Head-on view of derailed
Interior view of derailed coach
Three coaches laying
on their sides
Two coaches laying on their sides
with trainman walking at center of photo
Two derailed coaches and torn-up
Railroad workers walking past three
derailed coaches and torn-up tracks
Wreck of Cannonball west of Eastport 1921
G54sa Camelback #16 west of Eastport
It is uncorroborated but supposedly the engineer
of the locomotive was Forrest Jayne. The story goes that he took
the curve west of “PT” a “bit” too fast and the engine rolled
over on her side derailing a number of head-end cars. The above
photos show the engine already righted and re-railed, although the
firebox door is gaping wide open, the tender is still derailed and
leaning and the wreck crane is working to clear up the mess of the
jack-knifed American Railway Express cars. James V.
Osborne photos, Dave Keller info and archive.
July 30, 1924 Sunnyside Yard, Long Island City
Eastbound passenger train
derailment at Tower H
Collection: Courtesy of Arthur Huneke
1926 Golden’s Pickle Works in Calverton
E51sa camelback #2, spun around 90+ degrees and buried into Golden's Pickle Works - 8/14/26
Jackson Collection, Dave Keller archive)
Pickle Works Wreck
Gloom taunted the August night in 1926 even before the train crashed.
Torrential lightning and rainstorms had plagued New York since at
least the day before. The train was running 17 minutes late. And, if
the power of superstition be respected, it was Friday the 13th.
As the yuppies of the era headed to the East End for a summer weekend
escape from the city, the Long Island Rail Road had its most deadly
Suffolk County crash in history. The Shelter Island Express plowed
into a pickle factory in Calverton.
Six people were killed, including two young children and their mother,
in what soon became known as the Great Pickle Works Wreck.
And one death was more horrific than the next.
Hamilton Fish, a
stockbroker and a member of an aristocratic New York family, was
thrown from the posh parlor car into Golden's Pickle Works and trapped
by twisted steel from the wreckage. Tons of salt from damaged barrels
on an upper floor poured down on him like sand through an hourglass,
smothering him as he yelled for help and struggled to push the salt
away from his mouth.
Rescue workers couldn't cut away the steel quickly enough to get him
out. Others managed to help another man in a similar position by
cupping their hands above his mouth and catching the salt, which was
used in the pickle brine, and tossing it aside as rescuers struggled
to free him.
LIRR engineer William Squires,
and fireman John Montgomery were in the lead engine,
D16sb (4-4-0) #214 and both were pinned against the boiler in the
locomotive’s cab, crushed by tons of
coal that tumbled out of the coal tender as the engine fell to its
side off the tracks. The steam pipes burst, hitting them with blasts
of 600-degree superheated steam.
LIRR D16sb #214 front/rear
Calverton, NY 08/13/1926 Archive: Dave Keller
LIRR Camelback E51sa #2 (burning off bell), close-up MOW
acetylene/O2 bottles 08/13/1926 Archive: Dave Keller
The wreck happened at 6:08 p.m. Engine No. 214 was leading the
two-engine Shelter Island Express to Greenport with more than 350
passengers. The express traveled only on Fridays, taking people to
weekend holidays. Accounts say it was traveling from 40 to 70 mph when
it jumped a switch leading to the pickle works. The first engine fell
to its side, while the second flew toward the factory with the train
behind it, news reports said.
LIRR engineer Charles T. Jackson’s claim to
fame was being the surviving engineer of E51sa camelback #2, the
second locomotive of that infamous, eastbound, double-headed
“Shelter Island Express” that split a switch on Friday, August 13,
1926 (yes, Friday the 13th for the superstitious) and plowed into
Golden’s Pickle Works, located trackside in Calverton. The fact that
he and his fireman,
my Fitzgerald, survived the crash was a miracle
Pickle Works with giant pickle sign, trackside in
Calverton, NY destroyed after being hit by derailed “Shelter
Island Express” on 8/13/26 (Thomas R. Bayles photo, Dave Keller archive)
The engine crew of the lead locomotive, D16sb #214 died horribly as
they were pinned against the scalding hot firewall. Charlie and his
my Fitzgerald were thrown clear, but injured. Charlie was
flung from the cab through the cab's skylight which, luckily, was open
to get some air and ventilation on that hot, humid, Long Island day in
August, 1926. Research: Dave Keller
Golden Pickle Works
Wreck: Passenger Car in building 08/13/1926
Archive: Dave Keller
The Pullman parlor car, which was called Easter Lily, was directly
behind the second engine, and every passenger who died in the wreck
had been seated in that luxury car, with its chairs that swiveled and
a waiter who served drinks. There was a smoker car and five day
coaches on the train as well.
This is the only picture I have ever seen of showing the 214 just as
she came to rest after the wreck. Every shot I have seen, published
or not, has shown her re-railed and waiting to be
towed back to Jamaica. Just beyond her pilot truck can be seen Engine
No. 2 laying on her left side. Just beyond is Pullman parlor car
"Easter Lily" projecting into the Golden Pickle Works building.
Here's 2nd engine No. 2 rolled over on her left side. "Easter Lily" is
just beyond her.
This shows the combine which was just behind "Easter Lily" and the
coach which followed the combine.
This is the rear car of the train which stayed on the track. In the
foreground is the defective switch which caused the wreck.
The others killed were Mrs. George A. Shuford of Biltmore, N.C., and
her two children, George A. Jr., 3, and Dorothy, 1. The two children
were crushed in the parlor car wreckage. Their mother was pinned
beneath the car for more than six hours, but was awake.
``Patiently and without a whimper Mrs. Shuford lay in the rain until
the workmen had cut her free,'' reported The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Workers cut through the steel around her with torches. Before she was
extricated, she ate a sandwich and had coffee, The Eagle reported. But
six hours after she reached Southampton Hospital, she was dead of
internal burns suffered from inhaling steam. She had been assured her
children were fine, The New York Times said, and still thought they
were at the time of her death.
Shuford, an only child, had been with her parents in the parlor car.
She had been visiting them for a couple of weeks. Her father, Charles
A. Angell, was the head of a Brooklyn contracting firm and a
well-known resident of Shelter Island. With Shuford as well was her
maid, who also was pinned in the wreckage and had to have her left leg
amputated to get her out.
Pictures from the day of the wreck show the pickle works caved into
itself, with the almost comical giant sign shaped like a big, green
pickle, still hanging above the attic windows. ``Golden's'' it said
on the pickle.
There were various explanations for the wreck, from tampering with the
track switch to its mechanical failure, said Vincent F. Seyfried, a
Long Island Rail Road historian. ``Probably no one could really pin it
down,'' he said. ``It's tough to reconstruct exactly what happened.''
The most popular theory is that the disaster was caused by a missing
cotter pin on the switch. A switch facilitates the movement of the
train from one track to another. A nut and bolt fasten the control rod
to the switch. The cotter pin keeps the nut from unscrewing and
In this case, investigators said that the cotter pin had not been
replaced, perhaps during maintenance. Investigators surmised that when
the first engine passed by the split where the main track divided from
a side track leading to the pickle factory, the vibration of the
passing locomotive caused the nut to work loose. The second engine
then jumped off the main track toward the factory.
About 300 rescuers worked by floodlights and flashlights and flashes
of lightning to help the injured and to try to save the dying. The mud
from the storms made their work slow and painstaking, newspapers
The pickle factory was demolished and never reopened. The train
locomotives, both more than 20 years old, were hauled to the scrap
There's no sign now that the wreck ever took place. And life goes on.
Wreck of the Cannonball East of Amagansett
Train #20, the “Cannonball”
was making its regular trip eastbound to Montauk late in the season on
October, 25, 1932. Pulled by G5s (4-6-0) #50, the name train had
dropped its last passenger off at Amagansett and the train crew all
settled into the last car of the train for a quiet, dead-head ride to
the end of the line at Montauk. Conductor Leo Hantz had his young son
with him on the run and everyone was enjoying the ride, awaiting the
end of the trip.
While rounding the curve
near M.P. 114, just west of Montauk, the big G5s rolled over onto her
side, burying engineer Frank Obremski in the right bank of the
hillside. Fireman Ed Koehler was thrown clear and climbed up the
bank where we was found and rushed to
hospital where he died of his injuries. None of the train crew
nor Leo’s son all riding in the last car were injured.
first photo is of G5s #50, minus one of her domes, rolled over onto
her side. The second photo is of the passenger cars
jackknifed. It’s amazing that, miles from everywhere, on what
is still a pretty deserted stretch of track, the quantity of gawkers
that turned out to witness the disaster!
form 19 train order shown here was issued at PD tower on that very day
and copied and made complete at 5:09 pm by block operator
Bruckner. It identifies train #20, the “Cannonball” as being
pulled by engine #50.
