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New Jersey Herald - January 2, 1873 issue
A Night Among the Snowdrifts

Mr. Editor:-Myself and nine others, including one lady passenger, left Waterloo Station on Thursday morning at quarter past 11 o'clock for Newton by Conductor Burrell's train. The snow at that time was of a depth to seriously impede travel, and the storm increasing at every moment.

By the time we commenced going up the grade of the Waterloo mountain it was barely possible for the engine to pull the one car and keep moving. Finally we came to a stand-still, and the train hands took to their shovels, but the snow was of that loose nature that it was almost impossible to clear the way by shoveling, and the cold so intense that it was beyond human endurance for the men to remain out any length of time on the cutting wind of the mountain. We then cut loose the engine and would run it ahead for a short space to break open the road, then run back, hook on to the car and run on as far as the engine had pushed its way through. This, to say the least, is but a slow way of traveling, and we found the day slipping away and every prospect of spending the night in the mountains. This process of backing and filling as it is called, or in other words, running the engine ahead to open the roads, then hooking on to the car and pulling ahead as far as opened, is very exhausting to the water tank, and by the time we had nearly reached the summit we found we were just out of water, and no regular tank to obtain from short of Newton, but a possibility that we might get enough from the reservoir or some brook by carrying in buckets, to enable us to run to Newton.

So the engine containing all the train men with their shovels and buckets was cut loose and amid the howling wind and drifting snow, their cheery good-bye came back to us in the car. We then all felt that the chances were that we should have to remain there for the night as the probability was they could not reach any point to get water that night. We had left with us Conductor Burrell to look after us and provide for our comfort, and here let me say that a truer-hearted Christian gentleman never lived. Mr. Burrell told his passengers in his kind manner that he hoped for the return of the engine and to be able to get them through to Newton; but he also said they might have to remain just where they were until morning, at least, and set about preparing for their comfort. The stock of fuel was inspected and found to be sufficient for a few hours only.

An ax was produced and volunteers were found to chop down the small trees and carry them to the car which I can assure you was quite an undertaking, as the snow in many places was waist deep. Once in the car, the front end of which was used for mail and express matter, they had an abundance of room to work the wood up into stove length. Mr. Burrell found a saw which was of very great assistance. We unfortunately had a car with but one small wood stove and only green wood to burn, we had to watch it very closely to keep our fire going; but with every one willing to assist, we passed that long night if not exactly comfortably, without suffering.

Mr. Burrell by turning over seats and rearranging cushions made a very comfortable bed for his lady passenger, and with the addition of a large warm comforter which he produced, she was free from cold for the night. And I will say here that in all my railroad experiences of being snow-bound, as the phrase is, I never saw a party of travelers who as good-naturedly adapted themselves to the situation and endeavored each to make the other comfortable.

And let me here speak of Mr. Burrell's assistants who after shoveling and working all day in the storm, brought out their own scanty lunch from dinner pails and generously divided with hungry passengers. Friday morning found us in that wild place barely comfortable from the cold, and with famishing appetites, many of us not having tasted food since early on Thursday morning. It was resolved to send out a party to see if they could not force their way through the snow to Lambert Hamler's place, a distance little less than a mile, and get some provisions, but previous to their starting Mr. Reis, a student of the Theological College of New Brunswick, expressed a desire to offer up prayers to Almighty God for our safe deliverance. And I doubt if through the length and breadth of our land a more devout and fervent prayer was offered up to the Almighty on that wild morn than was thus offered up in that lone car and in those wild woods.

A party of five started with Mr. Burrell to try and get through to Hamler's. After an absence of nearly three hours they returned drawing Mr. Hamler's sleigh with them down the track and reporting that a good breakfast was awaiting us at Mr. Hamler's. Our stay in that car after that report was of the shortest kind.

The sleigh was drawn up to the car, the lady passenger put in, the bell cord taken out of the car and doubled and attached to the sleigh, and grasped by strong hands we started, arriving at Mr. Hamler's without any mishap but thoroughly chilled for it was so intensely cold that we could not keep warm walking, although some part of the way we were wallowing through snow waist deep.

Of Mr. Hamler I cannot say enough. They left nothing undone for our comfort. A bountiful repast was provided for us and the heat of fires to thaw us out, with a kind tender of their house and all things in it for our comfort until we could be sure of the roads being open and of our getting through. About 5 o'clock we heard the welcome sound of our engine's whistle, and it soon passed by us in company with another engine and caboose, at a fearful speed throwing the snow like a whirlwind.

We knew they were going down for our car and expected they would on their return take us aboard and got ourselves up to the track; but as they were going to put our car on the siding at the summit and then push on to Waterloo to see if any passengers or mails were there, they shouted to us in passing that they would pick us up on their return. So we returned to Hotel de Hamler and enjoyed a good dinner.

On the return from Waterloo, we were kindly taken aboard, and found the bone and muscle of the Sussex road, for every employee of that company from trackman up had been working day and night to force and keep open their road. Among the many familiar faces in that closely packed car I noticed that old veteran Jimmy Daly, never happier than when plowing or shoveling through a snowdrift. And I think that all will agree with me that too much praise cannot be bestowed upon the management of the Sussex road for the energetic measures always taken by that company to keep their road open during the severe winter snow storms, and the result is that the Sussex road is open to-day while its connecting roads are still snow-bound.

We arrived in Newton about 9 o'clock, happy and thankful to reach home.


Newton, December 28, 1872.