Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fascinating QSL Card Sent by Killian Van Rensselaer Langsingh of Elderwood Avenue in 1924


The nearly one hundred year old QSL Card depicted below reads like a coded message which, in a way, it was.  Killian Van Rensselaer Lansingh of 226 Elderwood Avenue in Pelham Heights mailed the card shortly after a significant event on December 21, 1924.  It reads, in part:

"This crd fm 2ATF Dec. 21, 1924 . . . 
Wud appreciate a QSL on my sigs if QRB is over 1,000 miles, or if u r outside the continental U.S.A.  Vy best 73's"

An image of the QSL Card appears immediately below.


QSL Card Sent by 2ATF (Killian Van Rensselaer Lansingh)
Shortly After December 21, 1924.  NOTE:  Click on Image
to Enlarge.

This is an early QSL Card that says a great deal about the history of the little Town of Pelham.  A QSL Card is a postcard mailed to confirm "either a two-way radio communication between two amateur radio stations or a one-way reception of a signal from an AM radio, FM radio, television or shortwave broadcasting station," among other things.  See "QSL Card" in Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia (visited Oct. 15, 2018).  Indeed, according to one source:

"During the early days of radio broadcasting, the ability for a radio set to receive distant signals was a source of pride for many consumers and hobbyists. Listeners would mail "reception reports" to radio broadcasting stations in hopes of getting a written letter to officially verify they had heard a distant station. As the volume of reception reports increased, stations took to sending post cards containing a brief form that acknowledged reception. Collecting these cards became popular with radio listeners in the 1920s and 1930s, and reception reports were often used by early broadcasters to gauge the effectiveness of their transmissions."  Source:  Id. 

This QSL Card was prepared by Pelham Ham Radio Operator Killian Van Rensselaer Lansingh of Pelham Heights.  At the time he sent this QSL Card, Lansingh was a college student attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  He was home on Winter Break.

According to the Bureau of Navigation Radio Service, U.S. Department of Commerce and its "Amateur Radio Stations of the U.S. 1924-26," Killian V. R. Lansingh had a 500-Watt Ham Radio Broadcasting station at his home (actually, that of his parents), as indicated on the QSL Card, at 226 Elderwood Avenue in Pelham.  See Department of Commerce Bureau of Navigation Radio Service, Amateur Radio Stations of the United States -- Edition June 30, 1924, pp. 40 & 58 (Washington, D.C.:  Government Printing Office, 1924).   

With this QSL card, Lansingh was acknowledging receipt of a signal from a station the call signal of which was 3BDO.  That station was owned by Russel U. Waite of North West Avenue, Vineland, N. J.  Waite owned a small 25-Watts Ham Radio Broadcast Station at that location.  See id., pp. 69 & 89.  Lansingh noted that he received the signal from Waite's station, about 140 miles away, at 2105 Greenwich Mean Time on December 21, 1924 (5:05 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, December 21, 1924).  

The card itself is fascinating.  At first blush, it seems to be a card printed for use by two stations with the call signals of 2ATF of Pelham, New York (Killian V. R. Lansingh) and 1BAN of Wellesley, Massachusetts.  The latter call signal might seem to belong to a friend or acquaintance of Lansingh who shared the cost of printing the card.  That, however, was not the case.  Lansingh actually operated a second less powerful 100-Watts Ham Radio Station from a second location in Massachusetts.  According to the same Department of Commerce source cited above, Lansingh operated the station at  245 Bellevue Street (actually the address blacked out on the QSL Card) in Newtown, Massachusetts.  See id., pp. 9 & 28.  The card, with the blacked-out 245 Bellevue Street address, indicates the station as located at 18 Abbott Street (about 11 miles away).  

The logo design at the top of the card shows that Lansingh was a member of ARRL (American Radio Relay League, a worldwide organization of amateur radio operators founded in 1914).  Beneath the log is the reference "QRK?"  Posed as a question, this is a reference to the "QRK" signal reporting codes for use in Morse Code / wireless telegraphy.  It is, in effect, the question "What is the intelligibility of my signals?"

Oddly, although the Federal Government listed Lansingh's Pelham station as 500 Watts, on the QSL Card he lists it as 200 Watts within the following reference:

"Receiver:  3 circuit eso step AF.
Transmitter:  200 watts input, CW [struck out] es
ICW, in Coup. Hart circuit.  
Usual QRH abt 75 m."

Lansingh closes his communication in two places with the reference "73's".  The number "73" in Morse Code is an old telegraph code that means "best regards" and is a regular part of the language of Ham Radio.  

This QSL Card provides a fascinating glimpse of an important time in the history of Pelham.  The Roaring Twenties were well underway.  Affluent Pelhamites were fascinated with the relatively new technology of radio broadcasting that was beginning to gain broad consumer acceptance.  Indeed, I have written about Pelham's fascination at the time with the new technology.  See:

Mon., May 22, 2017:  Early Radio in Pelham:  Pelham Firefighters and Business at Pelham Picture House Installed "Radiophone" in 1922.  

Thu., May 22, 2014:  The Earliest Days of Radio in the Town of Pelham

Wed., Jan. 22, 2014:  Pelham Becomes Enthralled with the New-Fangled Entertainment Medium of Radio.

Killian Van Rensselaer Lansingh, of course, went well beyond installing a simple radio receiver in his home.  He built two Ham Radio broadcast stations -- one in Pelham and one in Massachusetts.  He clearly was an early and avid Ham Radio enthusiast.  He was born in Chicago on April 3, 1902, a son of Van Rensselaer Killianse Lansingh and Marian Love Miner Lansingh.  He married Velma A. Ahlstrom on November 8, 1930.  They had three children.  He died at the age of 71 on May 16, 1973 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico of cardiac arrest during a bout of hypostatic pneumonia and is buried at Panteon Colonias, Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico.

