Two Locomotives Collide while Running in Opposite
DirectionsThe Men on the Locomotives Jump for Their LivesFireman
McPeek Caught Between the Cab Platform and Tender and Squeezed to
DeathA Coroners Jury Summoned.
One of the first collisions and most serious accidents that ever occurred
on the Sussex Railroad took place on Saturday afternoon last on the
meadows below Newton about 3:30 oclock, which resulted in the
death of William McPeek, the fireman on the construction train. When
the news of the accident spread up town over two hundred people assembled
at the scene in a short time. For nearly one hour the greatest excitement
prevailed until the unfortunate man was released from his horrible
The employees on the train were very reluctant about giving any information
concerning how the accident happened, and it was difficult at first
to ascertain anything in reference to the matter. We have, however,
gathered the following particulars: On Saturday Foreman Moses Quackenbush
and Engineer Ezra McPeek, with his brother William McPeek as fireman,
had been sent out with a construction train with orders to wildcat
between the time of the running of regular trains. In the afternoon
they left Franklin with four flat cars loaded with railroad iron and
a caboose attached. As they were coming down across the meadow east
of Newton, Joseph Devore, engineer of No. 9, with Mahlon Slack as
fireman, and Mr. Devores little boy, after having put his train
away in the depot yard, started down the track to the big spring
to take water. As they went down the track Devore and his little boy
were seated on the engineers side, and Slack was at the tender
brake. Just after passing through the cut below where the stone crusher
is located, Slack turned as he applied the brake and saw the smoke
stack of McPeeks train. He says he gave the break two or three
turns and then sprang from the locomotive. He did not see Devore or
the boy until after he had jumped, when he saw them standing alongside
of the track. Devore says that the throttle was closed as they went
down the grade, and as soon as he saw that a collision was inevitable
he reversed his engine and jumped from the locomotive with his boy.
McPeeks train was coming on under good headway, although he
had reversed his engine and whistled down brakes. The two locomotives
came together about one hundred yards from where Devore jumped. The
crash was a terrible one, the tender of No. 9 was raised high in the
air and then settled back on the track. When the two ponderous 38-ton
engines came together, Engineer McPeek called to his brother William
to remain at his post, as he was going to. William was then standing
between the cab and tender, which came together at that instant and
caught him about the limbs just below the waist. In this horrible
condition he remained for nearly an hour before he could be extricated,
although Patrick J. English, Marcus Wright and George Davenport, all
practical machinists, strained every nerve to release him. His brother
Ezra, who remained at his post, escaped injury.
It was a terrible sight to those who witnessed it to see the unfortunate
man wedged in between the cab and tender all helpless in their efforts
to release him until the engine could be jacked up and pulled away
from the tender. Several present were unable to look upon the scene,
and returned to town. Physicians were at once summoned, and Dr. L.
D. Miller was the first on the ground, who did everything in his power
to relieve the sufferings of McPeek. Later Drs. Hood, Voorhees and
Morrison, who were detained at the Court House, arrived at the scene
and render such assistance as was in their power. The poor man was
conscious throughout the terrible ordeal, and requested that his wife
be kept in ignorance of the accident. After being released, he died
almost instantly. His remains were then removed to his home on Railroad
William Campbell, a track hand, was slightly injured by jumping from
the locomotive, as was also Moses Quackenbush, who jumped from the
tender of the construction train.
After the two locomotives had come together, engine No.9 started back
up the track and went down by Merriam shoe factory at about sixty
miles an hour. Some of the employees say it was impossible to make
out the lettering on the side of the engine. The locomotive ran as
far as the stone quarry switch, this side of Andover, when the steam
became exhausted. It was brought back to Newton by a wrecking train.
The tender of No. 9 was a complete wreck, and had to be removed for
the track and thrown down the embankment. The engine was also badly
damaged, the cab being wrecked and the braces twisted and broken as
though they had been pipe stems. The front of McPeeks engine
(No. 5) was torn away. The headlight was broken and large pieces of
coal from No. 9 lodged in the smoke stack and headlight, the pilot
was completely torn away and the heavy, solid braces beneath the boiler
were cracked in several places. A wrecking train from Port Morris
arrived in Newton Saturday evening and assisted in clearing the track.
That there was a very grave blunder or carelessness on the part of
some one seems quite evident, and it is a matter that should receive
a thorough investigation. Engineer McPeek claims that he had orders
to run his train so as to keep out of the way of all regular trains,
and that when he reached the "Big Spring" and entered the
yard limits, he sounded his whistle for at least a minute, which statement
is verified by parties living a the foot of Trinity street, and by
railroad men in the yard at the Newton station. This signal of alarm
seems not to have been heard by Engineer Devore or his fireman, and
that first seen by them was the smoke stack of the approaching locomotive.
It has long been evident that the running of locomotives to the spring
for water was a dangerous one. Only a few days ago several trackmen
were coming into the station on a pump car from the meadows. As they
were coming up the grade an engine going to the spring came around
the curve on them, and they were compelled to jump for their lives.
The pump car was struck by the engine and completely demolished.
That the matter may be thoroughly investigated, Dr. J. S. Newman,
Coroner, on Monday summoned the following jury of inquest:
Jackson Cole, Isaac Savacool, Levi L. Vought, Henry C. Stoll, George
Cummings, W.S. Black, Thos. Murray, John Q. Wharford, Samuel Hill,
Jr., Geo B. Case, Jacob Snyder, J.C. Andress.
The jury viewed the body at 9 oclock Monday, and afterwards
repaired to the scene of the accident . Coroner Newman then adjourned
the inquest until Wednesday next at the Court House.
The funeral took place at the Newton M.E. Church on Tuesday, and was
largely attended by the employees of the railroad company and members
of the O.U.A.M., of Newton of which he was a member. He was 42 years
of age, and had a life insurance of $800.