Friday, July 30, 2021

Appalling Railway Disaster -- July 30, 2021

San Jose Herald, 31-July-1896

125 years ago today, on 30-July-1896, trains of the Reading Railroad and the West Jersey and Seashore Railroad collided at a grade crossing near Atlantic City. The West Jersey train was a special chartered by the Improved Order of Red Men, a fraternal organization. Of the five cars in the train, two were destroyed and two were telescoped. 50 people were killed and 60 or more were seriously injured. The Coroner found that the West Jersey train had received a clear signal and the engineer of the Reading express train ran past a danger signal.

Appalling Railway Disaster Last
Evening at a Crossing
in New Jersey.

A Big Excursion Train of the Red
Men Dashed Into By the
Reading Express.
Claimed That the Wrong Signals Were Displayed
by the Tower Man -- Terrible
Scene at the Wreck.

Special to the Herald.

Atlantic City, N. J., July 31. -- The gaiety which will mark this resort from now until the end of the season will be but a faint echo of the days past. The death pale has fallen upon it.

On every street corner and hotel piazza trembling lips discuss last night’s fearful catastrophe and await additional details which are expected by break of day.

The list of the dead as revised numbers forty-two. The injured as far as known numbers 43.

Coroner McLaughlin empaneled a jury this evening to inquire into the cause of the accident.

The arrest of William Thurson the telegraph operator at the signal tower, confirms the theory that a mistake in the display of signals was the cause of the accident. However, the arrest may have been merely for a formality.

The West Jersey train was a special excursion train carrying seven coaches filled with excursionists from Bridgeton, Salem and the neighboring village of South Jersey.

It was an excursion of the Improved Order of Red Men and five tribes were well represented.

The first car on the Reading train and the second on the West Jersey were upset. The third car on the latter caught the full force of the impact and was literally cut in half and each half shivered to splinters.

When it is remembered that this car as well as every other was jammed with human freight the horror of the situation can be realized.

Philadelphia, Pa., July 31. -- The crossing where last night's accident occurred has long been a bugaboo to to travelers between this city and Atlantic City.

It is located about two and a half miles from Atlantic City, the terminal of rival railroads.

Block towers are placed as close to the crossing as safety will permit.

This tower is operated by an operator charged with the duty of seeing that the train having the right of way crosses first and the other train is flagged.

There is a difference of opinion as to which train luid the right of way last night. The telegraph operator William Thurson and switch tender Hauser are in the Atlantic City Jaul and will remain there until an official investigation definitely places the responsibility.

Competition between the West Jersey and Reading railroads for the Atlantic City business is very keen. Both roads run flyers which average nearly a mile a minute between Camden and Atlantic City.

There are frequent races across the stretch of open country a few miles outside of Atlantic City known as the "Meadows" and the passengers who are not timid regard the race us one of exhilaration

The timid ones moreover are always apprehensive that something might happen as a dangerous grade crossing is approached. Last night the long looked-for accident occurred with awful results.

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