Charlotte, NC Two Freight Trains Collide, Dec 1880



Charlotte, N. C., Dec. 27. -- Information of another frightful railroad disaster reached the city this morning about 8 o'clock. It occurred on the Air Line Railroad, 500 yards beyond Paw Creek trestle, 9 miles from the city, about 7 o'clock. Two freight trains of the usual size left Charlotte yesterday morning in sections -- that is, the one about 15 minutes behind the other. On the up-grade just beyong Paw Creek trestle, 14 cars of the forward train, under Engineer ANTHONY, broke loose, and stopped after running only a short distance. In the rear car were the flagman, ROBERT GRIFFITH, of this city, and six passengers, three of whom were colored. When the detached cars stopped, flagman GRIFFITH jumped off, and, having told the train men to inform the passengers that they had broken loose from the remainder of the train, immediately started back to signal the second section, which he knew must be only a few miles behind. He had not gone back far before he heard the engine of the approaching train whistle, and then realized the fact that he could proceed no further, because of the trestle, which is 150 yards wide and very high. He waved the flag as the engine, in charge of Engineer WISENBERRY, came in sight, and the engineer expressed his recognition of it by immediately blowing "on brakes." But his train was heavy, and he was nearing the bottom of one of the biggest grades on the road, hence it was impossible to stop. As soon as he saw this, and before crossing the trestle, he reversed his engine, and continued to blow "on brakes." He left his seat, and, standing in front of the fire-box, with hishand on the lever, awaited the shock. It came, and he was partially knocked down by a stick of wood from the tender, but was otherwise unhurt, though almost entirely shut in by the mass of debris which was thrown against the engine. His life was probably saved by the fact that the rear of the tender was thrown to one side, thus diverting the full momentum of the train from the engine to the side of the cut, against which the shattered cars were piled in an inextricable mass.
What occurred in the caboose of the detached train is obtained from a statement made by MR. THOMAS H. GAITHER, of this city, who was one of the passengers who miraculously escaped from death, though seriously injured, having had several of his ribs broken and the skin torn off the back part of his head. There were six passengers besides the flagman. The train which ran into them had caught up with them at a wood station a few miles back, and hence when its coming was announced no one felt apprehensive. A flagman had been sent back as an additional precaution, and hence no attention was paid to the approaching train. It was upon them before they knew it. MR. GAITHER remembers that he and MR. PHILIP A WHISNANT started to get out, but before he had passed the middle of the car he was knocked down. He managed, with the assistance of a colored man, to extricate himself by lifting the whole top of the car off. The other passengers, PHILIP S. WHISNANT, of this city; CHARLIE SELLERS, whose parents live in Pinhook, and a negro, named NED STROUD, were killed. The cars telescoped each other, and were piled in the greatest confusion. They caught fire, and the remnants of two cars, including that in which were the passengers, were destroyed. At least one of the passengers was burned alive, as his cries were heard. The charred body was rescued after several hours, but could not be recognized. The head, feet and hands were entirely burned off. The railroad company sent DRS. MOORE, GRAHAM, O'DONOUGHUE, and McCOMBS to the scene, but they could do nothing except attend to the wounds of MR. GAITHER, who has been brought to the city, and is now suffering only slightly. The bodies will be brought to the city to-night. A large force of hands is now engaged in removing the wreck and building a track around it.

The New York Times New York 1880-12-28