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.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Biographical Data and Photo of the Engineer of the Train that Wrecked in Pelhamville on December 27, 1885

Occasionally I have written 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. See:

Monday, September 24, 2007: The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog provides information about, and a photograph of, the Train Engineer at the time of the wreck: Riley E. Phillips. The material is from the July, 1914 issue of Locomotive Engineers Journal (Vol. XLVIII, No. 7).

"Brother Phillips Added to the Honorary List.


NEW HAVEN, CONN., May 12, 1914.

The enclosed photo shows another old loyal and true blue Brotherhood boy, and also a civil war veteran accompanied by his youngest grandchild.

Bro. Riley E. Phillips was born in Westport, Conn. His parents moved to New Haven in 1850, where he attended the John E. Lovell Lancasterial school until he decided to learn the printer's trade at the old printing house of Thomas Stafford.

At the breaking of the war he gave up being a devil to become a soldier, and accompanied by his father he joined the 15th Conn. Volunteers, serving all through the war.

He was captured in the fight at Jackson's Mills, N. Carolina, and given his first lesson in railroading, as the Confederates marched them to Libby prison, 104 miles, on the Richmond & Danville tracks, where they were held prisoners until the supply of food ran short, when they were paroled and ordered north, immediately returning to New Berne, N.C., there serving until July, 1865, and was honorably discharged July 12, 1865.

Brother Phillips is the proud possessor of an honorary badge of our Brotherhood, he being presented with same by our esteemed A.G.C. Bro. A.G. Griffing, in his usual eloquent style. This was also an honor of which Brother Phillips is justly proud.

Brother Phillips went to work for the N.Y., N.H. & H.RR. July 18, 1865, just six days after being discharged from the army, and has seen continuous service ever since, running from a switcher to the fastest trains the company runs, namely, the Bay States and the Bankers expresses, which he is running today.

When he went to work for the New Haven road, as it was then called, they owned thirty engines, and operated seventy-three miles of track.

During this time Brother Phillips has had several very close calls, one serious on Dec. 27, 1885, at Pelhamville, N.Y., when the depot platform was lifted by a hurricane and thrown across the tracks, derailing the owl train and throwing his engine down a ninety-five foot embankment, injuring himself and his fireman, Eugene Black [sic - should be Blake], who died forty minutes afterwards from his injuries. He had one of those very close calls two years ago, when he found the drawbridge at Bridgeport, Conn., open, stopping his train less than two rail lengths from the draw.

Brother Phillips has also known the joys and sorrows of life, he having been blessed with six children and losing three of them, one daughter and two sons. Of his two sons, Riley E. Jr. was chief clerk for the company and a well known soloist in our leading churches here. Charles C. followed the footsteps of his dad and became an engineer, and met his death at New Rochelle, N.Y., being electrocuted in the performance of his work. Of his other children, one son, Eugene J., a graduate of Yale, is an attorney for the company, the other is a student at Bowdoin College, Maine. His daughter, Miss Cecelia A., is a teacher in one of our leading schools (Worthington Hooker.)

Brother Phillips is, as his photo shows, [Page 634 / Page 635] still hale and hearty and to all appearances good for a number of years to come, he having the good wishes of all who know him for his continued success.

Of Brother Phillips' life partner, Sister Frances L. Phillips, just a word. Sister Phillips is still enjoying good health, is a loyal member and Past President of Ella Minor Div. 177 L.A. to the B. of L.E., an organization of which the boys of Div. 77 are justly proud, as evidenced every time that an invitation arrives for eats, every mother's son who can possibly get away is at the Division room."

Source: Brother Phillips Added to the Honorary List in Locomotive Engineers Journal, Vol. XLVIII, No. 7, pp. 634-35 (July 1914).

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