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Horrendous train wreck 6/9/1920

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    Classic Tales of Old Dorp: Horrendous train wreck 88 years ago today took 18 lives; resident recalls scene Monday, June 9, 2008 By Larry Hart The impact of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 18 9:21 PM
      Classic Tales of Old Dorp: Horrendous train wreck 88 years ago today
      took 18 lives; resident recalls scene
      Monday, June 9, 2008
      By Larry Hart

      The impact of the train crash in West Glenville on June 9, 1920,
      heavily damaged some equipment. Righting cars and clearing the area
      took several days.Text Size: A | A | A
      The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart's
      long-running column, "Tales of Old Dorp." Today, Hart revisits one of
      the great, tragic accidents in Schenectady County's history — the
      train crash in West Glenville that happened 88 years ago today. This
      column originally was published June 5, 1984.

      A calamitous train wreck occurred in West Glenville, just west of
      Scotia, in the pre-dawn hours of June 9, 1920 — and it was of such
      magnitude that some who were children then remember it to this day.

      It was shortly after 1 a.m. that a tremendous explosion reverberated
      throughout the area of Clute's Crossing as eastbound New York Central
      Express No. 34 plowed into Accommodation No. 28, killing more than a
      dozen persons outright and injuring scores of others. Ed King, a
      nearby farmer, always would recall being awakened by that awful
      combined sound of the explosion of No. 34's boiler and the ripping of
      wood and metal.

      As the accident was reconstructed by a subsequent investigation, the
      accommodation or sleeping car train left Syracuse perhaps eight
      minutes ahead of the express. The latter was late and was trying to
      make up time as it neared the Glenville crossings of Rector's, Clute's
      and Hutchinson's (at the west end of the former Scotia Navy Depot).
      Train No. 28 had stopped for some reason near Clute's Crossing, where
      Barhydt and Vly Roads meet. The stop signals were turned on farther
      west of the crossings.

      Signals unseen
      However, No. 34's engineer, Martin Doyle, who was 50 that day, failed
      to see the signals and his hurtling train crashed into the back of the
      train of sleeping cars and day coaches. Doyle was among those
      instantly killed.

      All through the night and after dawn, rescuers worked among the
      wreckage of shattered wood and twisted metal, bringing out dead and
      injured and giving first aid. Most of the passengers were from the
      western part of the state, New York City and New England, the train
      having been made up in Syracuse. And, because of the hour, most of
      those aboard had been sleeping when the accident happened.

      Relief trains brought doctors and nurses to the grisly scene and took
      the wounded to the city's railroad station, where police cars and
      ambulances transported them to Ellis Hospital. The hospital was put on
      emergency alert shortly before 1:30 a.m. and its surgical teams worked
      through that long morning to save lives, which often hung in the
      balance. Two special wards were set aside to accommodate the victims
      brought in from the wreck.

      It would be announced later that, in all, 18 persons died in the crash
      and about 60 had been injured. In his annual report for 1920, Ellis
      board president Willis T. Hanson Sr. observed: "The recent railway
      accident at Rector's (Clute's Crossing) has demonstrated clearly what
      the hospital is capable of doing in cases of emergency."

      Norman E. "Pink" Wurz, who with wife Jean still lives within an
      earshot of the fateful crossing site, remembers the incident well. He
      and his older brother Don were sleeping when, early that morning,
      their mother shouted from the foot of the stairs: "You boys had better
      get up. . . . There's been a bad train wreck down the road!"

      They hurried to the crossing, which by then was a scene of mass
      humanity gathered around unbelievable wreckage and suffering. It was
      about 500 feet east of Clute's Crossing. So the accommodation train
      apparently had stopped between Clute's and Hutchinson's.

      Onlookers converge
      Word must have spread quickly, despite the lack of radio or television
      in those days, because people were arriving by foot, carriage and
      auto. As they converged on the scene, many walked out into an oat
      field on the north side of the tracks to get a better view of the

      Norm Wurz said it was a 20-acre crop owned by dairyman Louis Van Buren
      on his farm but, after the last of the crowds of spectators were
      through milling around in the days to follow, there "wasn't a grain of
      oats left in that whole field." He heard that people had come from a
      radius of 100 miles to see the wreck site and watch the cleanup, which
      took several days.

      Norm recalls it was examination day at Rector's School, and "we ran to
      the school at the last minute to just make the 9 a.m. opening."

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