Falls of Schuylkill, PA Train Wreck, Mar 1887



PHILADELPHIA, March 20.---Thousands of people from this city, Manayunk, Conshohocken, and the Falls of Schuylkill visited the scene of a wrecked coal train to-day opposite John and James Dobson's carpet mills, at the Falls of Schuylkill. The wreck occurred at 10 o'clock last night, and the people who live along the line of the Port Richmond, at the point where the accident happened, were startled by a loud crash that sounded like the falling in of a half a dozen houses. Men and women ran into the streets in their night clothes, and some thought that it was an earthquake. Engineer Patrick McGarvin was on engine No. 154, attached to a train of empty cars. Brakeman Mitchell, who had opened the switch to let Engineer McGarvin in on the siding from the main track, signaled the engineer to pull out. The brakeman had pulled the switch back to the main track, and that left the side track at the switch open.

Engineer McGarvin started his engine with the empty coal cars. The open switch was 1,000 feet ahead of him. He supposed the switch was all right, because the brakeman had given him the signal to come ahead. When the engineer McGarvin saw in an instant that if he did not jump he should lose his life. He shouted to fireman Cominiskey: "Jump for your life, Tom!" The fireman and the engineer jumped to the right of the track, just as the engine crashed down into the street on the side next to Dobson's mills. Neither was injured. The engine broke loose from the tender, and 19 cars piled up in the air in a big in a big black pyramid, and then toppled like the falling walls of a burning building, and went over into the street, on the opposite side of the track, with a loud crash that was he heard more than a mile away. When the engine was hoisted upon the tracks at 4 o'clock this afternoon, there was nothing left of it but the driving wheels, the smoke stack, and the boiler. It will take the wreckers all day to-morrow to hoist the broken cars up on the railroad.

The torn tracks were repaired during the day and to-morrow morning travel to Port Richmond docks will be resumed. A Baltimore and Ohio emigrant train from New York was delayed at the wreck from 11 o'clock last night until 10 o'clock this morning. There was one carload of passengers. There was nothing for them to do but to sit still and wait until the tracks were cleared. They were not allowed to get off the cars because it was dark and dangerous, and they might have fallen down the embankment or off the bridge. To-day one of the officials of the road said: "It was all a mistake. I would not give much for brakeman Mitchell's job now." The damage, an official said, would amount to $50,000.

The New York Times, New York, NY 21 Mar 1887