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Masthope, NY Train Wreck, Jul 1869

Railroad Slaughter.

Murder in Its Most Fearful Guise---Mangling and Burning Mutually Aiding.

Over a Dozen Victims in the Flames.

An Engineer Asleep.

Appalling Death of Rev. Dr. Hallock.

Incidents Of The Catastrophe.

The long, dismal and bloody catalogue of disasters that marks the history of the Erie Railroad is made again to bear another burden of human slaughter, in the record of one of the most unmitigated railroad murders the public has heard of for some time. At midnight of Wednesday over a dozen human beings were rushed headlong into eternity through the awful living portals of fire, at a place called Mast Hope, twenty-eight miles west of Port Jervis, on the Erie Railroad, by the downright carelessness of the engineer in charge of a freight train, against which the mail express from New York at half past six T.M. came in collision. The facts in a few sentences are these:-The freight train backed on a switch at Masthope depot to get out of the way of the passenger train, but failed to get out fast enough or far enough to avoid being struck by the passenger train, for which the track should have been always kept clear. The engineer of the freight train was, of course, responsible. It is generally stated he was asleep at the time. A terrific collision occurred, three or four cars were burned, and in the laconic dispatch of the Associated Press, furnished by the railroad authorities, “some emigrants in the smoking car, some five or six in number were burned.” Such is the skeleton of this fearful tale, making even in its faintest recital the blood of men run cold who know how to realize ever so vaguely the unpainted horrors of a railroad butchery. The battle field is mercy itself to such a scene. The soldier sinks on the sod with little to indicate the agony of death, but the poor victim of a collision receives no quarter, even after the soul has left the body. With his limbs torn asunder, and perhaps some little spark of tortured vitality still remaining, the fatal stove pours out its contribution to the work of death and destruction and leaves no vestige of humanity behind save charred and blackened bones. As usual, there was little thought of danger or of what lay in store for the some one hundred miles ahead, on the Erie track, among the large and lively load of passengers that left the long dock, at Jersey City, at a quarter to seven o’clock Wednesday evening. The train was a full one consisting, with locomotive and tender, of a mail and baggage car, smoking car, two day and four sleeping coaches, nine cars in all, carrying nearly 400 passengers. Perhaps not one in all that large number of voyageurs recurred at the moment of starting to Carr’s Rock, Miltown, the gorge at Elmira or any of the other bloody landmarks thickly strewed along the modern Golgotha. Not one to all appearances, and least of all the amiable, learned and ever genial gentleman Rev. B.B. Hallock, of 329 East Fourteenth street, who in a few short hours thereafter was transformed from flesh and consciousness into a black and burnt mass of lifeless bones. In the forward part of the smoking car over a score of emigrants seated themselves in the later part of the evening, after most of those gentlemen who had sleeping berths retired for the night and threw their cigar stumps away. Several of the emigrants indulged themselves to short clay pipes, while others threw themselves into an attitude of sleep and others kept telling stories to pass a portion of the night away. The stay at Turner’s station for supper was no longer than usual. The switch between the tracks at Miltown, a place of unhappy reputation, was passed by in safety. The conductor went up and down a few times, to see that all was right, from the smoking car to the rear end sleeping coach. The train was speeding on its course at the rate of from twenty to twenty-five miles an hour. With a double track, wide, strong cars, new couplings, a powerful locomotive running at a steady splendid pace, the passengers felt that there was nothing to apprehend but a broken rail. Little reflection, however, was given to that matter. The sleepers in the rear coaches turned around for a moment and fell away to slumber again. Every berth was occupied. Governor Walker, of Virginia, and his wife has a stateroom, both bound for Binghamton. While all were wrapped in sleep, or in light, uneasy slumber, on board the train, the emigrants in the smoking car even ceasing to talk, and the doors opening only at long intervals for the conductor or some restless member of the baggage corps to pass through, and while the train was dashing along with that speed of motion which leaves the sensation on the ear of the passenger that the wheels dance with a delirious revolution on the rail, the nickering light at the depot of Masthope hove in sight around a long and easy curve and on a heavy grade. The engineer and his practiced eye on the alert at this particular part of the road, not that it is in anywise as dangerous as other portions, but with an instinctive dread of the horrible apparition-a freight train-he felt more apprehension on the curve than if he had to cross a shaky trestle bridge 100 feet high. The second look he cast through the bull’s eye window, an instant or two after he entered on the curve, revealed the terrible fact to him that something huge, black and ungainly was almost in his immediate front, and that his train was running with lightning pace upon it. Another moment and the headlight of his locomotive illuminated the rear of the train ahead, while his ear caught the sound of the rattle and jolt of a long, loose freight train. Coolly he whistled down the brakes, while at the same instant a piercing scream went up from those who knew too well what that appalling token meant. The precaution was in vain. The great, heavy, panting locomotive of the passenger train, tearing forward in its course at the speed of over twenty miles an hour, struck the front of the freight train as it shuffled lazily off on an oblique switch towards the depot and literally rearing up in the air like a mighty lion in his rage, crashed through the foremost iron wall of opposition and then careened over on the track as though bereft of further strength. The tender jumped upon the prostrate engine, the mail express struck against the wreck of iron, the baggage car against he express, the smoking car ran pell-mell into the fearful ruin, and in less time than it takes to say it the entire mass was in a blaze of fire. The shock was terrific. It reached to the uttermost end of the train in all its intensity, shaking the sleepers to their feet and appalling the stoutest hearted men that heard it. No hope at this awful moment for the poor people in the smoking car. Trucks were knock from under the baggage and express cars and stood locked in combat, as it were, upon the track. The body of the baggage car lay at one side, the express at the other, a passenger coach on top, while thrown in confusion between them all, tossed, torn and blazing from floor to roof was the baggage car, with its living freight caught in the stern and fiery jaws of death. Jets of fearful flame sprang upwards from the wreck, or rushed hissing like steam from an escape pipe along the track and through the passenger coaches. It was a heartrending and awfully impressive spectacle to see the big column of read and roaring flame tearing through the woodwork and melting away a dozen human forms without a soul under heaven being capable of stretching forth an arm to the rescue. Death, however, did its chief share of havoc before applying the torch to finish its ghastly work; but horror of horrors what a fare was reserved for poor Dr. Hallock. Not a scratch marked him when the collision occurred. He was in the foremost sleeping coach, and was violently pitched forward into the tangled mass of broken woodwork, but received no injury. Worse than injury, however, he found himself, in all his strength and sensibility, locked up in the heavy beams that made the floor frames of the dismantled cars. The dreadful fire from beneath flared up suddenly around him. Men with blanched and bewildered faces, stood upon the track or rushed frantically to and fro, crying, “Is there no help for Dr. Hallock?” The fire shot out with the intensity of a furnace, and triumphantly defied any man to approach and rescue the victims within its grasp. Above the crackling roar the firm and intrepid voice of the doctor, in the midst of his remarkable agony, was heard to exclaim to the men around the scene, “I am not injured; but I cannot escape.”