Interestingly, only a few months after Lansingh sent this QSL Card, his Ham Radio station became somewhat controversial in the Town of Pelham.  At the time, radio receiver aficionados who were trying to listen to radio broadcasts were experiencing radio interference that made it difficult for them to pick up broadcasts on their expensive radio receivers.  Pelhamites began to point the finger at the Ham Radio broadcast station maintained by Lansingh on Elderwood Avenue.

By February, Lansingh had had enough of the accusations and wrote a letter to the Editor of The Pelham Sun.  Shortly thereafter, the newspaper published an article on the first page of its February 27, 1925 issue entitled "Radio Trouble In Pelham Not Due To Lansingh."  It turned out that shortly after Lansingh sent this QSL Card, he had returned to college as of January 4, 1925.  His transmitter had sat unused since that time while he was away at school, as the article explained.  The article further noted:

"Mr. Lansingh claims he suffers the same interference the others do in Pelham.  He suggests he would be glad to help any who believe they suffer due to undue interference if they will call him up when he is in Pelham.  Owners of single circuit receivers in Lansingh's opinion, not only have not done their share in getting rid of interference by using a sharp tuning receiver, but are causing a large share of the interference from which the other broadcast listeners suffer."


Recent Photograph of the Home at 226 Elderwood, Built in
1910, Where Killian Van Rensselaer Lansingh Maintained
Ham Radio Station 2ATF During the Mid-1920s.  NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

"Radio Trouble In Pelham Not Due To Lansingh
-----
Transmitting Station On Elderwood Avenue Has Same Interference As Other Pelham Radio Operators
-----

Killian V. R. Lansingh of 226 Elderwood Avenue, Pelham, in a letter to the Pelham Sun, denies he is responsible for the large part of the interference suffered by Pelham radio broadcast listeners.  He has a radio transmitting station at his home, but tells us he has been away at college since January 4th, and his station was inoperative from that date until February 23rd.  

Mr. Lansingh claims he suffers the same interference the others do in Pelham.  He suggests he would be glad to help any who believe they suffer due to undue interference if they will call him up when he is in Pelham.

Owners of single circuit receivers in Lansingh's opinion, not only have not done their share in getting rid of interference by using a sharp tuning receiver, but are causing a large share of the interference from which the other broadcast listeners suffer."

Source:  Radio Trouble In Pelham Not Due To Lansingh -- Transmitting Station On Elderwood Avenue Has Same Interference As Other Pelham Radio Operators, The Pelham Sun, Feb. 27, 1925, Vol. 15, No. 52, p. 1, col. 3.  

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

The "Awful Catastrophe on the New Haven Railroad" at Pelhamville in 1851


The day was beautiful.  It was Wednesday, July 16, 1851.  The locomotive engineer on the New York and New Haven Railroad 3:00 p.m. express train out of New York City stood on his operator platform at the rear of the massive steam locomotive.  The locomotive pulled a tender (i.e., coal car), six passenger cars and baggage cars.  He leaned to one side to see around the smokestack at the front of the locomotive and watched for the new wooden depot of the new Pelhamville station ahead.

The engineer most certainly was pulling levers and glancing at gauges as the train sped along.  The rhythmic clackety-clack of the train likely made it hard for him to hear a thing.  Slowly, at about 3:30 p.m., he eased the train to a stop alongside the Pelhamville depot and its tiny wooden passenger platform.  



Image of 1851 Steam Locomotive Passenger Train Like the One
Involved in the 1851 Pelhamville Wreck Showing the Locomotive with
its Engineer Followed by a Small Tender (i.e., coal car), a Baggage
Car, and a Single Passenger Car.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

As the engineer drove the New Haven express train up to the Pelhamville Depot that fateful day, there must have been a commotion among passengers at the rear of his train.  When the engineer turned, expecting to see passengers disembark, he knew immediately that something was terribly wrong.  The last three passenger cars of the express train were gone!  Vanished!

A terrible feeling must have swept over him, beginning in the pit of his stomach.  Most certainly the engineer frantically began pulling levers and studying gauges.  He threw his train into reverse.  No passengers disembarked at the brand new settlement of Pelhamville.  All remained on board as the train began to backtrack in search of its missing cars.

The search did not last long.  Near the Pelhamville border a short distance away, the train came upon a terrible scene.  One account said the scene was located at "a curve just below the new factory at Pelhamville."  Another described the site as a "short distance" from where the train had reversed its course in the Town of Pelham.  

The three wooden passenger cars were wrecked at a curve in the tracks.  Two of the cars had tumbled down a small embankment with one smashing into a stone wall that pulverized the wooden car into splinters.  The other car was halfway up the embankment with one end smashed into, and piercing the center of, the side of the first car lying atop the stone wall.  The third car had derailed and pitched over, but remained near the top of the embankment.  

The scene was gruesome.  By the time the locomotive and cars arrived at the scene, injured men, women, and children were lying on the ground.  Others were hurt in the wrecked cars groaning and crying for help.  Bruised passengers in the car that had not tumbled completely down the embankment were stumbling out of the car, dazed, but beginning to administer aid to the injured.  One report, based on eyewitness accounts, described the wrecked cars as follows:

"On reversing the engine and running backwards a short distance, a terrible scene was presented, in the wreck of two of the cars and the serious injury of a number of passengers.  Three cars had been precipitated down an embankment a distance of twelve or fifteen feet.  The third car was the least damaged, and its passengers were emerging from it, and assisting those who were groaning amid the ruins of the other two."  

