Salisbury Point Railroad Historical Society History Salisbury Point Depot

March 25,1908      INTO THE RIVER

Boston and Maine Engine Plunges Through Open Draw.
Passengers on Portsmouth Bound Train Have a Thrilling Escape Last Evening.
Cars Stopped on the Very Brink of a Yawning Gap With Certain Death Below.
Fireman Goes Into Water With Engine.

Crashing through the gates after disregarding the signals that had been set for an open draw on the Newburyport railroad bridge engine #23, hauling a train of four passenger cars, a freight car and a tender dashed toward the gaping abyss last night and only for the fact that emergency brakes were applied the entire train with its crew and passengers would have been hurled into the deep, dark waters of the Merrimac. The engine toppled and fell and with it the fireman, William Winn of Portsmouth. The tale of Winn’s rescue is a thrilling one.

The tender stopped on brink of the big gap while the engine hung for a second, then took a fatal plunge and went nose down and struck the water with a crash and roar that could be heard fully half a mile.

It is nothing short of a miracle that the entire train was not swept into the river with most horrible results. The engine’s beneath 25 feet of water. Fireman Winn of Portsmouth lies at the Anna Jaques hospital where he was taken after the accident, suffering from numerous bruises and the terrible shock of plunging through the air for 40 feet and diving to the river bottom, and then to figure in a remarkable and daring rescue.

While none of the passengers were injured, they were badly shaken up by the sudden stop of the train. Train number 92 hauled by engine 23 left Boston at 6 o’clock last night loaded with human freight. Many of the passengers left before reaching this city, so that when the engine dashed into the local depot there were less than 100 pass engers on board. The train was in charge of Conductor Emmons Garland. Upon its arrival here, water for the engine was taken at the standpipe near the Merrimac street bridge, and then the train slowly steamed toward the railroad bridge where a few minues later it was to figure so prornmently in such a stirring and almost tragic drama.

Thinking only of the dear ones they were to meet at the end of their journey, little thinking of the narrow escape they were to experience within a few seconds, the passengers chatted and joked, trusting in the men who watched the throttle for their safety. Why should they not hold the sincerest faith in these veteran employes, had they not for years traveled over this road under these men and never met with an accident. An accident, it was the last thing that entered the minds of the young and old who constituted this load of human freight.

Slowly the engine left the water-stand and as it crawled toward the bridge more speed was given. The train was making fast headway when it reached the bridge. Crash! With a nerve wrecking, sickening sound, the big gates were splintered and hurled to sunder by the impact of the big iron-horse. With thoughts of the terrible accident that seemed almost unavoidable, the fireman and engineer had little time to think of what was ahead. With a spring the throttle was grasped and in a second the emergency brakes were grinding and crunching against the wheels of the cars. The train had felt the brakes. It was a terrible moment. Slower and slower each moment the iron monster crept, snorting and puffing as though in agony to proceed. Nearer the chasm grew. The engine must go into the river, the fireman and engineer had saved their load of human freight, they must jump for their lives.

With a sharp snap, the coupling that held the engine and tender broke, and the engine as though rejoicing at its liberty, suddenly leaped ahead, poised for a moment in mid-air and dove through the inky blackness to the river 40 feet below. Fireman Winn stuck to his post and when the engine went into the water, he was in the cab. How he freed himself none but himself can tell. The remainder of the train stopped on the brink of the yawning gap, and the engine alone was wrecked. Hardly had the big iron monster left the rails before hundreds of people, aroused by the crash, were speeding toward the crossing.

When the engine struck the river, Fireman Winn managed to extricate himself from the wreckage and stake out for shore. His presence of mind, even in this dire position, never failed him and with shouts of Help! Help! he directed his rescuers where to throw the life line.

Captain William I. Hunt, drawtender of the Newburyport bridge, had seen the engine approach the open draw and the great presence of mind that has served him so well in similar accidents, he grabbed a life-preserver and dashed to the rescue. The tug Bronx, for which the draw had been opened, had passed safely through. Drawtender Ernest Hennessey of the railroad bridge, had grabbed a life preserver when the crash came and rushing to the edge of the pier, hurled it into the water.

