Scientific American—May 30, 1891

A noteworthy instance of the very singular manner in which railway accidents sometimes take place, and where the escape from great loss of life seems little less than miraculous, was afforded by the wreck on the Shore Line Railroad, a little east of New Haven, on April 18, which forms the subject of the accompanying illustration.

The east bound Boston and New York Express left New Haven at 3:05 P. M. The train consisted of the locomotive, one baggage car, and four passenger cars. It had just passed over the long Quinnipiac River bridge, and was rounding a curve, when the flange of the left hand forward truck wheel of the locomotive broke, and a portion of the wheel nearly eighteen inches long flew off. The train had been going at the rate of only about twelve or fifteen miles an hour over the bridge, and the engineer had just opened the throttle for full speed when the accident happened. With the breaking of the flange, the wheel left the track on the curve, the other truck wheels and the driving wheels also being derailed and bumping along on the ties for some distance, as the locomotive was pushed ahead by the impetus of the train, the locomotive being finally turned completely around and thrown to one side of the track, landing in a partially crosswise position over a shallow ditch or gully. The engineer had been leaning from his cab window, and he was pitched forward into the ditch, the locomotive falling over him, but not upon him, so that he was enabled with a little assistance to crawl out, not having received any serious injuries. The fireman likewise went over the cab and was thrown out into the mud and water of the ditch. The engineer saw the truck wheel strike the ties, and instantly put on the air brakes and blew the whistle.

Just beside the track, at the place where the accident happened, is a private residence, from which the manner of its occurrence was noted by eyewitnesses. It is said that the momentum of the train appeared to lift the rear end of the locomotive, so that the frame of the cow catcher caught in some heavy planking at the side of the track, when the locomotive was made to turn almost a complete somersault before it landed in the ditch. The tender, which had been drawn from the rails by the engine, was finally swung around and landed in the ditch to the rear of The locomotive, its forward end also pointing in a direction opposite to that in which it had been going. The connecting link between the tender and baggage car was broken, and the latter was pushed into an embankment on the opposite side of the track, when all further progress of the train was stopped, the first passenger coach, which had not left the track, being brought to a standstill immediately opposite the derailed and overturned locomotive, which but a moment before was pulling the train.

The damage to the locomotive was by no means as great as might have been expected, although the cab was broken to pieces, the cow catcher broken and its rods twisted out of shape, and the iron sheathing punctured and ripped in many places. The locomotive was built in 1873, and was to have been taken to the repair shops the next week. The engineer testifies to having tried the wheel with a hammer before the train left New Haven, but a few minutes previous to the accident, and that he found it good and sound. It would have been a little remarkable for the truck wheel to have left the track in such a manner had it not been that the engine was on a curve, and the comparatively slow rate at which the train was moving tended to minimize the danger. As it was, there were not a few of the passengers who felt profoundly thankful that the accident had not happened some four hundred feet further back, when the entire train might have been precipitated from the high bridge into the Quinnipiac River.

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