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The Story of the Hatfield Train Wreck of 1900

Source: The Souderton Independent, 2 September 1900

AWFUL RAILWAY WRECK
Death Darted from the Fog - Atlantic City Excursion Crashes into Milk Train at Hatfield
A SCENE OF GREAT HORROR

"The milk train known as 416 left South Bethlehem on schedule time at 5:20 A.M. It consisted of Engine 248 drawing three milk cars and two day coaches. It arrived at Hatfield at 6:56 and stopped, as usual, to take on milk. The excursion train was the first of three sections, bound for Atlantic City via Philadelphia. It was drawn by Engine 249 and carried ten cars, each jammed to the platforms. The milk cars were being loaded at the freight platform. Out of the fog dashed the excursion train; the ponderous engine puffing and snorting, pushed on with the momentum that comes of a long heavily laden train rushing at a speed of forty to fifty miles per hour. A few shrill blasts of the locomotive whistle; then the awful crash. For an instant stillness; then moans and groans of mangled men and women and the shrieks of affrighted, horror-stricken passengers. Such was the force of the impact that the milk train was driven 300 feet from the point of the collision.

The smoker, the forward car of the excursion train, was literally torn to pieces. The locomotive was thrown across the tracks about 200 feet from the station, where it fell on its side and lay there, panting and emitting steam, like some mighty monster in its death throes., Three of the coaches it was drawing were torn from their tracks, and the ends were crushed like eggshells, in carrying death and suffering to passengers who were exposed to the awful impact. In a twinkling, a joyous party of 800 passengers filled with bright anticipation of a merry day at the seaside was converted into a mass of terrified men, women and children. Thirteen persons had been killed outright, and sixty more were maimed and bleeding.

Passengers streamed out of car doors and windows. Dozens were bleeding from wounds caused by splinters or fragments of glass. Others ran hither and thither, calling for friends, a scene of wild confusion. The wounded, pinioned down in the cars by the seats and timbers, were crying out for relief from the crushing burdens. The dead were laid first on the grass, beside the wreck, and after newspapers and blankets had been spread over them, the helpers' attention was given to the wounded. After these were cared for, the dead were carried upon doors and car seats to a small fence factory building nearby. Black cloth was pinned up to the windows of this dead house, beside which a great crowd had gathered.

The engineer of the excursion train, whose skull was fractured and who may die, cries out in conscious moments, as he lies on a cot in St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem, that he was not to blame, as he had a clear track under orders."


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Posted 15 December 2003 by Kelley Wood - Davis- last updated 28 March 2011