The tiny two-track railroad line had only opened through Pelhamville in late December, 1848, barely two-and-a-half years before.  See Thu., Sep. 11, 2014:  Cattle Were Frightened; Animals Careened Round the Fields - The First Run of the New Haven Line Through Pelham in 1848.  This was the first major wreck of a passenger train on the newly-opened section.  It horrified the nation and prompted news articles throughout the country, many of which reported unfounded rumors about the accident including, erroneously, the deaths of a man and a woman.  Though nearly two dozen passengers suffered severe injuries, all the injured were saved by physicians who happened to be riding on the train as well as physicians in New Rochelle and Stamford where the injured were taken after the accident.

It took several days before members of the Press were able to piece together what happened at the time of the accident at Pelhamville.  Investigations and eye witness accounts painted a frightening crash with a gruesome aftermath.

At about 3:30 p.m. that fateful day, as the express train chugged along through the area acquired only a year or so earlier by the Home Industrial Association for the founding of today's City of Mount Vernon, a family on one of the passenger cars "saw that something was wrong, and halloed at the train" to no avail.  As the train rounded a curve near a new factory building in Pelhamville, a piece of equipment referenced in various accounts as a "break" and "brake" between the third and fourth of the six passenger cars seems to have given way and drooped downward until the forward end of its length came into contact with railroad ties.

Upon contact with the ties, the drooping equipment began plowing through the railroad ties and bending beneath the forward wheels of the passenger car until the car broke free from the train with two additional passenger cars still attached to it.  The remainder of the train continued chugging along the tracks, its engineer unaware of the catastrophe unfolding behind.  

The three rear passenger cars bounced and banged along as they tore up about 50 to 55 feet of the tracks before derailing.  As the cars derailed, two sets of wheels from the first of the three passenger cars broke free and bounced down the embankment as the cars began tumbling.  Indeed, after the accident, the two sets of wheels could be seen at the bottom of the embankment where the cars first began to derail.

The first of the three passengers cars turned a complete somersault and crashed the center of its roof, lengthwise, onto a stone wall built parallel to the railroad embankment "smashing it in splinters."  Its splintered remnants came to rest upset down along its entire length atop the stone wall.  The second car followed suit and fell upon its side with its end pitching into the side of the first car resting atop the wall, breaking through the side of that splintered car and "pressing it in nearly to the center" while coming to rest about halfway down the embankment.  The last car, on which the train conductor ("Mr. Quintard") was riding at the time of the accident, "was drawn half-way off the truck, the forward end on the side next the track plowing into the bank, and the back end keeled into the air, supported by the truck, which stood bolt upright."  The three passenger cars came to rest "almost exactly abreast" -- that is, parallel to one another with one lying upside down and lengthwise atop the stone wall at the bottom of the embankment, the second lying almost parallel to it partially up the embankment, and the third one lying parallel to the other two but near the top of the embankment.

The poor quality image immediately below (expanded from a tiny image) depicts the immediate aftermath of the accident.  The wheels, still attached to axles, lie at the bottom of the embankment beyond the stone wall.  The first of the three cars can be seen lying upside down atop the stone wall, badly damaged.  The second of the three cars is lying almost parallel to the wall and, as noted above, has its forward end piercing the center of the first car atop the wall.  The third car can be seen pitched over at the top of the embankment, lying parallel and adjacent to the second car.  Passengers in the depiction have begun to emerge to begin to assist others.



As one would expect, passengers in the badly-damaged wooden passenger car that lay upside down atop the stone wall were the most severely injured.  There were many additional injuries, though less severe, in the second car, the end of which pierced the center of the first one.  The passengers and conductor on the third car at the top of the embankment suffered bumps and bruises but were spared severe injuries.  

One eyewitness account described the scene upon peering into the splintered car that lay upside down atop the stone wall at the foot of the embankment.  The account stated:

"The scene in the . . . car . . . astride the stone wall -- utterly beggars description.  The first object that met my eye (says a passenger) was a stout young woman, apparently about 21 years of age, lying upon her back, her eyes protruding, face purple and swelled, and apparently lifeless.  No one was regarding her, as so many who gave horrible signs of life demanded attention by cries never to be forgotten by those who heard them.  The next objects which attracted my sight were two women, mother and daughter, both of whom were squeezed between the detached top and side of the car, mixed up with backs and seats which had been cast through the opening with them.  Of course the most energetic efforts were made by all the uninjured in aid of all.  A more complete wreck cannot be conceived.  The seats and their backs were strewn in every direction, and stripped of every vestige of connection.  Language cannot paint the scene.  It seems a miracle that many were not killed outright."

Clearly the scene was quite gruesome.  According to one account:

"The bruised and bloody appearance of some dozen or more wounded men and women formed a group of suffering, both affecting and terrible to the beholder.  --  One man had a large portion of his scalp taken off -- another a severe cut in the forehead -- another had lost a finger -- others unable to stand were creeping about in great distress.  One lady was internally injured, and to such an extent that every attempt to move her occasioned the most excruciating pains.  Between twenty and thirty persons were injured -- a portion only were slightly bruised."

Casualty lists were published in newspapers throughout the United States.  One such list read as follows:

"A full list of wounded comprises the following names.

Wm. Bristling, Gardiner, Me. scalp badly torn and head bruised.
Mrs. Seymour, Stamford, very badly bruised.
D. H. Lockwood (brakeman) both legs broken.
Mr. Hart, (brakeman), hand hurt.
H. L. Plumb, Stockbridge, hip badly injured, and arm broken.
Leroy Taylor, Newtown, badly injured on the head.
Aaron Curtis, Bristol, head and back badly injured.
Charles Cook, Winsted, arm and head badly injured.
Capt. Bassett, Bridgeport, slightly injured.
A little son of Isaac Berry, badly injured on the head.
Mr. and Mrs. Wiggin and two children, New-York, slightly hurt.
The following persons, all of Gloucester, N.J., are slightly injured:  Mrs. and Miss Funnel, Misses Nason, Gragg, Powell, Moore and Cogel.  The above, with a number of others, are at the City Hotel.
E. S. Foster, wife and daughter, Indiana, seriously hurt.
Mr. Foster and family are at the Union House.
Miss Clarke, Hartford, face badly cut and arm bruised.  A boy with Miss Clarke was also injured.
An Irishman named Dyer was considerably bruised.
A number of other persons were slightly injured."

