Cranford, NJ Train Crashes Into Circus Wagon, Apr 1871




At about 6 1/2 o'clock yesterday morning a dreadful calamity occurred on the Central Railroad of New Jersey, at Cranford, N. J., by which three men were killed and three others probably fatally injured. BARNUM'S Circus was on its way from Plainfield, which place it had left at 1 A. M., to Elizabeth, where a performance was to be given yesterday. In passing through Cranford, the road crosses the Central New Jersey Railway track. The grade at this place is very heavy, and trains bound toward New York pass down it an exceedingly rapid rate. Just as the provision caravan of the circus reached the track at this place, the 6 1/2 train from Somerville came rushing down the heavy grade and struck the caravan almost in the centre, dashing it entirely to pieces. The wagon was drawn by four mules, the two at the poles being instantly killed.
The following are the names of the killed and injured:
THEODORE CONKLIN, the driver of the wagon, was thrown several feet from the wagon, and fell upon his head. His skull was fractured, and one leg was broken. He died instantly. He was twenty-seven years of age, and resided originally in Delevan, Wis., where his parents now live.
EDWARD DYER, a colored cook, had his neck dislocated, and died instantly. He was sleeping inside the wagon. He was thirty years of age, and lived in Williamsburg.
GEORGE SICKLES, assistant cook, also a resident of Williamsburg, had his skull fractured and his ribs broken. His death resulted soon after the accident occurred.
CHARLES SILL, a resident of No. 112 Thompson street, New York, received severe internal injuries, and was wounded upon the fead and face. During the day he was insensible, and it is thought he will die before morning.
JOHN JOICE, son of JAMES F. JOICE, of Jersey City, and THOMAS WALSH, another lad from Jersey City, were severely hurt, being thrown a considerable distance by the locomotive. WALSH'S shoulder is dislocated and his companion suffers from contusion of the brain. The physicians pronounce them in great danger, but say that there is a possibility of their recovery.
DR. MARTIN, the surgeon of the Central Railroad Company, and DR. F. A. KINCH, of Westfield, arrived upon the ground within an hour after the accident occurred, and gave all possible relief to the wounded persons. The latter were removed to a house near the scene of the calamity, where they now are.
As soon as possible, Coroner GIBBS, of Elizabeth, impaneled a jury and commenced an investigation into the circumstances of the accident. The Court-house in which the inquest was held was crowded, and much excitement prevailed.
Sheriff OSBORN, of Union County, being sworn, deposed that he resided at Scotch Plains, and was a passenger on the train that caused the accident; before the collilsion he heard the engineer whistle "down brakes" several times; the bell was rung and the steam blown off; while these efforts to stop the locomotive were in full force, witness said he felt a jar, and the train stopped after moving four hundred yards further, to which distance the locomotive carried the two dead mules.
MR. ALEXANDER RAEBE stated that while standing in front of the house of N. G. FOSTER he saw two circus-wagons going along the track, and witness knowing the passenger train was due just then, shouted to the driver to be watchful of its approach. The driver, on hearing witness' admonition, looked along the track, but a house intercepted his view. Almost immediately the train rushed into view at a rapid speed, and neither rang the bell nor blew the whistle, nor gave any alarm of its approach until after the disaster.
GEORGE P. DOUGHTY, the conductor of the train, testified that when the train reached the crossing he heard the whistle blow and soon afterward felt the schock[sic] of the collilsion; the engineer whistled down brakes and the train was stopped as soon as possible; the witness related the circumstances connected with the backing up of the locomotive, the discovery of the bodies, &c., and said he ordered three men to go with a hand-car to Westfield for a doctor; four men appeared to him to be dead; they were removed to the nearest house; the track was then cleared.
HANNAH SHEA deposed that she lived at Cranford; saw the wagons crossing the track and saw the driver of one wagon motion the other to stop; supposed the train was then coming, but the second wagon did not stop; witness next saw it struck by the locomotive; witness lifted one of the boys out of the wreck and had two of them taken home to her house.
JAMES COLTHAR, a brakeman, testified that he was sitting in a passenger car when he heard the whistle blow; was then about half a mile from the crossing; the whistle is always blown when about that distance from the cross-road; witness came out of the car and was standing on the platform when he heard the whistle sound the second time; he put on brakes immediately; the train stopped about half way between the crossing and Cranford Station; got down and went as far as the locomotive to see what was the matter; the water was then running from the tank; stayed at the locomotive till it was fixed; then went back and loosened the brake; the train then went back.
JAMES MILLER, night watchman of the Central Road at Somerville, was on the train, heard the bell rung and the whistle blown; before the train could be stopped they struck one of the wagons that was crossing; witness first saw the wagon and rang the bell; continued to ring it until the wagon was struck, although he knew there was not time to stop so as to avoid a collision.
EDWARD CLARK, the driver of the wagon that crossed first, testified that he and his companion, when they crossed the tracks and saw the train approaching, shouted to the driver of the other wagon to stop; the wagon following was about twenty-five yards behind; did not hear the whistle before he crossed; did not think he ran any risk in attempting to cross; the driver of the other wagon was not asleep.
ROMAINE RANDOLPH was walking on the track near the scene of the accident, and heard the whistle; also saw the driver of the advance wagon signal the other to stop; the latter did not seem to notice the signal. Several other witnesses gave testimony corroborating that of these witnesses, and the case was then given to the jury. After an absence of nearly two hours the jury returned the following verdict:
"We find that the deceased, accidentally and by misfortune, were run over and killed on the New Jersey Central Railroad; and we further find that no blame is attached to the employes of the New Jersey Central Railroad Company."

The New York Times New York 1871-04-28