Photos, text, and
train order are from the archive of: Dave Keller
Hurricane of September 21, 1938 and the Long Island Rail Road
Wreck at Fairy Dell** in Quogue, LI, NY" by Raymond
#26, the evening mail train, left Pennsylvania Station NY at 4:7 pm,
bound for Montauk. It should have arrived at Speonk at 7:00 pm,
but because some tress were down, it was a few minutes late.
of this train was my father, Raymond G. Robinson. He and the
rest of the crew had rooms in Montauk, so they could take train #27
out in the morning.
On that day,
the wind had been blowing out of the northeast. It blew most of
the water out of the bays and out to sea. The eye of the storm
passed over us and soon after, the wind change and came out of the
southwest, causing the tidal-wave that washed out the roadbed from
under the track. The newspaper article stated that the wind had
blown the train off the tracks, which, of course, was not true.
the tidal-wave came rushing back, it washed out the fill and roadbed
where the head waters of Quantuck Bay flowed under the tracks.
It left the rails and ties intact. When train #26 came along,
the engine and tender, a PRR K4s, made it across OK, but the mail car
and two coaches left the rails.
father was in the first coach, eating his lunch. When the car
laid over, his arm went through the window. No one was seriously
injured, so he moved all the passengers to the rear coach which was
order to report the wreck, he had to walk back to the Westhampton
station. While there, he discovered his arm was cut, so someone
took him to Dr. Keller (a local medical doctor) and they sewed up the
wound under the light of a kerosene lamp.
took several days to clear up the wreck and rebuild the roadbed.
I was told that they never found one of the trucks from the mail car,
which was buried in the marsh. Info: Ray Robinson, Jr.
Fairy Dell is approximately 600 feet west of the Old Country Road
grade crossing, by the present-day Quogue Wildlife Refuge.)
September 14, 1944 East
wreck was technically at Syosset as the derailment occurred east of
the Syosset station, but west of “S” cabin, on the double track
portion of the ROW and near an under-track drain culvert. North of the
tracks were the sand pits that were excavated for the 1912-13 grade
elimination project at
was a heavy rainstorm and, due to the proximity of this excavation to
the tracks, a washout occurred. Westbound
train #647, pulled by PRR K4s #5406 derailed on September 14, 1944 as
a result of this washout. Dave Keller Historical Information
February 16, 1947 Wreck
All photos and info: Dave Keller
unless otherwise noted
was approaching noon on Sunday, February 16, 1947 and train #4612 was
being pulled eastbound towards Port Jefferson by leased Pennsylvania
Railroad K4s (4-6-2) #5406. The train was due to make a station
at 12:08 pm then continue on to its final destination of Port
huge locomotive and train was almost at
, the first crossing west of the station when it derailed, dragging
the train across
and onto the
spur access siding and rolled off the tracks onto the north side of
the main, burrowing itself into the ground in front of the village’s
tall community water tower, sending rails and ties and wheels
everywhere, jack-knifing passenger cars in the process.
New York Daily News account at the time stated the train ran a stop
signal, hit an open switch and derailed at 12:07 pm. Engineer Walter
A. Samb, 51, of Miller Place admitted to investigators that he saw the
signal several hundred feet before the switch but couldn’t brake in
time. He said he got a clear order at Greenlawn eleven minutes
crew of the preceding
train, #4608, which was scheduled to arrive at
at 11:12, having taken the siding just west of
and then making its final stop at the state hospital north of Route
25A at 11:22 am, was being questioned to determine responsibility for
the open switch.
eleven-car train hit the switch at 40 miles-per-hour and derailed.
The momentum carried the locomotive and train 250 feet, coming to a
stop in front of the trackside water tower for the community of
. Six coaches were derailed, and the newspaper reported in the
same article that 31, 48 or 50 were injured, 10 seriously, so I have
no idea of the actual count. The fortunate thing, though, was
that there were no deaths.
other crew members identified in the report were Conductor John H.
Hastings, 46, of Port Jefferson and Fireman Alfred A. King of Easthampton.
is an aerial view shortly after the wreck and was taken by a Daily
News photographer. The wreck train has not yet arrived on the
scene. The view is looking from the south side of the tracks,
northwest and pretty much sums up the entire situation facing the
wreck crew. One upright car on the south siding (how did that
get there?), locomotive and other cars on the
spur siding north of the main and jack-knifed cars across all
three tracks, with
crossing in the background.
An elevated view from the Kings Park village water tower, also taken by a Daily News photographer. It is looking from the north side of the tracks southeast.
Photo by John De Biase for the N. Y. Daily News, Dave Keller archive
Photo by John De Biase for the N. Y. Daily News, Dave Keller archive
Photo by John De Biase for the N. Y. Daily News, Dave Keller archive
Photo by John De Biase for the N. Y. Daily News, Dave Keller archive
Photo by John De Biase for the N. Y. Daily News, Dave Keller archive
wreck crane is being put into position by a G5s drafted for emergency
wreck service. The view is from the south side of the tracks
looking west and two derailed cars are about to get the attention of
the two work cranes: this one in the photo and the one behind
the photographer as is evidenced in the next photo. Both coaches
are off their trucks and, in the right foreground behind the men can
be seen one of the heavy-duty trucks off the Kiesel tender.
Interesting position, considering the tender wound up behind and north
of the locomotive! Steel was flying everywhere!
from the south side of the tracks looking east, and shows both wreck
cranes connected to the wrecked coach which is in mid-air, about to be
swung back onto the re-railed trucks for transport back to Morris Park
#5406 and the two cars looking
from the south side of the tracks westward, towards the scene of the
derailment. The two passenger cars have been set back on their
trucks and are awaiting a trip to Morris Park Shops. The tender
is missing, and the locomotive is yet to be righted. Much of the
mess has been cleared up and the coaches that didn’t derail had been
removed previously from the site to allow for the clean up.
Judging by the previous aerial view, the tender is probably still
sitting at a skew behind the cab of the locomotive and is not visible
from this angle. At the left you can see bonfires started in the
frozen nearby field to keep the chill away from the wreck
workers. Now it’s time to begin work on the K4s!
LIRR #5406 looking from the north side of the tracks eastward.
It shows the damage done as the locomotive dug in and the rails are
sticking up in the air. A westbound passenger train is
proceeding past the wreck on the main and in the distance can be seen
the wreck train containing bunk and work cars for the men who will
stay on the site for however long it will take to get the mess cleaned
up and cleared away.
Photo by John De Biase for the N. Y. Daily News,
Dave Keller archive
Photo by John De Biase for the N. Y. Daily News, Dave Keller archive
Photo by John De Biase for the N. Y. Daily News, Dave Keller archive
#5406 looking from the south side of the tracks eastward. It
shows two wreck cranes, the one in the foreground belonging to the
Pennsylvania Railroad. The one in the background is
unidentifiable and may be that of the LIRR. Both cranes are
hooked up to the heavy locomotive and are about to hoist her up and
onto the good trackage of the adjacent main.
cars from the wreck in storage in the yard behind Morris Park Shops
two months later, on April 26, 1947. The car shown in its
entirety appears to be #339.
February 17, 1950 Wreck at Rockville
17 1950 Both Engineers survived. 32 passengers died. LIRR trains #192
and #175 Archive: Art Huneke
Newsday front page: 02/18/1950
Centre view NW 02/18/1950
Archive: Art Huneke
Centre view W 02/18/1950
Archive: Art Huneke
This map indicates the location of
Rockville Centre - Robert Emery Map c.1950
Archive: Dave Keller
August 5, 1950
#642, Pass Train First-Class
wreck between steam locomotives on the LIRR - Freight versus
passenger - G5s #29 on its side at right behind tender - Huntington,
NY - 8/6/50 (Fred Weber photo, Dave Keller archive)
This accident occurred on that part of the
railroad extending between Divide and Port Jefferson, N. Y., 32.5
miles. In the vicinity of the point of accident this is a
single-track line, over which trains are operated by timetable,
train orders and a manual-block system. At Huntington, 9.8 miles
east of Divide, a siding 4,169 feet in length parallels the main
track on the south. The west and east switches of this siding are,
respectively, 3,343 feet west and 826 feet east of the station. An
auxiliary track connects with the west end of the siding in the
vicinity of the clearance point and parallels the main track
westward. The accident occurred on the siding at a point 306 feet
east of the west switch and 3,037 feet west of the station. Entry to
the siding from the west is made through a No. 10 turnout, 180 feet
in length. From the west the main track is tangent throughout a
distance of 4,784 feet to the west switch of the siding and 2,733
feet eastwards. The grade for east-bound, trains is, successively,
0.4 percent descending 1,600 feet, level 600 feet, 0.3 percent
ascending 2,800 feet, level 300 feet, and 0.5 percent descending 500
feet to the point of accident and 300 feet eastward.