As fate would have it, according to one account, a physician referenced as "Dr. Haight" and "another physician from Stamford" as well as "three medical gentlemen" were on the train at the time of the accident and began offering immediate assistance to the injured.  Passengers from the portion of the train still attached to the locomotive disembarked at the scene and likewise provided assistance.

The injured were evacuated by New Haven Line train mostly to New Rochelle where they were taken to hotels, but a few were taken to Stamford for treatment.  Dr. Albert Smith and Dr. Peter Moulton reportedly treated some of the injured evacuated to New Rochelle.  

Newspapers, which reported the accident as "one of the most serious accidents that has ever taken place on the New York and New Haven Railroad," began a death watch.  They repeatedly reported rumors that some of the injured had died.  In several instances they identified "Miss Miller of Massachusetts" as having died.  In other instances they reported that a woman had died and, in still others, that a man had died.

Though many of the injuries were quite severe, there were no immediate deaths following the accident.  Rather, the injured recuperated, some for weeks, in hotels in the region.  According to one report, the injured received the finest medical care with all medical, hotel, and other expenses for each of them and friends and family who stayed with them being "defrayed" by the New York and New Haven Railroad.

The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1851 was eerily similar to the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885, thirty-four years later.  The two train wrecks occurred at essentially the same location.  Both involved derailments.  Both involved severe injuries as cars (and in the case of the 1885 wreck, also the locomotive and tender) somersaulted down the embankment.  Both involved serious injuries although, in the case of the 1885 wreck, Fireman Eugene Blake died in the incident.  Both received national attention and were depicted in published illustrations.  Though none suffered fatalities in the 1851 wreck, there were far more severe injuries.  A bibliography of previous Historic Pelham articles on Pelham train wrecks in the last 170 years appears at the end of this article.



Another Example of an 1851 Steam Locomotive Passenger
Train Like the One Involved in the 1851 Wreck at Pelhamville.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

It would be neither feasible nor advisable to transcribe below all of the many hundreds of news articles and other period materials written about the terrible Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1851.  Below, however, are transcriptions of a number of such resources that form the research underlying today's Historic Pelham Blog Article.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"SERIOUS ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD. -- About three o'clock yesterday, a serious accident occurred on the New Haven Railroad near New Rochelle, by which several persons were injured, though, it is supposed, none fatally.  There were five or six cars in the train, one of which was thrown off the track in such a position that the bottom was uppermost.  This was caused, it is said, by one of the axles giving way.  Two others were thrown off the track.  One of these was completely smashed, the passengers, however, escaping with their lives, though some were seriously bruised.  The following are the names of some of the wounded, all of whom were conveyed in the cars to New Rochelle, where they were lodged in a hotel and medical assistance procured:

Leroy Taylor, of Newtown, Conn., badly injured by a cut in the head; H. L. Plumb, Stockbridge, Mass., hip dislocated and arm broken; Aaron Curtis, an elderly man from Bristol badly  hurt in the head and back; Charles Cooke, Winsted, arm and head bruised, but not severely; Charles Booth, Stamford, hand very badly smashed; Capt. Bassett, Bridgeport, hurt considerably in the head; son of Isaac Berry, of Philadelphia, badly cut on the head; William Bristling, Gardiner, Me., scalp torn off and otherwise badly injured.

Besides these, three ladies and two or three gentlemen, whose names are unknown, received several severe bruises in different parts of the body.  One of the brakemen had his leg broken.  The downward train was delayed about two hours."

Source:  SERIOUS ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD, The Evening Post [NY, NY], Jul. 17, 1851, Vol. XLIX, p. 2, cols. 3 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  See also SERIOUS ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD, The Buffalo Daily Republic [Buffalo, NY], Jul. 19, 1851, Jul. 19, 1851, Vol. 5, No. 1545, p. 2, col. 3 (Same text; NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

"ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD. -- Yesterday afternoon, when the down train was within two miles of New Rochelle, the axle or brake of the last car broke, throwing the three cars off the track, causing a complete wreck of the whole, tossing the passengers in the cars in every direction, injuring several of them very seriously.  Assistance was immediately obtained, and Drs. Albert Smith and Peter Moulton were soon on the spot.  Aid was furnished, and the wounded taken care of.  The following list embraces all who were seriously bruised, as far as could be ascertained in the confusion incident to the occasion:

Leroy Taylor, of Newton, Con., badly injured by a cut in the hand.
H. L. Plumb, Stockbridge, Mass., hip dislocated and arm broken.
Aaron Curtis, an elderly man from Bristol, badly hurt in the head and back.
Charles Cooke, Winsted, arm and head bruised, but not severely.
Charles Booth, Stamford, hand very badly smashed.
Captain Bassett, Bridgeport, hurt, but able to go on.
Smith Booth, Bridgeport, hurt, but able to go on.
Smith Booth, Bridgeport, hurt considerably in the head.  
Son of Isaac Berry, of Philadelphia, badly cut on the head.
Wm. Bristling, Gardiner, Me., scalp torn off and otherwise badly injured.
The brakeman of the car had one of his legs broken.
A lady from Philadelphia, very badly bruised.
A lady, name unknown, very severely cut in the head.
A lady, name unknown, badly bruised -- not dangerous.
A gentleman, name not ascertained, considerably injured.
There were several other persons more or less injured."

