Highbanks, NY Train Wreck, Oct 1866

Terrible Rail Road Accident.

[From the Union Star of last week.]
The Express train going east on the Atlantic and Great Western Railway last Wednesday morning between 3 and 4 o'clock, ran off the track about four miles east of here at a place known as the Highbanks, precipitating the engine, tender, baggage car and four coaches down the embankment which is there about 25 feet high.
It seems that the locomotive and tender first ran off the track breaking the coupling with the rest of the train and that the cars kept along on the ties till the forward car was more than its length beyond where the former tumbled down the embankment, when simultaneously they rolled entirely over lighting nearly right side up, except the rear sleeping car, which made another half turn and lay top downward in the creek, where the water was about four feet deep.
The train contained about 300 passengers, and strange to say but one person, a MR. MATHEWS, jeweler, from Elmira, N. Y., was killed outright. He was in the rear sleeping car, and was probably stunned by bruises on the head and chin, and was afterwards drowned. When the train rolled over, the passengers were thrown upon their heads and we hear of but one person, an old man, who was not more or less injured though but few seriously. One woman, herself badly hurt, lost her infant in the general confusion and darkness, and forgetting her own injuries was in the most heart-rending agony for the fate of her child, till finally the little innocent was found having sustained no injury save a little scratch on the face. Another woman had a cut on the head extending from near the top well down on the side of her forehead, but with real Spartan courage, and a devotion worthy of Florence Nightingale, did not even bind up her own wounds but went about caring for others.
Immediately after the occurrence of the disaster, one of the passengers hastened to this place and DR. HUMPHREY was sent up. DR. WALKER being absent we believe did not arrive in time to render any assistance. Two physicians from Corry and another from Meadville arrived shortly after DR. H., and the wounded were cared for with all the promptness and means at command.

The Meadville Republican says:
An examination of the track showed that a rail on the inner side of the curve had been maliciously removed from its place. When the engine came in this point, the inside wheel struck upon the ground, while the outer ran along the rail for a distance of about eight feet and sprang off, throwing the train down the embankment. The rail was found in the centre of the track uninjured, and the spikes which had fastened it to the sleepers were missing. Other rails in the immediate vicinity were battered, but this one was not injured in the least. The company have offered a reward of $2,000 for the detection of the scoundrel who perpetrated the cold blooded crime, and a detective has been employed to probe the matter to the bottom.
The Star, on the other hand, attributes the accident to the bad condition in which the railroad track is kept, and says:
It is but a little while ago that a similar accident occurred a mile and a half from this station, though not so disastrous in its results, and they will multiply with appalling rapidity unless something is done in the way of repairing the road.

The Erie Observer Pennsylvania 1866-10-25