The switch stand of the main-track switch is of the ground-throw,
hand-operated, low-stand, type. It is located 6 feet 4-1/4 inches
south of the center-line of the main track. The switch target is
attached to a separate stand of the intermediate type, located on
the north side of the main track, directly opposite the switch stand
and 7 feet 11-1/4 inches from the center-line of the track. The
switch stand and the target stand are so connected that when the
switch is lined for main-track movements a V-shape white target with
pointed ends, each of which is 13 inches long and 9 inches wide, and
a green light are displayed in the direction of an approaching
train. When the switch is lined for entry to the siding a two-lobe
red target, 24 inches in length and 12 inches in width, and a red
light are displayed at right angles to the track. The center of the
target is 6 feet 2-1/4 inches above the level of the tops of the
rails. It is provided with an oil-burning switch lamp, the top of
which is 7 feet 4-1/4 inches above the level of the tops of the
Extra 101 West, a west-bound freight train, consisted of engine 101,
20 cars and a caboose. This train departed from Port Jefferson at
6:51 a.m., entered the siding at Huntington and reported clear of
the main track at 3:25 p.m. The engine was detached and switching
was performed. Engine 101, headed west, with a cut of three cars
coupled to the front end, stopped about 4:01 p.m., with the west end
of the most westerly car of the cut of cars at a point 306 feet east
of the west aiding-switch. About 10 minutes later the cut of cars
was struck by No. 642.
No. 642, an east-bound first-class passenger train, consisted of
engine 29 and six coaches. All cars were of steel construction. This
train departed from Divide at 3:53 p.m., 2 minutes late, passed
Block Station S, the last open office, 3.8 miles west of Huntington,
at 4:03 p.m., 2 minutes late, and the moving at an estimated speed
of 40 miles per hour it entered the siding at Huntington and struck
the cars coupled to engine 101.
The three cars were derailed and engine 101 was moved eastward
approximately 80 feet. The first and the third cars of the cut were
demolished and the second car was badly damaged. Engine 101 was
considerably damaged. No. 642 stopped with the front of the engine
about 70 feet east of the point of accident. The engine was derailed
and stopped on its right side south of the south rail of the siding.
The tender was derailed but remained coupled to the engine and
leaned to the south at an angle of about 20 degrees. The engine was
considerably damaged and the tender was somewhat damaged. The first
car was derailed and stopped in line with the siding. The first five
cars were slightly damaged.
The swing brakeman of Extra 101 West, and the engineer, the fireman,
the conductor and a ticket collector of No. 642 were injured. The
weather was clear at the time of the accident, which occurred at
During the 30-day period preceding the day of the accident, the
average daily movement in the, vicinity of the point of accident was
Extra 101 West entered tile siding at Huntington at 3:26 p.m. The
engine was detached from the train and switching was performed.
About 4:01 p.m. the engine, coupled to the east end of a cut of
three cars, entered the siding from the auxiliary track and stopped
with the west end of the most westerly car 306 feet east of the
siding switch. The conductor had instructed the other members of the
crew that the main track would be used to perform switching after
No. 642 arrived. Immediately before the accident occurred the
engineer was in the cab of the engine and the fireman was on the
ground south of the siding End in the immediate vicinity of the
engine. The conductor and the swing brakeman were on the ground
between the siding and the main track and in the vicinity of the
west end of the cut of cars. The flagman was stationed east of his
engine at a rail-highway grade-crossing to protect the movement of
the engine during switching operations. The front brakeman was
standing south of the main track and about 15 feet from the west
siding-switch. The conductor said that as No. 642 was approaching
the crossing he signaled to the front brakeman to move away from the
switch. He said that the main-track switch was lined in normal
position when No. 642 was about 500 feet west of the switch. When
No. 642 was about 250 feet west of the switch the front brakeman
lined the switch for entry to the siding. No. 642 entered the siding
and the collision occurred a few seconds later. None of the other
members of the crew of Extra 101 West saw the front brakeman operate
As No. 642 was approaching the west siding-switch at Huntington the
speed was about 50 miles per hour. The engineer was maintaining a
lookout ahead from his position in the cab of the engine and the
fireman was attending the fire. The conductor was in the rear of the
first car and other members of the train crew were at various
locations in the cars of the train. The brakes of this train had
been tested and had functioned properly when used en route. The
engineer observed the engine and the cut of cars on the siding. Then
No. 642 was about 750 feet west of the west siding-switch he closed
the throttle preparatory to making the station stop at Huntington.
He said that when the train was closely approaching the switch he
saw a person proceed from an adjacent track to the switch and
apparently operate it. The engineer then observed that the switch
points were lined for entry to the siding. He immediately initiated
an emergency application of the brakes. The fireman said that ten
his engine was about 100 feet west of the switch he saw the red
target indicating that the switch was lined for entry to the siding.
The speed of the train had been reduced to about 40 miles per hour
when the collision occurred.
The front brakeman was an inexperienced employee, and because of his
inexperience he had been instructed by the conductor to operate
switches only when specifically instructed to do so. He was aware
that his train was into clear on the siding to meet No. 642. He said
that after his engine with the cut of cars had stopped on the siding
the conductor told him to station himself near the siding switch and
to operate it when so instructed. When No. 642 was closely
approaching the switch he saw the conductor signal to him and he
said he thought it was a signal for him to open the main track
switch. He said No. 642 was about 200 feet from the switch when he
opened it. He did not observe the position of either the switch
points or the switch target. Historical Data: Kyle V. Mullins
November 22, 1950 Collision at
Richmond Hill west
of Jamaica Station
People's Almanac" (Wallachinsky and Wallace, 1975, p. 564) gives
the following very detailed description of what happened:
William W. Murphy, a 45-year veteran
of railroading and just 4 years away from retirement, responded to the
"restricted" signal on "C" tower 2 miles before
the train's first scheduled stop at Jamaica. With the signal’s
change to "approach," Murphy resumed his 30-mph speed. The
next signal light on "J" (for Jamaica) tower showed
"restricted" and again Murphy applied the air brakes. They
grabbed and wouldn't release. Train 780 and its 12 cars carrying 1,000
homeward-bound passengers ground to a dead stop. Brakeman Bertram N.
Biggam started to get the flares to put behind the stalled train.
behind on the same mainline track, Train 174 with 12 cars and 1,200
passengers thundered toward Jamaica. Motorman Benjamin J. Pokorny
obeyed the signal at "C" tower and brought his train to a
halt. When the signal changed, he accelerated to 15 mph. In back of
him the "C" tower signal changed again back to
"restricted," but ahead the signal on "J" tower
flashed "approach." Train 174 resumed full speed. Too late
Pokorny saw the stopped train ahead. In his last seconds of life he
pulled the brake cord . . .
Neither train was equipped with an
automatic repeater signal system, an electronic device mounted in the
motorman's cab. Murphy and Pokorny had to rely on signal towers spaced
at intervals along their route. Normally this signal-light system
worked fine, but if a signal changed after a train had passed a tower,
the system didn't work at all. Pokorny should have seen the taillights
of the stalled train, if they were on. And that raised an unanswered
question, for in a report by the Long Island Railroad to the Public
Service Commission it was reported that within a 7-day period the
taillights on 50 trains had been inoperative. . .
Passengers aboard Train 174 suffered
their annoyance in silence. It wouldn't be the 1st time they had
arrived home late. There was no warning of danger until the headlight
of train 174 bathed the last car in its blinding glare. In seconds the
two cars were fused together. The front car of Pokorny's train
telescoped the rear of Murphy's train. Those not killed outright were
overcome with fear. The trains were dark. Bedlam reigned inside the
cars. People physically capable of moving couldn't because of the
pileup of dead and injured bodies.
The noise of the collision was heard
on 126th Street and Hillside Avenue. Soon help arrived, but it was an
hour and 20 minutes before the last passenger was extricated from the
bent and twisted cars. Amputations were performed on the spot and
acetylene torches were used to free many trapped passengers. Priests
administered last rites while doctors administered plasma. For
hundreds of New Yorkers the tragedy turned Thanksgiving Day, 1950,
into the blackest of black Thursdays.
