Placing Blame for Railroad Disaster

On Oct. 28, 1906, 6 months immediately after the opening of the nation’s longest electrical rail line, it experienced a devastating crash as a teach derailed on the drawbridge major to Atlantic Town, killing above 50 men and women and injuring a lot of additional.
As bodies had been continue to becoming recovered from the water, Ivy Lee, who was in charge of publicity for the Pennsylvania Railroad, persuaded the directors that the foreseeable future of electric powered trains was at stake. They agreed to issue what these days is viewed as by numerous the first push release, which was handed to reporters at the scene.
The New York Moments revealed it word for phrase, and it read in section: “On account of the issue at increasing the trucks of the automobiles out of the drinking water the railroad officers have not been equipped to explore the lead to of the accident. They have ascertained, nevertheless, that there was no defect in both the drawbridge or its system to induce the derailment. The bridge – each stationary and movable pieces – is of the most authorized present day, movable type.
“It is specific that the rails on the drawbridge and these on the strong segment equipped particularly, for otherwise the signal could by no means have proven a very clear track. By means of the interlocking procedure it is unattainable for the motorman to get the ‘go ahead’ sign until finally the rails are precisely in area.
“The Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation is leaving practically nothing undone to get at the result in of the incident. The coroner has already gathered a jury and is making a comprehensive investigation the officials of the organization are providing him every single assistance in their electric power.”
Meanwhile, from the scene of the tragedy the Occasions reported, “All via the day the do the job of getting out bodies went on, and several divers explored the depths the place two of the cars lay. The third auto of the educate was not wholly submerged. Crowds on the shores watched unfortunately even though the victims ended up brought up and despatched to the morgue.
“A significant crane elevated the initial vehicle that plunged over the bridge, but no bodies ended up still left in it. Late to-night time the divers noted that no more bodies have been on the base in close proximity to the spot where by the cars fell, but the latest there is powerful, and some bodies might have been swept significantly from the bridge.”
The true quantity of these killed could possibly never ever be identified. The Periods pointed out, “It was discovered nowadays that a single of the adult males who ran to rescue the wounded just following the incident, was killed. His foot struck the third rail, and he was thrown into the water. His physique has been observed, but not identified.”
What facts could possibly be discovered from the wreck would before long be dropped when it was announced, “Late tonight, chagrined at the failure of the derricks to raise the submerged coaches from the stream bed, into which they have been continuously sinking further, Basic Supervisor Atterbury, who has experienced the supervision of taking away the wreck, established to resort to dynamite to release the telescoped automobiles. The dynamite, with apparatus for firing it, was brought from Camden by a specific educate and will be exploded beneath the submerged coaches as before long as the tide lowers adequately for the divers to location the charge.”
The Trenton Times noted on the 30th that an investigation was underway, indicating, “The coroner’s jury headed by Condition Senator Lee as foreman, will maintain its initial session at 10 o’clock tomorrow. A number of several hours ended up used at the scene of the accident yesterday by the jury where W.W. Atterbury, common manager of the Pennsylvania Railroad and other railway officials stated the operation of the attract bridge and how trains are signaled when the draw is open. It is not regarded as possible that the jury will immediate any arrests though it has the energy to do so.”
The issue of obligation could necessarily mean liability and hundreds of bucks in lawsuits. The railroad was blaming the gentleman who tended the bridge, but there ended up other choices.
“Chief of Police Maxwell thinks river pirates might have purposely wrecked the teach for spite. The law enforcement have found out that Daniel Stewart, tender of the bridge, just lately has had trouble with river pirates and experienced two times been assaulted because of his warfare upon them. Chief Maxwell believes it is additional than achievable some of the rough element may perhaps have tampered with the draw out of revenge.”
The significance of getting a bring about of the wreck was described the next day by the Trenton paper.
“So really serious have been the revelations relating to the wreck upon the electric powered railroad at this metropolis that there is a possibility that as a outcome of the investigation getting made by Coroner Edmund C. Gaskill, Jr., the Pennsylvania Railroad might not by itself have to rebuild the trestle drawbridge throughout the Thoroughfare, but operation of the complete electric powered railroad could have to be discontinued when recommendations designed by the jury  are complied with. … It is known that the electric powered street is a lot of an experiment. … (M)any serious rates have been created versus different characteristics, not by itself of the composition from which the train plunged and the lock rail system utilized on it, but also of the products and the procedure of the highway.”
Two professional witnesses testified that the rail hadn’t been correctly aligned after the previous closing of the drawbridge and that the bridge keeper should really by no means have signaled the go-forward to the oncoming practice traveling at nearly 45 mph.
Like a scene from a Hollywood motion picture, the jury was taken to the bridge. According to the Courier Submit of Nov. 8, “The sensation in the case arrived this afternoon when the jury once again went out to examine the Thoroughfare bridge. The coroner demanded a simple demonstration of how a single of the drawbridge rails could have been protruding above the tracks, although the other folks have been securely locked in their sites. Superintendent Lovell evidenced a marked reluctance to make the demonstration. Three situations the coroner insistently created the ask for. ‘I do not assume that it can be done’ said the superintendent, when Gaskill spelled out his function: ‘I do not believe the alerts will demonstrate an open up keep track of when a person of the rails is up.’
“But Superintendent Lovell was improper, as was proven a couple minutes later. A single of the jurymen utilized a crowbar to displace the exterior rail soon after the ends had been elevated. Then the sign was specified to ‘lower absent.’ 3 rails settled into their sites and the lock was sprung. The fourth rail remained protruding higher than the track line. Out of the blue the automated sign clicked, and the white semaphore confirmed ‘clear.’
“‘That is ample. Are you glad gentlemen, that the open keep track of sign could have been offered although the close of a rail trapped up as this a person is carrying out now?’ asked the Coroner.”
However, compared with Hollywood, there was a diverse decision. In accordance to the Camden paper, “Blamed for the electric powered practice wreck, in which fifty-7 travellers had been hurled to their loss of life from the Thoroughfare bridge, was thrown previous night upon Daniel Stewart, the aged drawbridge tender.
“The coroner’s jury, after a stormy scene  lasting nine several hours, in which the users disagreed upon a lot of vital details, determined to position the responsibility on the just one gentleman whose responsibility it experienced been to see that the drawbridge rails were being in their place. Stewart, according to the Coroner will be arrested on costs of prison carelessness or manslaughter.”
If Stewart was identified responsible, then the railroad would not be held liable and there could be no lawsuits. It would now be the aged bridge tender as opposed to the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad.
Following Week: Epilogue.

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