Saturday, May 30, 2009

BlackSheepSunday: First "Train-Wreckers"

Although this wreck isn't an Erie train and probably not due to a "train-wrecker", it's easy to see where even less dramatic wrecks are capable of causing severe bodily harm and even death to passengers and crew.  (Image taken from an ebay auction; date and photographer unknown.)
Wrecking railroad trains by putting debris on the tracks in order to steal any valuables aboard was a common plot point in films and perhaps less so in life. However, bandits weren't the only ones to deliberately cause train wrecks. Vandals did so, too. This is an account of the first "train-wreckers"; unfortunately, they weren't the last.



During the last week in November, 1862, the track-walker on the section of railroad near Andover, N. Y., on the Western Division, found obstructions on the track, so placed and at such an hour that it was eveident they had been put there to wreck a passenger-train. This being reported, a watch was set, and about 9 o'clock on the night of Friday, November 26th, a few minutes before the express train, moving east, was due, two persons were discovered going on to the railroad, one of them carrying a log-chain. Near the track was a portion of the wrecked gravel car, having one pair of wheels attached. The men placed this on the track over a culvert, on a curve in the road, and fastened it to the ties with this log-chain. The citizens who were on the watch pounced upon the men and arrested them at once. They were committed to jail at Angelica. They proved to be George Palmer, a cabinet-maker, and Samuel Allen, a blacksmith. Palmer and Allen were tried and convicted on the charge of train-wrecking, Feburary 3, 1853 [sic], before County Judge Lucien P. Wetherby. They were sentenced to four years in the Auburn Penitentiary. Palmer was twenty-five years old, and Allen, twenty-one. This is the first attempt at deliberate train-wrecking on record in this country.

Between the Ocean and the Lakes: The Story of Erie
Edward Harold Mott
Ticker Publishing Co.
45 Exchange Place, New York

Available for downloading: Google Book Search
1908 Edition:
1899 Edition:


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