The brakeman soon heard the Hempstead train
power up. He thought the braking problem was solved and that the train
was about to get underway. So, he extinguished the lantern and
reboarded the rear car. That was a mistake. It was not for the
brakeman to guess when to return to the train. Under the Railroad's
rules, he was to remain on the tracks until recalled by a specific
signal from the train's whistle, and no such signal was ever given. In
any case, the brakeman had guessed wrong. The brakes had still not
released and the Hempstead train remained rooted to the ground. Now,
however, it stood unprotected in the dark of night, with no rear
warning lantern, fusee or torpedo to alert an oncoming train it was
there. It was almost 6:30 PM - the middle of rush hour - when commuter
traffic in that direction was four times heavier than during off-peak
Probably seconds after the brakeman extinguished the warning lantern,
a New York to Babylon train came around the bend about 4,600 feet
back. At this point, the Babylon train received a "Go Slow"
signal indicating congestion up ahead, so it reduced its speed to
15mph. However, as it passed through the Kew Gardens Station area, the
motorman of the Babylon train caught sight of the next signal one half
mile in the distance. That signal showed "All Clear". It
never dawned on him that the All Clear signal was meant for the
Hempstead train stalled in darkness only a third of a mile ahead.
Since the Hempstead train no longer displayed a rear warning lantern,
the motorman of the Babylon train did not see it was there. (Although
the rear of the Hempstead train had two red lights called "marker
lights", those lights were so small that they would not have been
visible to him until too late.) Thinking the "All Clear" was
meant for him, he increased speed. As the Babylon train left the Kew
Gardens Station area and emerged from the Lefferts Boulevard overpass,
it was traveling at about 35mph.
Meanwhile, on the Hempstead train, the brakeman had signaled his
motorman that he was back onboard and that the train could proceed.
The train did not move, The brakeman signaled again, and still the
Hempstead train did not move. The brakeman was preparing to get back
out on the tracks when the oncoming Babylon train struck from the
rear. In the last seconds of his life, the motorman of the Babylon
train had tried to apply his emergency brakes, but he succeeded only
in slowing the Babylon train to about 30mph before impact. The force
of the collision pushed the Hempstead train a distance of 75 feet,
lifting its last car 15 feet into the air and splitting it lengthwise.
The Babylon train had the superstructure of its first car sheared off
to the floor and demolished. The rear brakeman was injured but
survived. The collision left 78 dead and 363 injured. One witness
described the dead as "packed like sardines in their own
Press accounts in the aftermath of the
collision had the Babylon train going 60 to 65mph at the time it hit.
However, the Interstate Commerce Commission investigated the collision
and found the speed at impact was about 30mph. Had the Babylon train
been going 60mph or more, the resulting devastation would have been
much worse and most likely other cars in the two trains would have
separated or derailed. That did not happen. Only slight damage was
suffered by the other cars all of which remained connected and on
The cause of the crash was officially determined to be disregard of
the Go Slow signal by the deceased motorman of the Babylon train. He
should have followed the Go Slow signal he had just passed rather than
the All Clear signal a half mile ahead. However, the Interstate
Commerce Commission's Report on the crash seemed to imply that the
brakeman on the Hempstead train had not done all he could have to
protect his train - a conclusion I find unavoidable given that the
brakeman extinguished his warning lantern and returned to the train
before being signaled to do so. It was a clear night, and the brakeman
assumed at the time that no train would approach at more than 15mph.
So he thought the risk of a casualty was remote. He miscalculated,
just as the motorman of the Babylon train miscalculated.
The crash occurred only nine months after a head on collision between
two Long Island Rail Road trains at Rockville Centre, NY killed 31 and
injured 158. According to The Long Island Press newspaper, the two
accidents caused the public to view to the Long Island Rail Road as
unsafe and irresponsible. Queens District Attorney Charles P. Sullivan
called it the "Death Valley Railroad." The disaster led to
public demands for increased government scrutiny. Yet, blame for what
happened that night extended beyond the Railroad's management to the
very State Government that was called upon to take action.
Because the Long Island Rail Road was a monopoly, it was subject to
regulation by the New York State Public Service Commission. The
Commission had refused to allow the Railroad any rate increases for
almost 30 years (1918 - 1947) despite the L.I.R.R.'s increased
operating costs and resulting heavy losses. Furthermore, because
people always had the option of taking their cars rather than the
train, the Long Island Rail Road had to compete for the public's
transportation dollars with the various New York State authorities
that owned and operated the bridges, tunnels and highways. Unlike the
Long Island Rail Road which was heavily taxed in all respects, those
authorities paid no tax whatsoever on their real estate, assets or
income. Moreover, bridges, tunnels and highways cost much less to
maintain than a railroad. All of that left the Long Island Rail Road
at a permanent competitive disadvantage, and every effort to level the
playing field by providing badly needed subsidies for the Railroad was
defeated in the State Legislature.
The result of that kind of transportation policy should not have been
hard to foresee. By 1950, the Railroad was starved for cash and it's
equipment was old and decrepit. The two cars involved in the crash
were Class MP54A and had been built in 1910, more than 40 years
earlier. Such cars were the rule, not the exception. One newspaper
reporter cracked that if the Long Island Rail Road were a model train
set, it would make a little boy cry to find it under his Christmas
Tree. On the date of the collision, the Long Island Rail Road had
already filed for bankruptcy reorganization and was operating under
the supervision of two bankruptcy trustees. Two days after the crash,
Governor Dewey told The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper that $50,000,000 was
needed just to make the Long Island Rail Road, "reasonably safe
and to insure something approaching satisfactory operation." That
was money the perennially cash poor Railroad just did not have, and
the State Government had mostly itself to blame for the situation.
In the aftermath of the crash, Automatic Speed Control (ASC) was
installed on the tracks. The Pennsylvania Railroad (which owned the
Long Island Rail Road) agreed to terminate the L.I.R.R.s bankruptcy
and begin a 12 year, 58 million dollar improvement program. The
L.I.R.R. gained exemption from much of its tax burden and the freedom
to charge realistic fares.
The point of impact for the collision was 1,960 feet east of the Kew
Gardens Long Island Rail Road Station near 125th Street - one block
west of the Metropolitan Avenue overpass. Although press accounts at
the time described that area as Richmond Hill, neighborhood boundaries
have long since changed. Today, the site of the collision is
considered to be in Kew Gardens.
August 13, 1962 Collision at
On August 13, 1962, at Woodside, NY, there was a collision between a
pile-driving crane and a passenger train on the Long Island Railroad, which resulted
in t he death of one passenger, and in the injury of 31 passengers, 6 train-service employees and the crane operator. This accident was investigated in
conjunction with representative s of the Public Service Commission of New York.
Further NY Times Material
ICC Report #3962 The Long Island Railroad Company August 13, 1962
photos Archive: R. McEnery
ICC Report #3962 Long Island Railroad
Company August 13, 1962
WIN Interlocking Archive: R. McEnery
September, 1962 Collision
at Bay Ridge Yard
Bay Ridge Yard 10/1962
Photo: Ed Schleyer
NH GP9 #1200 LIRR #447
Photo: Richard Glueck
NH GP9 #1200 LIRR #447
Photo: Richard Glueck
NH GP9 #1200 LIRR #447
Photo: Richard Glueck
Light tower on the right side of photo is next to Yardmasters
office. Unreported to news media. No one hurt!
Photo: Ed Schleyer
At the scene: Bayridge Sept '62
Photo: Ed Schleyer
November, 1966 LIRR
Composite of three Ed Schleyer photos
Ed Schleyer, was a contemporary of my
father and a fireman. He was riding the Montauk to Jamaica train that
was overturned by juveniles, east of Easthampton, in 1966. Ed
relates this story and has provided these images. If you ever needed a
rationale for operating C420's with the long hood first, this is it.
Intro: Rich Glueck
I was working the Montauk Greenport relief job as one of the senior
Firemen. The engineer and I worked 3 days to Montauk, 3 days to
Greenport and 3 days off. This was not a monotonous job. In my short
time as a fireman, I hit cars, trucks and the guy that trimmed me off
the job, hit an airplane. The day of this incident, I ran the train to
Montauk and The engineer Howard King brought it back, well almost all
the way back. I’m not sure of the consist, I think (2) varnish on
the west end and (5) coaches, not Pings, (1) engine #215. We left
Montauk with probably (1) paying rider. The flag man had his son
riding in the rear coach with him. I don’t know if we picked up any
riders before Bridgehampton, but we had way to much running time -
Montauk to Speonk. We were in “coast”, until the curve before
Bridgehampton. Now I am sitting with my feet up on the front door
frame. Going around a right hand curve, I can’t see the roadbed
ahead and Howard says “we’re going in”. I can’t connect this
phrase to anything but a “meet”. I looked over at Howard and the
next thing you know, I’m head to head with him. I’m wedged in
between the water cooler and the control stand, laying down and the
engineers front window is broken and lots of mud and water are passing
over our heads. Howard got hit in the face with the windshield, but
other than being covered with mud we were OK. At the moment we were
turning over, the thought that we were at the Water Mill curve went
through my mind. We had derailed and were going into the Water Mill
Pond. I knew by now (everything in slow motion) I’m gonna survive
the derailment, but I’m gonna drown, I don’t know how to
swim. The water from the water cooler was draining on my head and the
mud was filling up the engineers side of the engine.
