmly at his post as if still in the performance of his duty was the lifeless engineer of the "Ashburnham", with his dead fireman by his side. The two engines were jammed into each other by the collision and stood as if in deadly embrace, while the tender of the "Ashburnham" was forced forward into the cab and upon the boiler, pinning the dead engineer and fireman against the reversing lever and the boiler front where they must have been instantly killed. A car loaded with baled hay which came next to the "Ashburnham" was smashed in at the forward end and had crushed in upon the wreck, while the remainder of this train had been separated and sent back down the grade, comparatively uninjured. The other train, which contained about twenty-five cars, ten of which were loaded, was jammed together, breaking the drawbars and throwing some of the trucks from the rails. Three or four loaded cars in the middle of the train were partially overturned or smashed, but otherwise the train seemed to be but little injured. The railroad men at once set to work at their terrible task and after some difficulty extricated the dead bodies form the debris. Both were shockingly mutilated and burned. The watch of Engineer SLATE was found upon his body and was stopped at exactly 8:30. In a short time the wrecking train arrived with men and tools and bringing Undertaker Shedd and his assistants. The corpses were then taken care of and the work of clearing the track begun. On the arrival of the mail train from Boston and the accommodation from Bellow Falls the baggage and passengers wre transferred and the mail ran back to Keene where a train was made up and sent through to Boston.

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