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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Truck Smashed by Express Train Landed on Pelham Station Platform in 1925

In 1925, Maurice Moriarty was a dedicated and hard-working baggage handler at the Pelham Station on the New Haven Line.  In those days, the railroad was more than a simple commuting line.  Rather, trains traveling to and from Boston and other cities in the northeast moved along the line and connected at Grand Central with other trains headed to cities throughout the nation.  Rail travel was still in its heyday.  Thus, baggage handlers toiled to load and unload baggage and cargo from trains throughout the line.

Moreover, there were no elevated platforms at stations along the New Haven Line including at Pelham Station.  Indeed, it was not until the 1970s that elevated platforms were constructed at Pelham Station.  Thus, in 1925, the Pelham Station platforms were at track level.

Undated "Real Photo" Post Card Depicting Pelham
Station Printed on AZO Paper with Stamp Box on
Reverse Containing Four Triangles Meaning It Was
Created Between 1904 and 1918.  The Baggage
Handling Area of the Station is Beneath the Shelter
on the Left Foreground Near the Parked Car.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

As can be seen from the post card image immediately above, fencing between tracks at the station was intended to prevent passengers from crossing the tracks at the station.  To permit the baggage handler to move baggage from one side of the tracks to the other, however, there was a "private cross-over" that cannot be seen in the image above.  It was located opposite Benedict Place in the distance of the image.  Moriarty used a small truck to move baggage from one side of the station to the other by loading the truck and driving it across the private cross-over.   

A little before 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, 1925, Maurice Moriarty was moving the baggage truck along the private cross-over.  Thundering along the tracks was a west-bound New York express train about to pass along the tracks at Pelham Station.  

Moriarty simply failed to realize he was about to pull the truck into the path of the thundering train.  At 2 o'clock p.m., as he drove, he realized there would be a crash and leaped for his life, jumping "out of harm's way just as the train thundered past."  

The express train smashed into the baggage truck.  The crash overturned the truck and hurled it onto one of the Pelham Station platforms (likely the platform adjacent to the main station next to the west-bound tracks).  The train tore off the right front wheel of the truck and, as the remnants of the truck skidded along the platform, it splintered several of the upright posts that supported the shelter above the platform.

The train did not derail.  No one on the train or the platform was hurt.  Even Moriarty miraculously survived without a crash.  All he could say after the crash was that he "did not see the express train until it was close to him."  Only by Providence had a tragedy been averted.    

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At various times, Pelham has had up to three major rail lines passing through it (the New Haven Line, the New Haven Branch Line, and the now-defunct New York, Westchester, and Boston Railway line).  Thus, it should come as no surprise that Pelham has been the scene of a number of train wrecks, train accidents, and odd railroad incidents.  I have written about a number of such incidents before, including quite a number of articles about the Pelhamville Train Wreck on December 27, 1885.  See, e.g.:

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).

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

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

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