Article From the Spring 2004 Issue of


The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation


Member Dave Lanni found the Spring issue of HEADEND of particular interest when he read Charlie Lowe’s history of the beginnings of the Rochester & Eastern. In that account, an accident was described in which a runaway flat car loaded with rails and carrying several men (including two officers of the railway) collided with an express car on the line. Dave has donated to the museum his extensive collection of materials pertaining to the construction of another local interurban line, the Rochester & Syracuse, and had written up much of it intending to publish a book. In his draft, there’s a tale of an accident on the R&S that’s quite similar to the one that befell the R&E. Dave writes:

"On Thanksgiving, a rather unusual accident occurred east of Palmyra [New York], as a construction train was hauling men and a heavy load of ties to the job site.

"About 7:30 a.m., a train of an engine and two flat cars left the yards at Palmyra. One flat car was piled high with ties and the other was loaded with workers. As the train was proceeding up a steep grade two miles east of the village, a coupling broke and the two flat cars started back down the grade at a rate that quickly increased to forty miles an hour.

"The men stayed with the flat car, knowing that the cars would soon ascend another steep grade and slow down. As they reached this grade, the flatcars did slow down and would have stopped safely except for the presence of a parked locomotive on the same track. The cars rammed the parked engine with force enough to roll the heavy ties over the second flatcar filled with men, burying them with the timbers. Almost everyone on the car was injured.

"Every doctor in the village of Palmyra was called to the scene. The rescuers were handicapped because most of the injured men were crying out in their native tongue and very few could speak English. All were given prompt medical attention and everything possible was done to comfort the injured men".