New York, NY Elevated Train Wreck, Dec 1897


Second Avenue Engine and Car Telescoped at One Hundred and Second Street.


Accident Caused by Dense Fog and Slippery Rails----Fireman of Rear Train Jumps----Passengers Climb Through Windows in Fright.

Three men were seriously injured and many other persons badly shaken up in a rear-end collision of two elevated railroad trains at the One Hundred and Second Street station of the Second Avenue road. The injured are Timothy Sullivan, a passenger, of 302 East One Hundred and Second Street; William H. Masterson, fireman of the rear train, 335 East Sixty-ninth Street, and Joseph O'Brien, a passenger, of 447 East One Hundred and Sixteenth Street.

It was shortly before 7 o'clock in the morning, while the fog was so dense that it was impossible to distinguish an object a few feet away, that a train filled with passengers pulled up at the One Hundred and Second Street Station. Immediately behind it was another train, carrying a large crowd, in charge of Engineer William L. Dunn. So thick was the mist between the two trains that neither the passengers on the rear car of the forward train, not the engineer and fireman of the rear train could see how close they were together until within three feet of each other. Masterson, the fireman, than realized that a collision was inevitable, and jumped from his cab, sustaining several severe scalp wounds.

Engineer Dunn immediately reversed his lever, but it was too late, and barely a second later his engine crashed into the rear car of the forward train, telescoping it fully five feet. The rear platform was smashed and the wood and iron work crushed into bits. Instantly a panic ensued.

Passengers were thrown from their seats, while those standing in the aisles and hanging on to the straps fell in a heap. Women screamed and men madly rushed for the front door but clambered through broken windows, cutting their hands and faces.

In the belief that many persons were injured, hurry calls for ambulances were sent in every direction, a fire alarm was turned in, and the police stations at East One Hundred and Fourth Street and East Eighty-eighth Street were notified. The police quickly arrived, and lent as much assistance as the confusion which they met would permit. Fireman Masterson was partially wedged in the wrecked engine. He was taken out unconscious, but quickly revived, and was removed to the Harlem Hospital. The other two men were attended by ambulance surgeons and sent home.

The passengers finally realized that no serious injury had been done, and the panic subsided. Several passengers, however, would not remain on the train, and walked back on the tracks to the platform. The wrecked engine was side-tracked, and traffic was resumed shortly afterward.

The engineer of the rear train was arrested and taken to Yorkville Court, where he explained that the accident was due entirely to the fog and slippery rails caused by the dampness. A guard, he said, had been sent back to flag his train, but the guard heard a whistle blown by another engine, and, mistaking it for that of his own engine recalling him, went back and boarded his train.

The company will make an investigation.

The New York Times, New York, NY 10 Dec 1897