Springfield, MA train wreck, Mar 1897




Engineer Brennan and Dr. J. Owen of New York, Injured Quite Seriously - Both Tracks Blocked - Heavy Damage to Rolling Stock.

The Montreal express, which left this city at 8 o'clock last evening, ran into four detached freight cars between Chicopee junction and Chicopee Street. The train was going at a speed of not less than 40 miles an hour. No lives were lost, but the engineer, John Brennan of Windsor, Vt., was seriously injured. Others who were injured are: Mail Clerk Simmons, Dr J. Owen of New York and a woman who gave her name as Mrs William Bullis. The rolling stock loss will be large. It is probable that the Boston freight which leaves this city at about 7 o'clock, but was late last night, was responsible for the accident. The scene of the accident was a few rods from the Chicopee crossing. A spur track, used by the Dwight manufacturing company, runs from the main track near this point. Last evening there were eight freight cars on the spur. The Boston freight took four of them and soon after the other four found their way to the main track. The spur track has a considerable grade and the cars on it are generally blocked. It seems probable that the train hands of the Boston freight, after releasing the four cars which were attached to that train, neglected to block the other four, which rolled down the grade and onto the main track. It is certain that these cars had been on the main track but a few minutes, as the train which leaves this city for Holyoke at 7.30 passed the scene of the accident without obstruction.

It was peculiarly fortunate that the express was not derailed, as the bank is steep at this point and one of the cars was directly over a culvert when the train was brought to a standstill. Engineer Brennan was badly lacerated over the eyes and received deep cuts in the back of the head and on the right arm. His overalls caught fire from the live coals which were thrown back from the fire pit and before he could remove the garment his legs were badly burned. He was taken to the Springfield hospital, where at an early hour this morning he was reported to be badly injured internally. Brennan did all in his power to avert the accident, applying the emergency brakes and reversing the engine. Strangely enough, George Hoffman, the fireman, escaped without a scratch. Mail Clerk Simmons was bruised about the head and Mrs Bullis was not so seriously hurt as to be unable to continue on her way to Rouse's Point, N. Y. Beside the engineer, Dr Owen of New York received the most severe injuries. He sat in the smoker and was thrown over a table. He complained of severe pains in the abdomen and was removed to the Highland hotel in this city, where he was attended by City Physician Chapin. He was reported in a fairly comfortable condition early this morning and will recover.

The force of the collision was terrific and many who heard the noise thought that there was an explosion. The freight car which was struck first was smashed into kindling wood, nothing being left but the trucks. Bales of cotton were torn open and scattered around in an extremely lively manner. The shock to the passengers was very severe, many being thrown out of their seats. Conductor Caldwell was in the middle of the train taking fares and made haste to reassure the women, some of whom were naturally a bit hysterical. A large crowd gathered and watched the reconstruction of the train. The darkness impeded the work, the only light being furnished by lanterns.

The accident took place at a peculiarly inopportune time, as the express passes a south-bound train near Chicopee Street. When the train struck the frieght cars bales of cotton were scattered indiscriminately over both tracks. Conductor Caldwell promptly sent a man ahead to flag the south-bound train and another messenger to Chicopee to summon help from this city. The train hands of the express cleared the south-bound track of obstructions in a frew minutes, but the north-bound track was still blockaded at an early hour this morning. The express was made up of six cars, a mail car, combination baggage and stoker, two passenger coaches and two sleepers. The freight car that was struck was broken into splinters and the trucks were forced under the second freight car. The other two freight cars, which were evidently uncoupled, were sent flying [sic] the track for a quarter of a mile by the force of the impact.

The engine of the express is damaged almost beyond repair. The front is stove in and only a remnant of the cab remains. Singularly enough the clock of the engine was uninjured. The front of the mail car, which was next to the engine, is practically a wreck. The other cars are not badly damaged. It was after 11 o'clock before the wrecking gang appeared on the scene. The three rear cars of the express were hauled to Chicopee, where a new train was made up, the mail being transferred at the point of the accident. The train finally proceeded on its way about four hours late.

The express carried a good load of passengers who accepted the situation philosophically, congratulating themselves that it was no worse. The wreck recalls the one which befell the Monreal express about 10 years ago at White River Junction, Vt., when there was such a terrible loss of life. Broulette, the baggage master of the train last night, held the same position on the train which was wrecked near White River Junction; his run then was only to Windsor and he escaped from participation in that awful tragedy. Last night the trunks tipped over in his car and Mr. Broulette regards his escape as fortunate.

There was scarcely any interruption to traffic, excepting to the train which was wrecked and to the south-bound train, which was due in the city at 11.40, which was about an hour late. The north-bound train kept very close to their schedule [sic] taking advantage of the switch which was a few rods below the wreck. The south-bound track was not seriously obstructed.

Mr. Brennan has been an enginer for the Connecticut River and Boston and Maine road for about 17 years, and previous to that time he'd run on the different divisions of the Central Vermont. In later years he has run between Windsor and this city, making a round trip every other day. He was one of the most trusted employes in the service of the company and has been [sic] free from accidents. Several years ago he was in a similar accident at Bellows Falls, Vt.

The Springfield Republican, Springfield, MA, 24 Mar 1897