Source:  ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jul. 17, 1851, Vol. 10, No. 168, p. 2, col. 3 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

"The Late Rail Road Accident.

The New Haven Palladium of last evening says: -- 'We learn by the trains this morning that no one has yet died, and that the physicians in attendance at Stamford and New Rochelle, speak encouragingly of the recovery of the wounded.'"

Source:  The Late Rail Road Accident, The Hartford Daily Courant, Jul. 18, 1851, Vol. XV, No. 169, p. 2, col. 6 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

"Railroad Accident.

NEW HAVEN, CT., July 17. -- An accident happened last night on the New Haven Railroad, near New Rochelle, by which Mrs. Andrews, of Cleveland, Mr. E. S. Foster, wife and daughter of Indiana, and several others, were very dangerously if not fatally injured."

Source:  Railroad Accident, The Baltimore Sun, Jul. 18, 1851, Vol. XXIX, No. 51, p. 1, col. 5 (NOTE:  Subscription required to access via this link).  

"RAIROAD [SIC] ACCIDENT.

NEW YORK, July 17.

Quite a melancholy accident occurred on the New Haven Railroad, near New Rochelle, last night.  One of the cars was completely smashed in consequence of an axle breaking, and some twenty persons were dangerously injured, among whom were Mrs. and Miss Andrews, of Cleveland, and C. S. Foster, wife and daughter, of Indiana."

Source:  RAIROAD [SIC] ACCIDENT, The Daily Morning Post [Pittsburgh, PA], Jul. 18, 1851, Vol. IX, No. 313, p. 3, col. 5 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

"Sad Railroad Accident.

One of the most serious accidents that has ever taken place on the New York and New Haven Railroad occurred yesterday, and, as now appears, through no fault of any of the officers of the road, the cause, as near as learned, being unusual and not suspected.  The accident happened to the 3 o'clock train, on its way to New Haven.  The train was composed of six passenger cars, besides the engine, baggage cars, &c.  On arriving at the town of Pelham, about a mile and a half below New Rochelle, it was perceived that three of the passenger cars were missing.  On reversing the engine and running backwards a short distance, a terrible scene was presented, in the wreck of two of the cars and the serious injury of a number of passengers.  Three cars had been precipitated down an embankment a distance of twelve or fifteen feet.  The third car was the least damaged, and its passengers were emerging from it, and assisting those who were groaning amid the ruins of the other two.  The bruised and bloody appearance of some dozen or more wounded men and women formed a group of suffering, both affecting and terrible to the beholder.  --  One man had a large portion of his scalp taken off -- another a severe cut in the forehead -- another had lost a finger -- others unable to stand were creeping about in great distress.  One lady was internally injured, and to such an extent that every attempt to move her occasioned the most excruciating pains.  Between twenty and thirty persons were injured -- a portion only were slightly bruised.

Amid the confusion incident to such a disaster, and the conflicting reports respecting it, it is difficult to obtain all the facts in regard to the cause of the accident or the extent of the injuries of the sufferers.  We give below, such statement as we have received.  It is believed that the cars were thrown from the track by the detachment of the 'break' from the third car, which it is supposed fell down upon the track under the forward wheels of the same car, in consequence of the wrenching out of the iron which connected the break with the running gear of the car.  The following are the names of the injured, as far as we could learn them.

Wm. Bristling, Gardiner, Me., scalp badly torn and head bruised; Mrs. Seymour, Stamford, very badly bruised; Charles Booth, Newark, N.J., lost a finger; H. D. Lockwood, of this city, (brakeman) both legs broken.  He was thrown fifteen or twenty feet, Mr. Hart, brakeman, hand hurt; H. L. Plumb, Stockbridge, hip badly injured and arm broken; -- Aaron Curtis, Bristol, head and back badly injured; a little son of Isaac Berry, badly injured on the head; Mr. and Mrs. Wiggin and two children, New York, slightly hurt.

The following persons, all of Gloucester, N.J., are also slightly injured; Mrs. and Miss Funnel, Mrs. Nason, Powell, Moore, Cogel and Miss Gragg.  These, with a number of others are at the City Hotel;  E. S. Foster, wife and daughter, Indiana, seriously hurt; Mr. Foster and family are at the Union House; Miss Clarke, Hartford, face badly cut and arm bruised; A boy with Miss Clark was also injured; A Miss Miller of Mass., badly hurt; Leroy Taylor of Newton, Conn., badly injured by a cut in the head; Capt. Bassett, Bridgeport, hurt, but able to go on; Smith Boothe, Bridgeport, hurt considerably in the head; a daughter and two grand children of Dr. Andrews of Wallingford, considerably injured.  

All that humanity could dictate was done for the sufferers, and they were kindly cared for by the conductor, Mr. Quintard, and others connected with the train.

We learn by the trains this morning, that no one has yet died, and that the physicians in attendance at Stamford and New Rochelle, speak encouragingly of the recovery of the wounded. -- N. Haven Palladium, 19th."

Source:  Sad Railroad Accident, The Middlebury Register [Middlebury, VT], Jul. 23, 1851, Vol. XVI, No. 13, p. 2, col. 7 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  See also Sad Railroad Accident, The Middlebury Register [Middlebury, VT], Jul. 23, 1851, Vol. XVI, No. 13, p. 2, col. 7 (essentially same text; NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

"THE NEW-HAVEN RAILROAD CATASTROPHE. -- The latest account of this affair says that when within about a mile and a half of New-Rochelle, or about 18 miles from New-York, the forward brake of the third or middle car dropped down, throwing the wheels off the track, and, with the axle, went off the embankment.  The forward end of the car plowed the ties and track for some twenty or twenty-five rods, when the connection broke, and the car went off the embankment, turning a somerset [sic], the center of the top of the car, lengthwise, striking upon a heavy stone wall, smashing it in splinters.  The next car followed suit, falling and resting upon its side, the end pitching into the side of the first car, breaking through and pressing it in nearly to the center.  This car lay about halfway down the side of the embankment.  The last car was drawn half-way off the truck, the forward end on the side next the track plowing into the bank, and the back end keeled into the air, supported by the truck, which stood bolt upright.  The three cars were almost exactly abreast.  No persons in the back car were injured.  A full list of wounded comprises the following names.