The tide was fast going out and Winn floated with it. Captain Hunt heard his cries for help and rushing to the pier, hurled his life preserver at the point from which, the sound seemed to emanate. The cork-filled sack shot through the air and to those on the bridge was lost in the inky dark ness of the night. To those waiting it seemed hours. Suddenly from the water came a glad cry and the captain knew that his aim was true. The line was hauled taught and with the assistance of Drawtender Hennessey of the railroad bridge and Assistant Drawtender Samuel Truesdale of the footbridge, Captain Hunt rescues Winn from what looked at one time like a waiting grave.

Track Injured

When the great locomotive plunged from the bridge through the opening into the river the tracks were somewhat twisted and repairs had to be made before trains were allowed to cross.

New Regulations

It used to be the rule of the railroad company not to open the draw for pass ing boats within 20 minutes of train time, but it is understood that the bridge has to be opened now within a reasonable period after a tug boat has whistled.

Trains Delayed

The Flying Yankee and Pullman were delayed quite a while by the accident. The inward train was flagged in Salisbury and the Portland bound train was stopped outside the High street bridge. They went through at 8:35 Men worked at the bridge the greater part of the night.

Foot Note

Boston & Maine Railroad locomotive number 23 was a American class A-47-c. The 4-4-0 locomotive was built by Rhode Island Locomotive Works 2-17-1896. The locomotive was renumbered 1110 by the Boston & Maine Railroad in 1911. The 4-4-0 steam locomotive was scraped by the Boston & Maine Railroad in 1926.

The 4-4-0 Americans

The Boston & Maine Railroad had more 4-4-0 American locomotives than any other type. The 4-4-0’s were the mainstay of early motive power, performing most every task, pulling the passenger trains, freight trains and switching service. Many of the Americans were inherited from other railroads when the Boston & Maine purchased the Eastern Railroad and the Boston & Lowell Railroad as well as other roads. Many of the inherited Americans just barely saw the new numbers of 1911, before being scrapped.

Monday April 6,1908  RAISING THE Engine

Planned to Accomplish the Work at Bridge Draw This Afternoon.

The raising of the Boston & Maine locomotive from the bottom of the river will be accomplished this afternoon, unless some unforeseen accident occur to hinder. Yesterday the steam lighter, Esther C. arrived from Boston and was taken up between the bridges. The work was begun this morning by contractors, the McKie Lighterage Co. of East Boston.

A large crowd of people thronged the bridge to witness the preparations. The derrick was put in position and two divers were sent down to put the chain slings around the engine. The forward trucks of the engine were easily hoisted out of the river and placed on the lighter and this forenoon the preliminary work had been so far accomplished that the contractors decided that the raising of the machine, the engine , boiler and cab intact, could be accomplished this afternoon.

Salisbury Point Depot The steam lighter Esther The Newbryport draw bridge

Salisbury Point Depot The Steam lighter Esther C. with the raised forward trucks of Loco $23

The locomotive will, when raised be held suspended from the derrick and in that position the lighter will be deposited on the beach on Ring’s Island shore.

Salisbury Point Depot Here the engine will be righted and then taken to the P.& R. coal pocket wharf and placed on the tracks. The whole thing will be handled easily and will be interesting to the hundreds of spectators on hand to watch work.

The big monster weighing 62 tons was handled like an infant in its mother’s arms. with the powerful apparatus used. In the forenoon the two divers made two slings by passing chains around the engine and then the tackle was attached to the falls of the big derrick and the engines on the lighter started.

A crowd numbering nearly 1500 people, most of them having a fine view of the work from the Newburyport bridge, watched with interes. Many spectators were on the wharves along the water front.

Salisbury Point Depot This afternoon as high tide which is about 4 o’clock, the lighter with the engine still trailing in the water was pulled over to this side to the coal pocket wharf. Here the it was raised up and swung onto the tracks of the City Railroad.

Salisbury Point Depot Boston and Maine Loco #23 on the spur tracks of Newburyport City Railroad


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