When we stopped moving, I killed the engine
and started digging Howard out. We went out the front door and walked
down the side of the engine to someplace that didn’t look like a one
story drop to the ground. I left Howard there and went in the front
door of the head parlor car and came into the passageway that the
attendant room connected to. The attendant was sitting on the corridor wall trying to collect the
little liquor bottles that had spilled into the corridor. I reached
down and picked out two bottles of scotch, I figured that we needed a
drink. The attendant started freaking out about how he was responsible
for all of the beer and chips etc. I told him that every volunteer
fireman from Montauk to Speonk was gonna be here in a few minutes and
he better go get in the ambulance that was outside or face all of the
volunteers that were gonna show up. He went out the end of the
corridor that I had come in. I went the other way and came into the
head car where the conductor was on the other end of the car. The
offset door was now up above our heads and the conductor was convinced
he was gonna die there because we couldn’t climb up to the door. I
grabbed him by the hand and led him to the other end where the door
was on the bottom. The conductor went on his way and I went up to see
Howard on the main track. It seems my timing was bad when I offered
him the bottle of scotch. It seems that (2) teenagers, arrested and
released, stole tools from a section shed and went to the switch that
was the entrance to a coal trestle. They smashed the lock and switch
stand, opened the switch and waited for us to go up the siding, off
the end and into the school. Needless to say the locomotive couldn’t
make the 15 mph turnout at 40 mph.
Before I could leave I had to go back into
the locomotive. I had to make sure there wasn’t a flag stick in the
“Dead Man” and I had to pick up all my fillets of flounder that I
had caught from the docks where the submarines used to tie up. Five
pounds of fish that would have really smelled bad by the time #215 got
back to the shops. I got the fish and climbed back outside on the
outside of the engine compartment. When I got there a little old lady
was screaming and yelling at me “ look what you did to the fence
around the school”. I interrupted her shouting to ask her if she
liked fillet of flounder and would she like five lbs right now. She
said yes and I threw five lb plastic bag at her and hit her in the
chest, knocking her on her rear. She said “thank you” and the
problem with the fence disappeared. By now all the buses and cabs in
town were gone, being used to transport the crew to Patchogue, I didn’t
have a way to get home. As I started to walk toward the next crossing,
I see a LIRR Bronco coming toward me on the tracks. When he got to me
he stopped and asked what I was doing there, I told him and his
response was, what do I look like, some kind of Taxi, if you want to
get home you better start hitchhiking right now because it’s getting
dark. With that he drove off. I walked to the crossing and found an
open store. I went in and used the phone to call my wife. I told her
that no matter what she hears, I’m OK. I went back to the crossing,
took one last look and stuck out my thumb. The first car that came
along was a fisherman headed back home. He dropped me off at the
entrance to Belmont Lake State Park and my house faced on the park.
The next day I took my wife and son back out to Bridgehampton, where I
took the pictures. Information, text, and photos: Ed Schleyer
Vignette on this day: Engineer
“Patsy” Molese and the Budd Car by Dave Keller
LIRR RDC #3101 Wrecked 1967, sold in
12/71 to Sarnelli Brothers and scrapped at the LIRR’s Corona
Info: Dave Keller 06/2004
a view of wrecked RDC1 #3101, taken on October 18, 1970 while it was
stored out back of the Morris Park Shops in
. The front of the car shows how the cab was cut away to extract
the remains of Patrick Molese. The unit was sold in December,
1971 to Sarnelli Bros. and scrapped at
Yard. (Photo by, and courtesy of, Richard Glueck)
25, 1969 LIRR PASSENGER TRAIN # 4186 Tunnel
3 East River
LIRR # 4186, an eastbound 10-car
electrically-propelled passenger train, left Pennsylvania Station at
9:46 p.m., with approximately 400 passengers aboard the first five
cars. About 9:50 p.m., the train entered tunnel 3 of the East River
Tunnels. About that time, a series of three or four loud reports
resembling sounds of explosions were heard emanating from an
electrical-equipment cabinet located inside the fourth car just behind
the front vestibule. The cabinet door opened, permitting fire and
smoke to come into the car. An unidentified passenger gave the
engineer a stop signal by pulling on the communicating whistle-signal
cord extending through the car. The engineer promptly applied the
brakes, stopping the train with the last car 500 to 1,000 feet inside
The passengers in the fourth car evacuated that car by going back to
unoccupied cars at the rear of the train. During this period, the
conductor and ticket collector searched the train for a fire
extinguisher and found one in the 9th car. The conductor, however,
discovered it was not in working order after returning to the fourth
car. By that time, the fire and smoke in the car had intensified, and
fire damage to a brake valve had caused an emergency application of
the train brakes.
The conductor then proceeded to a nearby tunnel telephone and, at 9:58
p.m., informed the power director about the situation. As a result,
power to the third rail was shut off at 9:59 p.m., and car inspectors
were dispatched to the tunnel from Pennsylvania Station with
instructions to take whatever action was necessary to enable No. 4186
to move out of the tunnel. In addition, train No. 4890, which had left
Pennsylvania Station at 9:50 p.m. and had been routed to tunnel 3, was
instructed by a Penn Central trainmaster to push No. 4186 through the
tunnel to Harold, L. I.
About 9:57 p.m., No. 4890 stopped behind No. 4186. Approximately two
minutes later, the power director shut off power to the third rail,
preventing No. 4890 from moving forward to a coupling with the
disabled train. About 25 minutes later, after going back to an
interlocking station outside the west portal, both train conductors
succeeded in having power restored to the third rail.
Meanwhile, smoke conditions in the tunnel worsened and all the
passengers on the rear cars of the disabled train were evacuated to
No. 4890. All the passengers in the first three cars evacuated the
train by going to the elevated walkways along the tunnel walls. The
front brakeman led and/or directed them about 3,400 feet eastward to
an air shaft, where they eventually ascended via an emergency exit to
the street surface at 1st Avenue and 33rd Street, New York City. The
passengers'progress to the air shaft was impeded because of the poor
lighting and smoke conditions in the tunnel.
About 10:22 p.m., when power was restored to the third rail, No. 4890
coupled to the disabled train and made several unsuccessful attempts
to move it. The car inspectors sent to the scene then advised the
conductor and engineer of No. 4890 that they were unable to release
the brakes of the disabled train. Upon hearing this, the conductor of
No. 4890 had his train detached from the disabled train No. 4890 then
returned to Pennsylvania Station and stopped on station track 20 at
10:44 p.m., at which time passengers evacuated from the disabled train
were given first-aid treatment for smoke inhalation and/or taken to
Ambulances, and city fire and police department forces, were not
called before approximately 10:30 p.m., when a crew member of the
disabled train walked back to a stationmaster's office in Pennsylvania
Station and advised that medical assistance was urgently needed for
about 200 passengers. Approximately 20 minutes later, rescue forces
were also called to the emergency tunnel exit at 1st Avenue and 33rd
Street, when passengers from the first three cars of the disabled
train emerged to the street surface. Historical Data: Kyle V. Mullinsve
crew members and 49 passengers of No. 4186 were injured by inhalation
June 23, 1969, East
End of Pennsylvania Station
The accident occurred near the east end of
Pennsylvania Station, on the four-track line over which Long Island
Rail Road trains operate between Pennsylvania Station and Long Island.
C interlocking is located between the west portals of the East River
Tunnels and Pennsylvania Station. Its signals govern movements of LI
Rail Road trains between the west end of tracks No. 3 and No. 4 of the
four-track line and station tracks 14 to 21. The interlocking station
is at the east end of platform No. 10, between Pennsylvania Station
tracks 18 and 19.
The current of traffic on track No. 4 of the four-track line is
westward. The collision occurred on this track, 612 feet east of C
interlocking station and a few feet east of the home interlocking
signal governing westbound movements from track No. 4 to station
tracks 14 through 21.
Some time before the accident, passenger
train equipment was placed on Pennsylvania Station track 21 for
temporary storage. Anticipating that station forces would remove this
equipment before arrival of passenger train No. 751, a Long Island
Rail Road yardmaster instructed the C interlocking operator to route
No. 751 to station track 21. However, due to station forces
experiencing difficulty with its air brake system, the passenger train
equipment still occupied track 21 when No. 751 neared the station.