Wm. Bristling, Gardiner, Me. scalp badly torn and head bruised.
Mrs. Seymour, Stamford, very badly bruised.
D. H. Lockwood (brakeman) both legs broken.
Mr. Hart, (brakeman), hand hurt.
H. L. Plumb, Stockbridge, hip badly injured, and arm broken.
Leroy Taylor, Newtown, badly injured on the head.
Aaron Curtis, Bristol, head and back badly injured.
Charles Cook, Winsted, arm and head badly injured.
Capt. Bassett, Bridgeport, slightly injured.
A little son of Isaac Berry, badly injured on the head.
Mr. and Mrs. Wiggin and two children, New-York, slightly hurt.

The following persons, all of Gloucester, N.J., are slightly injured:  Mrs. and Miss Funnel, Misses Nason, Gragg, Powell, Moore and Cogel.  The above, with a number of others, are at the City Hotel.

E. S. Foster, wife and daughter, Indiana, seriously hurt.
Mr. Foster and family are at the Union House.
Miss Clarke, Hartford, face badly cut and arm bruised.  A boy with Miss Clarke was also injured.
An Irishman named Dyer was considerably bruised.
A number of other persons were slightly injured.

The scene in the middle car, the one astride the stone wall -- utterly beggars description.  The first object that met my eye (says a passenger) was a stout young woman, apparently about 21 years of age, lying upon her back, her eyes protruding, face purple and swelled, and apparently lifeless.  No one was regarding her, as so many who gave horrible signs of life demanded attention by cries never to be forgotten by those who heard them.  The next objects which attracted my sight were two women, mother and daughter, both of whom were squeezed between the detached top and side of the car, mixed up with backs and seats which had been cast through the opening with them.  Of course the most energetic efforts were made by all the uninjured in aid of all.  A more complete wreck cannot be conceived.  The seats and their backs were strewn in every direction, and stripped of every vestige of connection.  Language cannot paint the scene.  It seems a miracle that many were not killed outright.  The accident, it is believed, arose from the detachment of the brake at the forward end of the third car.  A family twenty-five rods back, saw that something was wrong, and halloed at the train.  The brake -- if this is the true state of facts -- threw the wheels off the track, and from the moment the forward end of the car dragged upon the track and ties, which it did for some ten rods, as there are plain evidences.  Two sets of wheels were at the bottom of the embankment, some 8 or 10 rods back of the spot where the cars went off.  The track was and it perfect, and not a wheel or axle is broken.  So there is no reasonable doubt of the correctness of the explanation of the cause of this accident here given.  It is not necessary to say, that those having the management of the train, could do nothing to prevent this occurrence.  But we will say, that after it occurred, and throughout, they acted like men.  The Conductor was in the rear car at the time of the accident.

A report prevails that a Miss Miller of Massachusetts is dead, but we are not advised of its correctness.

P. S. -- We learn that the man injured died last night."

Source:  THE NEW-HAVEN RAILROAD CATASTROPHE, The New-York Daily Tribune, Jul. 18, 1851, Vol. XI, No. 3198, p. 4, col. 4 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

"ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD. -- As the yesterday afternoon three o'clock express train from this city for New Haven was turning a curve just below the new factory at Pelhamville, the hindermost car was thrown off the track and quite destroyed.  Twelve or fifteen persons were more or less injured, but none of them seriously except the brakeman, Lockwood by name, one of whose legs was crushed in a most shocking manner.  Rumors were rife last evening of the death of one person, and the imminent peril of the lives of several others; but on enquiry at the depot of the Company, we were assurred [sic] that the above is the extent of the damage, and that none of the passengers suffered in broken bones or serious contusions.  The arrival of the late train from the east was delayed until past midnight in consequence of this accident. -- N. Y. Cour. & Enq."

Source:  ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD, Buffalo Morning Express, Jul. 19, 1851, Vol. VI, No. 1706, p. 2, col. 5 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

"THE ACCIDENT ON THE NEW-HAVEN RAILROAD. -- We are happy to inform the public that the late accident on the New-Haven Railroad near New-Rochelle has been as usual in such cases greatly exaggerated.  From the best information we can obtain -- in some instances from seeing the persons injured -- we can state that no lives have been lost, and that none of the passengers are dangerously nor we trust, permanently injured.  Among the passengers, as we are credibly informed, there are no bones broken, except in one instance the arm of a lady, in another a lady's collar bone and the joint of the hip bone, and the wrist of a gentleman.  The most serious injury is that to one of the brakemen, whose leg is broken, but at the last accounts he was doing well and is expected to recover.  It has hitherto been the good fortune of the New-Haven Railroad Company in connection with the exercise of great care and attention on the part of the management, that of the number of passengers transported by them in the last two years and a half, estimated by a morning paper at about 2,000,000, but one, a child, that fell from the platform of a car, has been killed.

