Some Great and Historic early Train Wrecks
Numerous train wrecks occurred during the Housatonic Railroad’s 91 years of operation. Passengers were always at risk of accidents that infrequently occurred. Since the line was on a single lane of tracks, most of the serious accidents were head-on collisions. The picture of the train wreck shown here was captioned “Housatonic RR Wreck in Long Hill 1889.” In an 1865 wreck, eleven persons died and another 27 were injured when a passenger train heading to Pittsfield Massachusetts came upon a disabled freight just North of Trumbull Center. The engineer then decided to back the train back to the Bridgeport depot when it collided with
locomotive “Fairfield” on its first trial run. This normally unscheduled train had departed the Bridgeport depot only fifteen minutes after the Pittsfield bound passenger train. In 1881, a Parlor Rock excursion train from New Milford ran head on into a milk train just North of Parlor Rock. Fortunately, this accident occurred on a rainy day and the excursion train was not carrying many passengers. Only the excursion train’s engineer was instantly killed when the two trains collided. In 1899, an accident North of the Beers Mill station resulted in two deaths. In 1901 a freight train running from Halleyville to Bridgeport met head on with a North bound freight train heading for Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The two trains collided about 1000 feet South of the Beers Mill station, resulting in the deaths of five people. The engineer of the South bound freight survived but lost his arm in the accident. He admitted to have been the cause of the accident when he fell asleep and failed to pull off at the Stepney siding and wait for the North bound freight to pass.
The first accident recorded is that of John Hamann, who was killed prior to 1876, while riding his wagon across the railroad. Charles E. Van Pelt, a brakeman on the Union Pacific, was killed near Shelton, in November, 1876. During the work of repairing the railroad bridge over the Platte, in March, 1884, some timbers gave way and engine, derrick and pile-driver fell into the river. James Dennon was killed and two men injured. Eleven of the 180 horses belonging to Palmer & Talmage, which broke through the corral just north of the city, in September, 1885, were killed by the Denver Union Pacific train, and several animals injured.
John C. W. Longnecker, of Steelton, Pa., was killed by a St. Joseph & Grand Island train, in September, 1885.
D. B. Thompson, of the Union Pacific, was killed March 27, 1886.
The Union Pacific passenger, No. 1, was wrecked at Grand Island in September, 1886. An unknown man was run over and killed by a Union Pacific locomotive (No. 743) at the coal house, April 7, 1887. Other deaths on the rail are referred to, but the dates have not been ascertained. Trains have been ditched in many instances, and snow-bound inside the lines of this county more than once.
During the early, foggy morning hours of December 4th 1891 four trains would meet in East Thompson, Connecticut with disastrous consequences. No one could have known earlier that morning that they were all destined to go down in history in what would later be known as The Great East Thompson Train Wreck. This spectacular crash of four trains, is the only train wreck of its’ kind in the history of railroading in the United States.