All that could be done by the people of Mast Hope who flocked to the depot to give assistance failed to save the ill-fated doctor; but it us at least consoling to know he went down to his appalling doom with all the lofty fortitude and resignation of a Christian. But the doctor was not alone in this calamity. A man named Daniel Baur was jammed and burned to death in a similar manner, and Erastus Wheaton was injured in one of his feet.

At nine o’clock in the morning, after great exertions, six burned bodies were rescued from the ruins of the smoking car, and at noon of yesterday a passenger by the midday train reported thirteen charred bodies lying by the track. There were comparatively few wounded. Flying splinters were rare, and the terrific force and suddenness of the shock left nothing to accept but instant death for those near the point of collision. Some of the train men on the express were hurt but none killed. Out of 150 pieces of baggage only eleven were saved, the remainder was destroyed or ground up in the wreck. Confirmation of the accident was immediately telegraphed to the officers of the Erie Railway in this city, who have orders to have a train made up to convey surgeons to the scene of disaster, and to take the necessary articles along for alleviating suffering. Nearly all the through mail matter was destroyed; the way mails were saved. The track was cleared for trains before noon yesterday.

Among others on the train were Mrs. Black, wife of Professor Black, and sister of Mrs. Aaron E. King, of Patterson, N.J. She was accompanied by two children. Professor Gould and General Superintendent Rucker went up to visit the scene on the Buffalo express yesterday morning. Five of the injured persons were removed to Port Jervis, where every attention was given them.

Continued

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