No. 751, a westbound passenger train consisting of seven
electrically-propelled passenger cars left Hempstead, L. I., at 2:09
p.m. When the train stopped at Woodside, the conductor, acting without
authority but in accordance with what appears to be a common practice,
went home after arranging for an off-duty employee, a ticket
collector, to replace him for the remainder of the trip to
Pennsylvania Station. The ticket collector had been a conductor at one
time, but had been disqualified from working in that capacity since
1962 because of a physical condition. No. 751 left Woodside without
the engineer knowing the regularly assigned conductor had left the
About 2:55 p.m., after proceeding through the East River Tunnels on
track No. 4 and entering C interlocking, No. 751 began to enter
Pennsylvania Station track 21 at slow speed. The engineer then saw
that track 21 was occupied by passenger train equipment, and stopped
his train with the front end about 170 feet short of that equipment
and 160 feet from the track platform. The rear end stopped within C
interlocking limits. After the train stopped, it waited for station
forces to remove the equipment from the track ahead.
No. 159, a westbound Long Island Rail Road passenger train consisting
of 8 electrically-propelled passenger cars, left Babylon, L. I. at
1:49 p.m. About 2:53 p.m., while moving on track No. 4, it entered the
East River Tunnels and continued toward Pennsylvania Station,
following No. 751 at an interval of about three minutes. Seven minutes
later, No. 159 stopped on track No. 4 at the C interlocking home
signal, which indicated Stop due to the rear end of No. 751 occupying
its track circuit. The engineer saw No. 751 standing about 200-250
feet ahead, and waited for the home interlocking signal to display a
Approximately five minutes after stopping short of the passenger train
equipment occupying station track 21, the engineer of No. 751, in
response to a request of three off-duty employees, began to move his
train slowly forward toward the east end of the track platform,
causing loud electrical arcing sounds at the locations of the
third-rail contact shoes on the cars. As the train moved forward, the
communicating whistle sounded two short blasts (when moving, a signal
to stop) and the engineer stopped the train a few feet short of the
platform. A few seconds later, according to his statements, the
engineer heard the communicating whistle sound three short blasts
(when standing, a signal to back up) and looked into the passenger
compartment of the first car for the conductor, but did not see him.
Assuming the conductor had obtained authority for the reverse movement
and had gone to the rear of the last car to protect the reverse
movement, the engineer started to back his train through C
interlocking without stationing himself at the controls of the leading
car in the direction of the reverse movement, as required by the
carrier's rules. The engineer stated that on two separate occasions
after starting the reverse movement, the communicating whistle sounded
three short blasts (when moving, a signal to stop at the next
station). He construed these whistle signals as being confirmations of
the first signal to back up. The train continued its reverse movement
through C interlocking and, about 3:05 p.m., backed onto track No. 4
of the four-track line. Immediately thereafter, while moving backward
at about 10 m.p.h. it struck No. 159, which was standing on track No.
4 a few feet east of the home interlocking signal.
Statements of the three off-duty employees in the vestibule at the
front of the train substantiate those made by the engineer of No. 751
relating to the communicating whistle signals sounded before the
The off-duty ticket collector, who was acting as the train conductor,
was in the vestibule at the rear of the first car when No. 751 began
to move in reverse. He heard the communicating whistle signals
received by the engineer and took no exception to the reverse
The flagman of No. 751 was in the vestibule at the front of the 6th
car while his train waited on Pennsylvania Station track 21 for
station forces to remove passenger train equipment from the track
ahead. When his train moved slowly forward toward the station
platform, intermittent arcing noise occurred at the locations of the
third rail contact shoes. (The investigation revealed it is common
practice for LI Rail Road engineers to use arcing sound, instead of
train horn sound as required by rule, when recalling a flagman out
providing protection against following trains. This is accomplished by
setting the train brakes, then applying and shutting off power the
number of times specified for the horn signal prescribed for recalling
flagmen). Upon hearing the arcing noise, the flagman pulled the
communicating whistle cord twice (when stopped, a signal to proceed;
when moving, a signal to stop), intending this as a signal that he was
on the train and not out providing protection against following
trains. Since the train was moving when this signal was sounded, the
engineer construed it to be a stop signal and promptly stopped the
train, a few feet from the track platform and the passenger-train
Apparently realizing that he had unintentionally caused the train to
stop, the flagman again pulled the communicating whistle cord to
signal the engineer to proceed. However, instead of sounding two short
whistle blasts, he apparently sounded three short blasts (when
standing, a signal to back up), resulting in the engineer moving the
train in reverse. The reverse movement startled the flagman, and he
pulled the communicating-whistle cord with the intention of signalling
the engineer to stop. Instead of sounding two short whistle blasts, it
appears he again sounded three short blasts (when moving, a signal to
stop at the next station), resulting in the engineer assuming this was
a confirmation of the first signal to back up and continuing the
reverse movement. The flagman then decided to go to the rear vestibule
of the 6th car, apparently with the intention of operating the
emergency brake valve or the communicating-whistle signal apparatus in
that vestibule. While going through the car, he again pulled the
communicating-whistle cord with the intention of sounding a Stop
signal and with the same result as described above. A few seconds
later, No. 751 backed onto track No. 4 and struck No. 159.
Approximately 175 passengers and employees of both trains sustained
injuries, which were primarily of the abrasion, contusion, sprain, and
neck-whiplash types. Most injuries were relatively minor in nature.
Numerous injured passengers were transported to hospitals for first
aid Best available information indicates that three passengers were
injured seriously enough to require hospitalization. Historical Data:
Kyle V. Mullins
23, 1969 LIRR
PASSENGER TRAIN #850 FIRE at Elmhurst
No. 850, an
eastbound passenger train consisting of seven electrically-propelled
passenger cars, was scheduled to leave Pennsylvania Station at 4:39
p.m. It was delayed in leaving, however, because of a collision
between LI Rail Road trains at the east end of the station at 3:05
p.m. During the delay, passengers continued to board No. 850 until all
its seats and standing room in the aisles and vestibules were fully,
occupied. About 1,100 passengers boarded the train, according to
No. 850 left Pennsylvania Station at 5:50 p.m., 1
hour 11 minutes late, and proceeded eastward through one of the East
River Tunnels to Long Island. Shortly after it emerged from the
tunnel, wind forces caused a thin piece of metal (3 1/2" x
24") to fly up from the wayside and to lodge on the south side of
the rear truck of the 7th (last) car, between the third-rail contact
shoe hanger and the truck equalizer. This created a short circuit and
an electrical arc between the third-rail contact shoe assembly and the
truck frame or a journal box, igniting the lubricating material in the
journal box. Shortly after passing Harold, L. I., at 5:56 p.m., the
flagman noticed smoke arising from underneath the rear of the 7th car
and signaled the engineer to stop.
When the train stopped, the flagman and front
brakeman examined the rear truck of the 7th car and saw that the
lubricating material in the journal box of the rear wheel on the south
side of the truck was on fire. After making an unsuccessful search for
a fire extinguisher on the train, the front brakeman extinguished the
fire by stuffing a wet cloth into the journal box. He then returned to
the front of the train and informed the conductor that the 7th car had
an overheated journal (hot box). Soon afterward, the train proceeded
eastward without either the flagman or front brakeman having noticed
the strip of thin metal lodged on the rear truck of the 7th car.
No. 850 passed Win interlocking station in the
Elmhurst section of Long Island at 6:12 p.m., while moving at a speed
of about 30 m.p.h. About that time, the flagman heard loud
explosive-type sounds caused by electrical arcing at the location of
the rear truck of the 7th car. He then saw smoke and flames rising
from the truck, and signaled the engineer to stop. As the engineer
reduced speed to stop at a wayside telephone a short distance ahead, a
passenger pulled the cord of the emergency brake valve in a car,
stopping the train before it reached the wayside telephone.
Panic immediately developed among passengers in the
7th car when smoke and fire from the rear truck were seen to be rising
above the south side of the car. At that time, the flagman opened the
door on the south side of the rear vestibule of the 7th car to permit
passengers to escape. Not being able to proceed forward through the
car because of its crowded condition, the flagman alighted from the
rear vestibule, ran forward along the south side of the car to the
front vestibule, and opened the south door of that vestibule. While
attempting to open the trap door over the steps, he was thrown to the
ground by passengers leaving the car in panic. In the meantime, ticket
collectors in the fourth car alighted from the train, saw what was
happening, and ran to the rear alongside the train, opening doors on
the south side of vestibules in the cars.
While passengers were evacuating the train, the
conductor ran ahead to the wayside telephone and requested assistance.
This resulted in power to the third rail being shut off at 6:21 p.m.,
about 20 or 25 minutes after the train stopped. About 6:18 p.m., fire
and police department forces from several nearby communities arrived
at the scene.
