Long Island, NY train wrecks, Jul 1897


Two in Twelve Hours - Seven Hurt in One - Miraculous Escapes in the Other.


Reversed and Put on Air Brakes - Stuck to the Throttle and His Cab Until Both Were Torn Loose from the Engine.

NORTHPORT, L. I., July 29. - An accident in which three passengers received serious injury and many more had narrow escapes occurred this morning on the Long Island Railroad. Train No. 72, which left Port Jefferson at 6:25 o'clock in charge of Conductor Ruthill Dayton, with Engineer Voe Jackson at the throttle of engine No. 50 and Robert Miller as his fireman, was derailed between East Northport and King's Park at a washout caused by the storm.

Those seriously hurt were: Major Clinton E. Smith of Smithtown, cut about neck; three ribs broken; badly cut about the legs. C. H. Woodhull of St. James, brother-in-law of Major Smith, whom he was visiting; seriously cut about the head and neck; hands and arms lacerated and serious wound in his leg. P. Frederick Lenhardt of Smithtown; several ribs broken and internal injuries.

The following were injured, but not severely: Joseph Elberson of Setauket; cut about the head and body and hurt in the back. H. W. Arthur of Smithown; cuts on the head and had one arm and one leg bruised. Robert Miller, fireman; severe contusions. Voe Jackson, engineer; hurt about the head.

The train was made up of a combination baggage and smoking car and two passenger coaches, besides the locomotive and tender. Engineer Jackson slowed down when the reached the washout, but as no damage was done he went ahead. Half a mile further west in a valley was where the train was derailed. Jackson seeing that the tracks at the foot of a hill he was then descending were submerged, reversed the lever and applied the air brakes with full force, but the hill was too steep and the tracks too slippery to permit of bringing the train to a stop. The engineer saw that the north rail had sagged nearly a foot for a distance of twenty-five feet.

The engine and the tender leaped the track, and, turning sharply to the right, ran part way up the wooded hill. The engine then turned to the left across the tracks as the engine turned the second time and fell into a ditch. Engineer Jackson remained in the cab and crawled from the wreck of his cab, which was twenty feet from the engine, from which it had been torn when it stopped. The cars rolled over as soon as they struck the washout and were wrecked.

The passengers were Miss Nellie Sturtevant of Terryville, Albert Lenhart of Smithtown, Clinton Smith of St. James, P. F. Lenhart of Smithtown, J. G. Hawkins of Stony Brook, H. B. Arthur of Smithtown, H. W. rthur of Smithtown, E. M. Smith, Jr., of Smithtown, C. H. Woodhull of St. James, and Joseph Elberson of Setauket.

Miss Sturtevant, the only woman on the train, was the first one out of the wreck. Drs. Davis and Donohue of Northport and Dr. Fanning of Smithtown, who were notified, attended the injured, who were subsequently moved to their homes. The officials of the company in Long Island City were informed and were soon here. They looked after the passengers and transferred those who cared to go to a special train, which reached Long Island City at 11:55. The train which met with the mishap was due at 8:22.

The tree men who were the most seriously injured were in the smoking car, while the others were in the passenger coaches.

The wreck delayed four passenger trains for three hours.

Engineer Jackson, in his account of the accident, said:

"'d just passed a little washout back the road, and had pulled her down to thirty miles. We came down yonder hill at that clip, and when within a very short distance of the bottom I saw the worst sight an engineer can see, next to a train coming at him head-on - a terrible washout just ahead. I reversed at once, and then slapped on air. The combined action was tremendous, but we were going down hill on slippery rails, and the train slid as if the wheels were greased.

"I hung on, and we struck the sunken right rail. Old 50 gave a jump to the right and lit on the side of a hill. She plowed her way for some distance along this, and then, turning suddenly, she jumped a ditch and the track, landing on her side. The cab, with me in it, was torn from the locomotive and spun around, landing where you see it here, twenty feet away from the engine.I crawled out with nothing the worse than a skinned ear and a sore head."

This morning's accident was the second mishap on the road within twelve hours. Near Manor last night the rear truck on a parlor car of the "Cannon Ball" Express left the track, and as a result four cars broke loose and were derailed, while the train was going at the rate of forty-five miles an hour. Fifty persons were on the train, but no one was injured. The train divides into two sections at Manor, one for Amagansett and the other for Greenport.

The Greenport section of four cars was attached to the rear of the Amagansett train. The first intimation the passengers had of the accident was a jolt which terrified all on board. Then the four cars bumped over the ties. Then the parlor car, which had broken loose from the train, fell over on its side, bringing the four cars to a standstill. There were thirteen members of the Blackthorn Club of Brooklyn on the train returning from Riverhead. The train went on for more than a mile before the engineer discovered that he had left behind a portion of his train.

The New York Times, New York, NY 30 Jul 1897