The circumstances attending the late catastrophe have been as fully as possible investigated by the Company's officers, and there is no reason to doubt that the accident occurred from the falling of the brake as generally stated.  It appears also, that no wheel or axle of any of the cars in the train is broken.  Whether the falling of the brake itself was caused by a fracture of the bolt on which it was suspended, or by the unforeseen breaking of some other part of it cannot be ascertained.  This at least is certain -- that all the cars composing the train were twice carefully inspected within the 24 hours preceding the accident, once before leaving New-Haven on Wednesday, and once again in New-York on the same day, before they left on the trip in which the accident happened.  These cars arrived here about 10 o'clock A.M., and left again at 3 P.M.  In this interval they were carefully and thoroughly examined by a most competent person, who tried the wheels, brakes, &c., and found them all in perfect order.  The cars were comparatively new, the brakes were the patent double-acting brakes of the most approved construction, and were supplied in every case either with chain or spring guards to secure them from falling in case of the loss or breaking of the bolt.  To construct a brake which shall act efficiently and at the same time be absolutely secure against accidents of this kind, has long engaged the attention of Railroad officers, and is not so easy of accomplishment as inexperienced persons may imagine.

It should be remembered that eight trains are run daily in each direction over the New-Haven Road, requiring for the service forty passenger cars, and that for the first fourteen miles from New-York they run upon the tracks of another company with a still greater amount of daily service over that portion of their road, located too in the midst of a dense population.  Under such circumstances it is not surprising that the greatest care and foresight should prove inadequate to guard against every possible contingency which may result in an accident, and especially in a case like the present, entirely fortuitous.

(Communicated)."

Source:  THE ACCIDENT ON THE NEW-HAVEN RAILROAD, The New-York Tribune, Jul. 19, 1851, Vol. XI, No. 3199, p. 5, cols. 2-3 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

"NEW HAVEN RAILROAD ACCIDENT. -- The accounts of this accident appear to have been greatly exaggerated.  No lives have been lost, and it is thought that none of the passengers are dangerously nor permanently injured.

Among the passengers, as we are credibly informed, there are no bones broken, except in one instances [sic], the arm of a lady, in another, a lady's collar bone, and the point of the hip bone and wrist of a gentleman.  The most serious injury is that to one of the brakemen, whose leg is broken, but at the last accounts, he was doing well, and is expected to recover.  It has hitherto been the good fortune of the New Haven Railroad Company, in connection with the exercise of great care and attention on the part of the management, that of the number of passengers transported by them, in the last two years and a half, estimated in a morning paper at about 2,000,000, but one child that fell from the platform of a car has been killed.

The direct cause of the accident cannot be ascertained, but is supposed to have occurred from the falling of the break."

Source:  NEW HAVEN RAILROAD ACCIDENT, Brooklyn Evening Star, Jul. 19, 1851, Vol. XLIII, No. 3258, p. 2, col. 3 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

"SERIOUS ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD. -- An accident occurred on the New Haven railroad on Wednesday afternoon, which resulted in the serious injury of a number of person, although fortunately no lives were lost.  The three o'clock accommodation train from New York, consisting of five cars, had arrived within about two miles of new Rochelle, when the axle of the car next to the last broke, and the shock was such as to separate the three hindmost cars from those in front.  Two of the cars detached were thrown off the track, and one of them turned upside down.  The other was also much broken, and wrenched across the track.  So soon as those who were uninjured recovered from the shock, they proceeded to the relief of those who were less fortunate.  The locomotive and two cars, which had gone on to the distance of nearly a mile before the accident was discovered by the engineer, also returned with the passengers to aid the sufferers, many of whom it was thought were killed.  Upon examination, however, it was discovered that not a single life had been lost.  It is truly wonderful that the results were not more calamitous.  The following list is said to embrace all who are known to have been injured:

Mrs. Andrews, of Cleveland, Ohio; Miss Andrews, of Cleveland, Ohio; Mrs. Seymour, of Stamford; Mr. and Mrs. Wiggins and two children, of New York; Mr. E. S. Foster, wife, and daughter, of Indiana; Miss Clark, of Hartford; Mr. Dyer, of Ireland; Leroy Taylor, of Newtown, Conn.; H. L. Plumb, of Stockbridge, Mass.; Aaron Curtis, of Bristol; Charles Cooke, of Winsted; Charles Booth, of Stamford; Capt. Bassett, of Bridgeport; Smith Booth, of Bridgeport; a son of Isaac Berry, of Philadelphia; Wm. Bristling, of Gardiner, Me.; D. H. Lockwood, a brakeman; Mrs. and Miss Funnel, Misses Nason, Gregg, Powell, Moore, and Cogel, all of Gloucester, (N.J.) were slightly injured; a lady from Philadelphia was very badly bruised; and Miss Miller, of Massachusetts, is reported to be dead.

The wounded were taken forward to New Rochelle, where they were provided with beds at a hotel, and medical attendance was promptly procured.  Dr. Haight and another physician from Stamford, and three medical gentlemen who were fortunately in the cars at the time, are aiding those resident at the place in giving every attention to the sufferers."

Source:  SERIOUS ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD, Weekly National Intelligencer [Washington, DC], Jul. 19, 1851, No. 525, p. 4, col. 4 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  See also SERIOUS ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD, The Southern Press [Washington, DC], Jul. 19, 1851, Vol. II, No. 9, p. 2, col. 7 (essentially the same text with modifications and insertions near the end; NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

"ACCIDENTS ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD. -- Our New York correspondent yesterday gave the particulars of a serious accident that occurred on Wednesday afternoon, on the New Haven railroad, resulting in the serious injury of a number of passengers.  The New Haven Journal learns that one of the injured passengers, Miss Miller, of Boston, is dead, and gives the following additional names of those injured:

Mrs. Andrews, of Clevenland, Ohio, one arm broken.  Miss Andrews, of Cleveland, Ohio, collar bone broken.  Mrs. Seymour, of Stamford, very badly bruised.  Mr. and Mrs. Wiggins, and two children, of New York, slightly hurt.  Mr. E. S. Foster, wife and daughter, of Indiana, seriously hurt.  Miss Clarke, of Hartford, face badly cut and arm bruised.  A boy with her was also injured.  Mr. Dyer, of Ireland, much bruised. . . ."