Immediately after the train stopped, passengers in
the last car began to break out windows and jump to the ground. When
the vestibule doors were opened, passengers jumped to the ground from
unopened trap doors above the steps.
Eleven passengers were known to be injured as a result of jumping from
the 6th and 7th cars through windows and/or unopened trap doors. Six
other passengers subsequently claimed injury. Most injuries were of
minor nature, consisting primarily of lacerations, contusions,
abrasions, and sprains. Two passengers were hospitalized, one for a
fractured ankle, the other for a back injury. Historical Data: Kyle V.
August 21, 1970
Grade Crossing Collision
Wreck of The Shelter Island Express" by
Friday evening long ago, on August 21, 1970 to be exact, I was a
passenger onboard the Long Island Rail Road’s “Shelter Island
Express”, traveling from Jamaica to Cutchogue, en-route from my
summer job at Walter Dorwin Teague Associates at 437 Madison Avenue
in Manhattan to a weekend at my family’s summer cabin in New
Suffolk. Unfortunately, I did not have my Kodak Instamatic
camera with me, so I have no photos to document the results of the
grade crossing collision and our subsequent derailment. However,
I do have some lasting memories of this event, more than four decades
after it occurred.
At that time, LIRR train
212 was a summer season Friday night express from Jamaica to
Riverhead, making local stops from Riverhead to Greenport. The
railroad station at Greenport was just a short walk away from the
ferry to Shelter Island, and reserved seat extra fare parlor car
service was offered, which is the likely explanation why the train
retained the name Shelter Island Express in the railroad’s marketing
brochures. Departure from Jamaica (customarily from track 8) was
around 4:59 PM, reaching Riverhead around 6:30, and arriving at
Greenport shortly before 7:15 PM.
locomotive was Alco RS-3 number 1555, running long hood forward.
There were one or two parlor cars immediately behind the locomotive.
The first car may have been the former Baltimore and Ohio lightweight
sleeper lounge observation which was often assigned to this train in
the 1970s, running observation lounge forward. I believe one was
a former New Haven lightweight sleeping car. They were followed
by a pair of former Florida East Coast stainless steel streamliner
coaches, trailed by a number of (two?) older P54 “Ping Pong”
coaches on the rear. The train was pretty full. A bar for
coach passengers was setup in one of the rear cars, and the attendant
was doing a brisk business. I had a plush reclining seat in one
of the FEC cars, TITUSVILLE, where the air conditioning worked just as
the Budd Company intended; it was comfortably cool and dry. It
was almost as good as a parlor car seat, but at a coach fare.
Titusville at Montauk 7/07/74 Photo/Archive: Ed Frye
As we worked our way eastwards on the mainline, I made note of our
progress. Divide Tower at
Hicksville, where the Port Jefferson branch diverges from the
mainline, was always one of my landmarks.
After passing Ronkonkoma, we reduced our speed due to the poor
track conditions found on the east end of the mainline.
Jointed rail, deteriorated wooden ties, minimal ballast and
limited maintenance made for a rough bouncy ride.
I doubt our speed exceeded 30 MPH east of Ronkonkoma.
Even at that relatively slow pace, it was definitely not a
there was a bang and a lurch forward, and then we came to a stop.
It became very quiet. After
a while, we learned that we had hit a loaded tractor-trailer of
freshly harvested potatoes, at a rural grade crossing in Manorville.
Either the truck driver failed to pay attention and did not
hear the engineer blowing the horn signal as he approached the grade
crossing, or his truck somehow got stuck on the grade crossing.
locomotive had derailed and the long hood was pushed back.
The first parlor car may also have derailed.
It was obvious from one look that our train wasn’t going any
further east tonight.
don’t recall any ambulances at the scene, so I doubt anyone was
seriously injured. I was
Eventually we were allowed
off the train. The Special
Service Attendant staffing the coach bar continued to sell his
beverages, and I suspect the parlor car attendants did likewise.
There was money to be made from a thirsty captive audience! We waited for some time, probably between one and two hours,
for busses to rescue us and take us east along Route 25 to the
stations from Riverhead to Greenport. I think our train was due at Cutchogue a few minutes before 7
PM, but I suspect I eventually got to Cutchogue between 9 and 10 PM.
I had survived my first train accident and derailment with no
injuries and an interesting story to tell.
1555 at Morris Park Shops, circa late 1970 or early 1971, awaiting
repairs. Photo collection of
Many years later, a friend
with a good knowledge of LIRR history told me that the railroad
rebuilt locomotive 1555 using the nose of a retired PRR Alco RS-3,
with its distinctive small marker lights. Some employees and
railroad enthusiasts referred to the rebuilt locomotive 1555 as
“Snake Eyes”, due to the small marker lights, or “Hungry
Jack”, in reference to its demonstrated appetite for freshly
harvested Suffolk County Long Island potatoes. Mineola,1974
Photo/Archive: Tim Darnell
Julian Tillis was engineer,
Bob Emery conductor and I was the attendant on the early season (one
parlor) version of the Shelter Island Express. Since it ran express
to Riverhead, it always caught up with the preceding
local before the latter cleared the SG-DK block. We were on-time in
Riverhead. I frequently worked the SI Express since I got home early
and the tips were better than the Montauks.
Info: Richard Makse
LIRR train #212 at SG
block [Brentwood] 6/07/1968 Photo/Archive: Richard Makse
August 26, 1988 LIRR
Passenger Train Crash Huntington, NY
LIRR wreck from grade crossing
accident in Huntington, NY. The Alco power pack LIRR #606 was a
total loss and eventually scrapped after being towed back
to Morris Park. Photos are from Aug 28, 1988 by Al Castelli
A LIRR westbound
passenger train crashed into a tractor-trailer stuck at a grade crossing in Huntington,
NY, about 8 P.M. Thursday night,
derailing five cars and the locomotive, tearing up
hundreds of feet of track and scattering debris. Eighteen people were
slightly injured in the collision, which occurred about a mile east of
The impact of the crash about one mile east of the Huntington station was so great that it toppled the diesel engine, throwing one railroad car into a lumberyard and another into a parked train on another track.
12, 1993 Bellerose Freight Derailment
Bellerose Freight Derailment Newsday
Bellerose Freight Derailment Newsday
March 11, 2004
Runaway Bushwick Branch
March 11, 2004, about 2:18p.m.. the crew of a LIRR train, assigned to
reposition equipment in various locations, left a locomotive (LIRR
#160) unattended with only its air brakes applied. The locomotive was
left on a descending grade in the Fresh Pond yard of the New York
& Atlantic Railway (NYAR) in
. The locomotive rolled away and traveled through the yard and onto
the Bushwick Branch of the NYAR, where it passed over seven passive
grade crossings and struck numerous vehicles before coming to a stop.
Four occupants of three struck vehicles were seriously injures. A fire
occurred when the engine came to a stop, after its collision with the
last two vehicles. The LIRR estimated equipment damages of $83,000,
the NYAR estimated minimal damages. National Transportation
March 11, 2004: A driverless, out-of-control
LIRR locomotive roared through several crossings near the
Queens-Brooklyn border yesterday, hitting five vehicles and injuring
four people, two of them critically.
The engine plowed through the cars as they
crossed the tracks at three spots along the little-used Bushwick
branch, leaving behind a path of destruction and burning debris,
The engine traveled nearly 1 1/2 miles after
it came loose from two other locomotives at around 2:10 p.m. and
meandered down the freight line during an engine change at the Fresh
Pond Yard behind
, officials said.
Mayor Bloomberg said the cause is under
investigation. "Either the brakes weren't set or they
failed," he said. "We don't have an answer as to why."
Bloomberg said the crew working at the yards will be interviewed by
police and tested for alcohol and drugs as part of the investigation.
"The thing we should remember here is that we were lucky,"
said Bloomberg, who toured the crash site with officials from the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that oversees
the LIRR. "This could have been a much worse tragedy. Thank God
it was not."
The runaway engine - traveling about 10 to 15
mph - hit a white car at an ungated crossing at
in Maspeth at 2:11 p.m., leaving two men critically injured. They were
and listed last night in critical condition after undergoing surgery.
Demetrius Cuffie, 37, suffered several broken
bones in his upper body and Jason Kusinitz, 33, suffered head and
internal injuries and had to have his spleen removed. "We're all
very nervous and concerned," said Kusinitz's brother Ian.
"It doesn't make sense." Andrew Wigler, Kusinitz's lawyer,
said the family "had no understanding" of how the accident
could have occurred. "It would seem that there should have been
multiple safeguards in place to prevent a happening of this
Cuffie and Kusinitz are co-workers at a
car-rental agency in Maspeth. Kusinitz's brother David is a cop
assigned to the 109th Precinct in
. Witnesses said they saw the locomotive slam into the car, debris
flying into the air as the engine rammed it.
