N&W in 1903 -- Collision

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue Jan 29 20:56:51 EST 2008

Second Section of Freight Train Crashes Into first at Water Tank
Engine, Cab and Seven Cars Reduced to Splinters. Traffic Was Delayed Many Hours
At 12:20 yesterday, about three hundred yards below Wills, on the Radford division, occurred one of the ugliest freight wrecks imaginable, and the strange part of the matter is that no one was seriously hurt. But the crew of engine No. 813 only saved their lives by jumping in the nick of time.
A heavy laden freight pulled into Wills tank for water. The train contained sixty-two cars, which is an uncommonly lengthy one. The train was inside the water bounds, but had not pulled down the usual distance before cutting the engine off for the purpose of taking water. The flagman did not go back as he was in water limits, and while the train was at a standstill, he devoted his time to cooling a hot box on his train. The train was stopped on a very heavy curve, and was closely followed by another heavy coal train. This section was in charge of Engineer Thomas Gerald, Fireman E. J. Hooker and Conductor Geo. White, Conductor White being on the engine. It was stated by parties who witnessed the wreck that Mr. Gerald had his train under perfect control, but that, owing to the rear of the other train being at an unusual place with no "flag" out and on such a sharp curve, it was impossible for him to stop in time to avoid striking the rear of the front section. The crew barely had time to jump from the moving train when the heavy crash came and "hog" 813 and the caboose of the front train and seven cars were reduced to the merest splinters and fragments. Mr. Gerald sustained some bruises, though nothing serious, and Fireman Hooker go off with a badly sprained back. Conductor White received no injuries.
To look at the wreck one would wonder how one could have possibly escaped therefrom. The track was torn up for quite a distance. The wrecking crew from this city went to the scene and the west bound track was made clear after six hours' hard work by a very large force of hands.
No. 4 due here 12:38 [?? blurred] did not reach this city till 8:18.

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
September 12, 1903

[Wills is mid-way between Kellysville and Glen Lyn on a downgrade east out of Bluefield. Inasmuch as one train was a coal train, obviously both trains were eastbound, so it is interesting that a train that presumably had been serviced in Bluefield would need to take water after drifting downgrade for some 20 miles.]

Gordon Hamilton
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