From the Archives F.C. Edwards Part 8
- This story is true. I may not have all the details exactly correct but here
There is a local train pulled by a high stepping 4-4-0 headed down the
Hudson line from Peekskill. The time is July 1893, and Peekskill is a big
terminal for the commuter trains because although there is a yard at Croton
Landing it is not yet a big facility, Mr. Harmon not having yet made his
land grab as the New York Central had not yet been forced to make
electification the alternative power for moving thier trains.
The morning was warm and sultry and the train had started out from Peekskill
on time at 8:46 am. This train was an express and did not stop at Montrose,
Crugers, Oscawana or Croton Landing, and instead made its first stop at Sing
Sing at 9:02 am. The train pulled into Sing Sing and a sizeable crowd
boarded, extending the train's stop by three minutes.
With the hand signal from the conductor on the rear, the engineer gave two
whistles and notched out the throttle with the train picking up speed as it
entered the tunnel underneath Sing Sing Prison (that's right, there was a
tunnel under Sing Sing that was not "Daylighted" until much later).
The engineer was bent on making up the three minutes lost doing station work
at Ossining. As they entered Sing Sing tunnel, the cab filled with smoke and
the fireman, having tossed several shovels full of coal into the fireaox,
closed the firebox door and peered ahead through the left side window and
through the darkness to the sunlight ahead. The cool air was a welcome
relief if he sat far enough ahead on his seat. The train's next stop was
not until 9:54 am at 138th street and the engineer was confident that as
long as the fireman kept the steam up, they should have no trouble making up
the lost time.
As the train emerged from the tunnel, the engineer pushed the trottle down a
notch so as to keep within the speed limits on the curve coming into
Scarborough. Then the train would then be onto the straightaway before a
slight left curve where they could go as fast as the engine would haul the
train before having to slow at OW for the Interlocking switches three miles
to the south.
As the throttle closed the engineer called for the fireman to toss more coal
into the firebox, which the fireman did and then returned to his seat. As
soon as the train cleared the curve just before the station, the engineer
pulled back on the throttle causing the engine to jump forward a little.
The fireman was content to ride on his side of the cab for the two or three
miles before reaching the interlocking at Tarrytown. The breeze was a
welcome relief from the hot summer morning not to mention the heat from the
firebox. As the train picked up speed nothing seemed amiss. But after a few
minutes, they began to approach Tarrytown Station (Philipse Manor is not in
the 1893 timetable). The fireman looked across to the engineer's side of the
cab wondering why the engineer had not begun to slow down. Sitting on the
fireman's side the head of the firebox blocked his view of the engineer.
The fireman slid back on his seat and looked over. No engineer. He got up
and walked over to the right side of the cab. No engineer. The fireman
grabbed for the throttle and closed it, then bagan reducing speed by a
steady application of the brakes. He brought the train to a stop on the
platform in Tarrytown. The fireman got off the engine and began to walk back
toward the coaches. The Conductor, watch in hand came out of the coach and
wanted to know why his train was stopped. The fireman explained that the
engineer had disappeared. The conductor stepped closer to the fireman to
smell his breath. No everything seemed all right.
The conductor sent the brakeman back to protect the rear and the conductor
went over to the station and reported the incident to the station agent who
in turn, reported the incident by telegraph to the General Passenger Agent
at Grand Central Station (no mistake. In 1893 it was Grand Central Station).
This of course brought forth an array of white shirts from Trainmasters to
Road Foremen of Engines and the Superintendent's office. The train proceeded
in charge of the Road Foreman over an hour late.
Well an investigation was begun on the spot but the mystery did not last
long. The next train south reported seeing the body of a man just south of
Scarborough Station. Sure enough it was the missing engineer. The
Westchester County Coroner solved the mystery. The fireman could not see the
engineer from his forward position on the left hand side of the firebox.
Since they were not making any station stops in the next three miles the
fireman had no reason to think anything was awry. The engineer evidently had
gotten up and leaned out of the cab because he would be able to see his
train clearly as it went through the slight curve to the right just south of
the station. Apparently as he did so, he forgot about the mail crane on the
south end of the platform. According to the coroner's report, there was
blood on the crane and the engineer had clearly died from a tramatic blow to
the back of the head.
A sad but true story.
And that is another edition of "From the Archives". Happy Independence Day
. Down with the British! No taxation without representation!
What's in your archives?