South Kingston, NY Train Wreck, Sept 1855
The Stonington Railroad Accident â€“ Attempt to Throw a Train from a Bridge.
An accident happened to the train from Boston for New York on the Stonington Railroad, on Monday night, by which some eight or ten persons were seriously and several others slightly injured. -- The New York Tribune has the following details:
During Monday evening a rail was taken up from the track of the Stonington Railroad, on the Zaccheus Bridge, about four miles this side of South Kingston, and laid lengthwise in the centre of the track. This bridge is situated in what is termed the great swamp, and about two miles from any human habitation; it is about twenty-five miles long, and spans the Paweatuck river; the bridge is eight or ten feet above the water, which at this place is some six or eight feet in depth. Past the bridge to the south, on one side of the track, a bank rises seven or eight feet high, and on the other side an embankment slopes down some eight feet to the swamp. This was the spot selected for one of the most brutal and cowardly crimes that can disgrace a civilized community: the rail on the left side of the track was removed, evidently with the intention of throwing the steamboat passenger train from Boston for Stonington off the bridge and into the river.
At 8:20 P. M., the doomed train came along to the spot; the night was dark, the moon had not yet risen, and the danger was unseen. The train, consisting of eight baggage flats, two second class and five passenger cars, containing nearly five hundred persons, was proceeding at a pace of 15 to 18 miles an hour, when it reached the bridge. The engineer felt the sharp jolt as his locomotive came to the gap, and at the same moment reversed the engine. Instead of running off the bridge into the river, the engine jolted over the sleepers for some six or eight rods, and then burying one of its driving wheels in the bank, came to a sudden halt. The concussion threw the baggage crates off from the trucks, and eight trucks were thrown down the embankment. The two first passenger cars were thrown from the track, and roof and sides were crushed in and dashed to atoms; two first class cars were thrown off the track, but not much injured, while the other three first class cars remained on the track. The scene that ensued is so graphically described by MR. AMERICUS V. POTTER, of the firm of Sackett, Davis & Potter, jewelers, of Providence, who was on the train, that we give it in his own words:
STATEMENT OF MR. A. V. POTTER
As soon as the concussion took place I took a lantern and passed to the forward passenger car, which I found off the track and broken nearly to atoms. I crawled in at the front as best I could, for the roof was crushed down to within 18 inches of the seats, and the sides were all dashed out. Several persons in this car were badly injured, while the majority were in an agony of terror, and making the most frightful noises imaginable. With the assistance of two or three, who arrived, we cleared the car of the well and the wounded by passing them through the windows and sides to people on the outside. I can assure you the scene was appalling. It was dark as Erebus, save the little light that two or three feeble lamps could afford, and the extent of the damage was as yet unknown. After we had cleared the car of the rubbish we were gratified to find that none of the poor creatures were killed. I then went through the cars to find a surgeon. DR. PARKER, recently from China, and now our Minister to China, was fortunately on board, and together we made a personal inspection of all the cars, and examined the wounded. Some were seriously, and others only slightly hurt; two or three were injured internally, to what extent the Doctor could not determine, and two he pronounced to be suffering from injuries to the spine. One of them was very delirious from an injury to the spine that affected his brain.
When I first passed along to the bridge I observed a man on the ground; I found it was MR. GEORGE SIMMONS, a young farmer of North Kingston, R. I., with both of his legs badly crushed below the knee, and his feet smashed up. In two hours time we obtained a small hand car, and placing four of the most severely injured people on it, conveyed them two miles down the road to the nearest farm house, where every possible attention was bestowed on them by the inmates. Meantime surgeons were sent for, but they had not arrived, and to save poor SIMMONS' life his limbs ought immediately to be amputated. DR. PARKER had no instruments with him, but at the urgent request of the patient drewoff his coat, and rolling up his sleeves, prepared for the operation. A fine carpenter's saw was procured, and with this and a sharp knife he was about to begin the operation when DR. PALMER and his son arrived from Stonington, with their instruments. Chloroform was administered, and DRS. PALMER and PARKER amputated both limbs four inches below the knees.
This was at 3 o'clock in the morning. The man bore up bravely, and it is hoped he will recover. He is 27 years old, and has a wife and two children. Soon after 3 o'clock a special train arrived from Stonington, with surgeons, laborers, and all the help necessary to such an emergency. The passengers went on to Stonington by this train, and the steamboat Plymouth Rock brought them to this city. In my opinion, and in the opinion of everybody else on the train, this occurrence is the result of the fiendish malignity of some wretch living on the line of the road. If the rail had been torn off by the engine, the flanges of the wheels, being inside, would have thrown it outside instead of inside the line of the track. Besides, the spikes show that they have been forced in two directions and the rail torn from its fastenings, and while on the end of the succeeding rail there is a heavy dent, caused by the wheel striking against it, there is no such mark on the rail torn up.
COL. J. M. BRODHEAD, second Controller of the United States Treasury, was a passenger on the train at the time of the accident, but was not injured.
About a year ago a man was arrested for attempting to throw a train off the track near the same place. He is now in the State prison at Providence, undergoing the penalty of his offence[sic].
A collection for the belefit of young SIMMONS was taken up on board the cars. It amounted to $60. A collection for the sufferers generally amounted to $193, to which DR. PARKER added another $100.
The Republican Compiler Pennsylvania 1855-09-10