Source:   ACCIDENTS ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD, The Baltimore Sun, Jul. 19, 1851, Vol. XXIX, No. 52, p. 1, col. 4 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

"SERIOUS ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD. -- An accident occurred on the New Haven railroad on Wednesday afternoon, which resulted in the serious injury of a number of persons.  

The three o'clock accommodation train from New York, consisting of five cars, had arrived within about two miles of New Rochelle, when the brake of the car next to the last brake and the shock was such as to separate the three hindmost cars from those in front.  Two of the cars detached were thrown off the track, and one of them turned upside down.  The other was also much broken, and wrenched across the track.  So soon as those who were uninjured recovered from the shock, they proceeded to the relief of those who were less fortunate.

The following list is said to embrace all who are known to have been injured:  Mrs. Andrews, of Cleveland, Ohio, collar bone broken; Mrs. Seymour, of Stamford, very badly bruised; Mr. and Mrs. Wiggins and two children, of New York, slightly hurt; Mr. E. S. Foster, wife and daughter, of Indiana, seriously hurt; Miss Clarke, of Hartford, face badly cut and arm bruised; a boy with her was also injured; Mr. Dyer, of Ireland, much bruised; Leroy Taylor, of Newtown, Conn., badly injured by a cut in the head; H. L. Plumb, of Stockbridge, Mass., hip dislocated and arm broken; Aaron Curtis, of Bristol, badly hurt in the head and back; Charles Cooke, of Winsted, arm and head bruised, but not severely; Chas. Booth, of Stamford, hand very badly smashed; Captain Bassett, of Bridgeport, hurt, but able to go on; Smith Booth, of Bridgeport, hurt considerably in the head; William Bristling, of Gardiner, Maine, scalp torn off and otherwise badly injured; D. H. Lockwood, a brakeman, both legs broken; Mr. Hart, a brakeman, hand hurt; Mrs. and Miss Funnel, Misses Nason, Gregg, Powell, Moore, and Cogel, all of Gloucester, N.J., were slightly injured; a lady from Philadelphia, very badly bruised; son of Isaac Berry, of Philadelphia, badly cut on the head.

The New Haven Journal of Thursday morning says that it has learned from persons on the late train from New York that one of the injured passengers -- Miss Miller, of Massachusetts -- is dead."

Source:  SERIOUS ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD, The Republic Daily [Washington, DC], Jul. 19, 1851, Vol. III, No. 3, p. 2, col. 5 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

"A sad accident took place on the New York and New Haven Railroad, on the afternoon of Wednesday last.  As the three o'clock accommodation train was approaching New Rochelle, and within two miles of that place, on turning a curve the brake of the car next to the last was broke and the shock separated the three hindermost cars from those in front, two of them were thrown off the track, one broken up, and the other turned upside down.  One passenger was killed and twelve were seriously injured with broken limbs, cuts and bruises.  Several others were slightly injured.  A brakeman by the name of Lockwood had his legs crushed in a shocking manner."

Source:  [Untitled], The Poughkeepsie Eagle, Jul. 19, 1851, Vol. 8, No. 394, p. 2, col. 6 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

"THE LATE ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD. -- Several of the persons who were injured by the accident on the New Haven Railroad on Wednesday evening still remain at New Rochelle, and it will be impossible to remove them probably for some time.  The brakeman is most seriously injured, but it is not anticipated that the injury will be permanent.  One gentleman is at the Pavilion Hotel, with one hip and one wrist broken; others are scattered about over the village.  They are all attended by the most celebrated physicians from the city, and the entire expenses of themselves and the friends remaining with them are defrayed by the Railroad Company. -- N. Y. Mirror of Monday."

Source:  THE LATE ACCIDENT ON THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD, Weekly Commercial [Wilmington, DE], Aug. 1, 1851, Vol. 4, No. 48, p. 1, col. 6 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

"ACCIDENTS
Upon the New-York and New Haven Railroad for the year ending 30th September, 1851. . . .

Several passengers, July 16, New Rochelle.  Injured by the hind cars of the train flying off the track. . . .

G. W. WHISTLER, JR., Sup't."

Source:  Annual Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor, on the Railroad Statistics of the State of New-York Transmitted to the Legislature, January 26, 1852, pp. 87-88 (Albany, NY:  C. Van Benthuysen, Printer to the Legislature, 1852).  

*          *          *          *          *

I have written before about the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885 that resulted in the death of Fireman Eugene Blake and injuries to several others including the train engineer, Riley Phillips.  I also have written about many other Pelham train wrecks.  For articles about the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885,  see:






Mon., Sep. 24, 2007:  The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885





Bell, Blake A., The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885: "One of the Most Novel in the Records of Railroad Disasters, 80(1) The Westchester Historian, pp. 36-43 (2004).

For other articles I have written about other Pelham train wrecks over the years, see:

Bell, Blake A., Train Wrecks Near Depot Square in Pelham Manor, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 44, Nov. 5, 2004, p. 13, col. 1. 

Thu., Jul. 20, 2017:  Three More Pelham Train Wrecks.

Wed., Sep. 21, 2016:  Truck Smashed by Express Train Landed on Pelham Station Platform in 1925

Fri., Feb. 26, 2016:  108 Years Ago Today: Freight Train Wreck on the Branch Line Between Pelham Manor and Bartow Station

Fri., Apr. 25, 2014:  Freight Train Wreck at Pelham Manor Station in 1896.

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