"The car was like an accordion,"
said witness Lisa DaVino, 27. "It sounded like a bomb had gone
off." Vincent Grauso, 21, who also saw the accident, said the
locomotive hit the car with such force, it appeared to melt before his
eyes. "It was pretty gory. The car was mangled from top to
bottom," he said. "The men weren't moving at all. It was
The black and white locomotive then barreled
into two other cars on
at 2:14 p.m., injuring two others. Meir Mahlab, 72, a retired rabbi,
and Sister Ave Clark, 59, a nun with the Amityville Dominican Order on
Long Island were also taken to
in stable condition. Mahlab's wife, Linda, said he was unable to tell
her the details of the crash. "He just said, 'My spine, my
spine,' " she said. "He's in a lot of pain, he could hardly
Seconds after that impact, the locomotive hit
two trucks owned by the
and Atlantic Railway a few blocks away, over the
. The impact sparked a minor fire near some tanks containing acetylene
and oxygen, fire officials said. "I heard a big bang," said
witness Xavier Zevallos, a warehouse manager who was working nearby.
"All I could see was smoke and fire down the tracks."
One of the trucks was parked on the tracks
because workers were doing repairs when the locomotive bore down on
them, officials said. The engine came to a halt moments later, just a
few blocks away at the end of the line when part of the truck got
wedged under it, officials said. The Fire Department said no one was
injured in that crash. Firefighters had the blaze under control at
3:08 p.m., officials said.
The locomotive was still running when FDNY
Lt. William Pickett, who was at the scene to help those injured in the
crash, jumped aboard. "The truck was still burning," he
said. "That's when I climbed into the back of the train and into
the engineer's compartment and applied the brake."
Residents of the area near the last crash
said trains usually come through the crossing very slowly, its horn
blowing, and often with a crew member standing outside. There are no
gates, lights or bells at the crossing, but there are warning yellow
Alex Ginsburg, Doug Montero and Clemente Lisi
By Nicholas Hirshon
DAILY NEWS Writer Wednesday, December 5th 2007, 4:00 AM
Scattered wreckage was tossed after a LIRR locomotive smashed into
cars and trucks in Ridgewood in March 2004.
Nearly four years after a runaway train incident injured four
people, freight railroad tracks through Queens and Brooklyn are set
to undergo a year-long series of safety changes.
A new state report unveiled last week includes a policy requiring
trains to stop and wait for crews to flag them through crossings
along the seldom-used Long Island Rail Road branch where the
out-of-control locomotive accident occurred in Ridgewood in March
The order also calls for more X-shaped signage - known as crossbucks
- as well as yield signs and pavement markings at crossings
throughout the two boroughs.
Skip Carrier, a state Transportation Department spokesman, said the
long-awaited changes were the result of a "full, thorough
hearing process." But locals affected by the 2004 accident wondered why officials
didn't push for any crossing gates.
"I'm afraid what they're doing there is just putting up new
signs - and to me, signs at that area don't mean anything,"
said Sister Ave Clark, 63, who was hurt when the train hit her car
at 15 mph.
Because the crew failed to secure the unmanned freight train, the
120-ton locomotive chugged without warning along tracks leased by
the LIRR to New York and Atlantic Railway. That was moments after the train crashed at 55th St. into a car
carrying Jason Kusinitz, now 36, who was put in a medically induced
coma and still undergoes mental and physical therapy.
His older brother, Adam, panned the state hearings into the incident
as a "dog and pony show." Residents at a July meeting
asked for crossing gates, but transportation officials rejected the
request. "I don't see how they can come up with any logical explanation
to not have gate crossings," Adam Kusinitz said. "If
something was manned or unmanned coming down the tracks, the gate
would prevent another tragedy."
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who supports more signage
along the tracks, is still "not certain that's enough" to
make them safe, her spokesman Dan Andrews said. The 20-page report also asks for the city and state to mull the
installation of overhead LED lights at two crossings: Morgan and
Metropolitan Aves. in Brooklyn and 56th St. and Flushing Ave. West
in Queens. If officials agree to install LED lights, they must be operational
within a year. If not, the overhead signs will include flashing red
Long Island Rail Road track in Ridgewood to
undergo safety changes
ALEX GINSBURG, DOUG
MONTERO and CLEMENTE LISI
March 11, 2004 -- A
driverless, out-of-control LIRR locomotive roared through several
crossings near the Queens-Brooklyn border yesterday, hitting five
vehicles and injuring four people, two of them critically.
The engine plowed through
the cars as they crossed the tracks at three spots along the
little-used Bushwick branch, leaving behind a path of destruction
and burning debris, officials said.
The engine traveled
nearly 1 1/2 miles after it came loose from two other locomotives at
around 2:10 p.m. and meandered down the freight line during an
engine change at the Fresh Pond Yard behind
, officials said.
Mayor Bloomberg said the
cause is under investigation. "Either the brakes weren't set or
they failed," he said. "We don't have an answer as to
why." Bloomberg said the crew working at the yards will be
interviewed by police and tested for alcohol and drugs as part of
the investigation. "The thing we should remember here is that
we were lucky," said Bloomberg, who toured the crash site with
officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state
agency that oversees the LIRR. "This could have been a much
worse tragedy. Thank God it was not."
The runaway engine -
traveling about 10 to 15 mph - hit a white car at an ungated
in Maspeth at 2:11 p.m., leaving two men critically injured. They
were taken to
and listed last night in critical condition after undergoing
Demetrius Cuffie, 37,
suffered several broken bones in his upper body and Jason Kusinitz,
33, suffered head and internal injuries and had to have his spleen
removed. "We're all very nervous and concerned," said
Kusinitz's brother Ian. "It doesn't make sense."
Andrew Wigler, Kusinitz's
lawyer, said the family "had no understanding" of how the
accident could have occurred. "It would seem that there should
have been multiple safeguards in place to prevent a happening of
Cuffie and Kusinitz are
co-workers at a car-rental agency in Maspeth. Kusinitz's brother
David is a cop assigned to the 109th Precinct in
Witnesses said they saw
the locomotive slam into the car, debris flying into the air as the
engine rammed it. "The car was like an accordion," said
witness Lisa DaVino, 27. "It sounded like a bomb had gone
Vincent Grauso, 21, who
also saw the accident, said the locomotive hit the car with such
force, it appeared to melt before his eyes. "It was pretty
gory. The car was mangled from top to bottom," he said.
"The men weren't moving at all. It was really awful."
The black and white
locomotive then barreled into two other cars on
at 2:14 p.m., injuring two others.
Meir Mahlab, 72, a
retired rabbi, and Sister Ave Clark, 59, a nun with the Amityville
Dominican Order on Long Island were also taken to
in stable condition.
Mahlab's wife, Linda,
said he was unable to tell her the details of the crash. "He
just said, 'My spine, my spine,' " she said. "He's in a
lot of pain, he could hardly talk."
Seconds after that
impact, the locomotive hit two trucks owned by the
and Atlantic Railway a few blocks away, over the
The impact sparked a
minor fire near some tanks containing acetylene and oxygen, fire
officials said. "I heard a big bang," said witness Xavier
Zevallos, a warehouse manager who was working nearby. "All I
could see was smoke and fire down the tracks."
One of the trucks was
parked on the tracks because workers were doing repairs when the
locomotive bore down on them, officials said. The engine came to a
halt moments later, just a few blocks away at the end of the line
when part of the truck got wedged under it, officials said.
The Fire Department said
no one was injured in that crash. Firefighters had the blaze under
control at 3:08 p.m., officials said.
March 27, 2008 LIRR
PASSENGER TRAINS at JAMAICA
LIRR Train # 714 (9:35am Flatbush Ave-Hempstead) and
LIRR Train #1618 (9:34am NYPenn-Huntington).
The last two cars of the 9:35am AM FBA train derailed when arriving at
Jamaica. Cars # 7627-28 The two trains collided between tracks 7 and 8.
They collided with unoccupied cars of the 9:34am NYP train. Cars #7773-74
LIRR indicates the Huntington train was already in the station and the
Hempstead train was just pulling in and didn't cross over the tracks onto
track 8 properly, when the derailment occurred. The rear 2 cars derailed
and collided with the Huntington train on track 7. WWOR TV reports 20
JULY 18, 2015
EASTBOUND/WESTBOUND PASSENGER TRAINS at HALL INTERLOCKING, JAMAICA
Two LIRR trains collided with
each other east of Jamaica Friday night. Around 6:00p on Friday night,
the lead car of an eastbound Huntington train collided with the
leading locomotive of a westbound Montauk train in HALL interlocking
just east of Jamaica. Newsday articles: 7/18-19/2015