On July 30, 1896, Atlantic Metropolis endured a person of the worst railroad disasters in the city’s historical past.
The web-site was just west of the existing resort, on the wetlands, in which the tracks of two competing railroads, the West Jersey Railroad and the Atlantic Metropolis Railroad, crossed each and every other in a giant X. At this issue a control tower, with an operator, was intended to act as a targeted traffic cop and make a decision which teach experienced the appropriate-of-way.
That day, about 250 people, associates of the Enhanced Get of Purple Adult men fraternal organization and their family members who had loved the working day at the shore, boarded their West Jersey Railroad practice to head west towards home. The other line’s specific teach was traveling east toward the crossing.
The future working day the Philadelphia Situations noted, “The excursion educate remaining the West Jersey depot at 6:30. It was built up of automobiles stuffed with people from Bridgeton, New Jersey. It was the Red Men’s tour, and four tribes were loaded on the autos. They were the Cohansick, the Ahwanetah, the Niagara and the Tewah tribes. Immediately after this coach experienced still left the depot and arrived at the meadow it stopped for a number of minutes. The engineer was not sure as to no matter whether or not the way was distinct. But in the signal tower the white light reported, ‘Go in advance,’ and the purple light explained to the Reading engineer stop.”
According to the Asbury Park Press, John Greiner, the engineer of the educate returning to Bridgeton, reported in a statement pursuing the incident, “The engine of the convey struck the tour coach about the center of the next coach. Four of the cars and trucks remaining the monitor. It was in the second mentor from the motor that most of the men and women had been killed.”
The boiler on the specific coach ruptured, scalding the survivors however alive on the Bridgeton excursion coach. Word promptly distribute. The Times continued.
“When Mrs. Edward Farr, spouse of the Looking at (Atlantic Town Railroad) engineer, who was observed dead, with his hand on the throttle, was informed of his demise tonight she threw up her hands and dropped on the flooring dead.”
In the meantime in Bridgeton, a town with a population of only about 11,000, “The finest pleasure prevailed right here to-evening, and at midnight the streets are filled with males, females and, small children inquiring about the wreck. There ended up 500 excursionists from this metropolis and outlying cities. … The Telegraph and Pioneer places of work are besieged by persons who have pals on the coach. The distress amid the families in this article is terrible. In some households they are praying for fathers, moms, and children who are supposed to be on the sick-fated coach. … When the news was initially acquired listed here the town went wild with exhilaration. There are also a thousand folks now at the West Jersey station, anxiously awaiting any details or the arrival of a prepare.”
The Chicago Tribune of Aug. 2 gave an update.
“No more deaths have yet transpired as a end result of Thursday night’s collision and the demise toll even now stands at 44. There is a chance that it may well remain at that determine, but it is only a distant just one. At the sanitarium this afternoon it was documented that the fifteen patients continue to there ended up undertaking as very well as could be expected, and even though there was a bare possibility of pulling them all via securely the odds were being from at minimum three.”
And at the city of Bridgeton, “The funerals of eleven of the victims of the Atlantic Town railroad collision took spot today. Almost everywhere could be seen the apparel and badges of mourning. Lodges turned out in comprehensive pressure and escorted the useless to the graves. The churches all held distinctive companies, at which prayers had been stated for the unfortunates, useless and residing. There will be numerous more funerals tomorrow and Tuesday. Tomorrow will be normally observed as a day of mourning, and it is considered there will be a normal cessation of enterprise.”
Pretty much quickly a coroner’s inquest was convened. The question of who was to blame was its key matter.
The Jersey Metropolis News of Aug. 4 carried, “George F. Hauser, the person who gave the fatal signal to the West Jersey tour practice to go ahead, then took the stand. Hauser testified … (h)e arose about noon and sat on the beach right until four o’clock. He denied that he had taken something to drink all through the working day. … Just after taking off his coat … Hauser heard the bell ring, indicating a practice approaching from Atlantic Town on the West Jersey keep track of. He found at this time that all indicators had been established at hazard. He was beneficial of this. … (H)e looked and observed the categorical about two and just one-fifty percent miles off. He then pulled the levers, providing the excursion the proper of way.”
The Bridgeton Pioneer noted on the aftermath, as the victims have been returned home.
“When the cars had been introduced to a standstill, the undertakers appeared and took charge of the bodies.
“The 1st to go away the car of dying was Richard Trenchard, who about a working day prior to experienced left this metropolis so really buoyant in spirits. Then was carried out the silent type of his wife, equally caskets being positioned in a lined wagon and taken to an endeavor establishment.
“The firemen brought out lousy Fred Cheney. His physique was nude, and lay upon a cot, protected with oil fabric. He was put in the firemen’s wagon, and with his two very little children, both lifeless, were taken absent.
“It was a pathetic scene, and 1 that all hope may well hardly ever again be seen in this or any other locality.”
On Aug. 7 the Pioneer published the effects of the inquest.
“We, the undersigned jurors, also come across that Engineer Edward Farr, of the Atlantic City Railroad, unsuccessful to have his engine below correct command on approaching reported crossing, and that Towerman George F. Hauser, in providing the excursion train of the West Jersey Railroad the suitable of way around a quick categorical, employed negative judgment. We are of the view that engineer John Greiner, of claimed excursion train, erred in not exercising greater treatment in crossing in advance of mentioned rapidly specific.”
The final verdict did little to simplicity the suffering of the Bridgeton citizens.
“Coroner McLaughlin to-evening requested the discharge of George Hauser, the tower person, who was held below $500 bail to wait around the action of the coroner’s jury. The jury did not right maintain any one of the railroad employees criminally accountable for the catastrophe. … It now devolves upon the Prosecutor and Grand Jury to determine whether or not any of the staff members had been guilty of felony carelessness in the discharge of their duties.”
With that, the tragedy of the 1896 wreck faded into background. Alan Siegel in his e book Disaster gave it a fitting footnote showing the thoughts of the instances.
“In an job interview with reporters, Atlantic City Mayor Franklin Stoy waxed philosophic. Unhappy and terrible nevertheless the accident was mentioned Mayor Stoy it would not interfere with the city’s prosperity ‘Such mishaps manifest but the moment in a variety of years’ he confident the reporters, ‘and it is nearly specific that no these horror will ever cast its gloom upon the city once more.’”
Whilst the mayor’s words and phrases aided people today transfer on from the 1896 wreck, he was a failure at predicting the foreseeable future. It would happen yet again 10 many years afterwards. The bodies would yet again be piling up as Atlantic City could declare the title of prepare crash money of the environment.
Future 7 days: 1906.