Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Steel railroad bridge over west branch of Tioughnioga River near Front Street, Cortland, N. Y.

Railroad bridge at center of image dated Nov. 2, 2016..

D. L. & W. railroad engine nicknamed "Sam Sloan."
The Cortland Democrat, Friday, June 16, 1893.

Evidence Taken Before the Coroner's Inquest—Opinions Differ About
Runaway Engines.
   The coroner's jury commenced an investigation to ascertain the cause, if possible, of the recent collision on the D. L. & W. in Firemen's hall last Friday morning. Coroner Moore empanelled the following jury all of whom answered to their names when the roll was called: Chas. T. Peck, foreman, J. C. Thompson, E. F. Jennings, J. E. Briggs, E. H. Bates, W. W. Gale, Lyman Jones, W. D. Riley, E. D. Mallory, and W. C. Crombie acted as coroner's counsel.
   Timothy Carroll called and sworn said: I live in Binghamton. Was conductor on train 18 on the night of June 5 and was in the wreck. I first felt a tremendous shock and thought it was an explosion. It was a sudden jar and then a stop. Was in rear end of last coach next sleeper, got out and walked to forward end of train. The engine was about 100 feet south of first car, with steam blowing off and water flying. Saw no one there and went back on other side of train to find engineer and was told that brakeman and sleeping car conductor had taken firemen out. Think the engines met near centre of bridge. When train stopped the rear end of sleeper was on bridge showing train had run about its own length after the collision. Rear end of baggage car stood on track, tank of engine was under forward end and the forward trucks of the baggage car were under its centre. Passenger engine was in the ditch bottom side up and the engineer lay under it with one foot sticking out. There were four cars on train. Think forward end of baggage car reared up and tore rafters off top of bridge. The work engine remained on track. Should say forward trucks of passenger engine were crosswise of track and this let forepart of engine down and made it pitch off track. The engines were 30 or 40 feet apart when they stopped. The forward trucks of baggage car were off track and this with the action of the air brakes probably stopped the train. The air brakes set the moment the pipes break same as if set by engineer. Have used yard engine No. 7 to run passenger trains and never experienced any trouble with it. We generally run it from 40 to 50 miles per hour between Homer and Cortland. Our train had right of way and right of time table that night.
   John Carrol of Oswego sworn says: I was forward brakeman on the train and was in the baggage car when collision occurred. Felt the jar and was thrown over among baggage. Got out of car and went forward. Our engine was down the bank and No. 7 was on the track farther south. William Wallace was engineer and Frank Sherwood was firemen of our engine No. 18. Saw leg of engineer protruding from under the engine. Fireman lay inside water tank where coal is kept. Coal had been thrown into baggage car. Helped to remove Sherwood. He seemed to be conscious. Have been brakeman on this train five years. Once or twice we used No. 7 on our train and it worked all right. Can always tell when engineer applies the brakes. Did not notice that he applied brakes before collision.
   Michael Dalton sworn says: Live in Oswego and was baggage master on wrecked train, was sitting in chair and was thrown forward on floor. Went forward to ascertain the cause. Saw Sherwood after they had taken him out. Forward part of baggage car was badly smashed. The end of one girder of bridge lay on sleeping car. Don't know whether engineer applied brakes or not.
   Rufus T. Peck of Cortland sworn says: Was in first coach on wrecked train.  Sat in first seat with back leaning against water tank. Felt two concussions, 5 or 6 seconds apart, the first one was heavy. Was first passenger to get out and went forward. Fireman was discovered in less than two minutes. Heard him groan and say, "O, Dear." He was [carried] to an omnibus.
   Fred Sherman sworn says: Live at 149 Tompkins-st., Cortland. Am fireman at Hitchcock's shops. On night in question at about 11:20 was fishing 20 rods south of the bridge, was about 12 rods from the track. Saw engine going north with no lights except torch in cab. Did not recognize engine but noticed there was no train with it. Saw it first below Grant-st. Heard No. 18 coming from the north and saw the engines meet on middle of the bridge. They rose up and dropped back. No. 7 ran back a few feet and the passenger engine struck it again. Both were then enveloped in steam and I could see nothing. It took me four or five minutes to get on the ground. No. 7 was puffing a little as it moved up the track but I don't remember seeing any steam. Heard passenger engine whistle at the crossing between here and Homer. No. 7 was then about Grant-st. I did not know both were on the same track.
   Arthur Harrington sworn says: Reside in Cortland. Went to D. L. & W. station between 11 and 11:30 night of June 5. I crossed the track ahead of the engine as it was leaving the yard. As it passed, thought I saw a pair of legs in cab. Steam was escaping from cylinder valves in steam chest and engine was moving very slow. Saw no one near it. Supposed someone was in cab and did not speak of the matter for that reason. I watched it until it passed Howard's store and thought no more of it until the man came down from Hitchcock's shops and said engine had gone up track alone. Could walk as fast as engine was moving and it did not increase its speed as I could see.
   Hudson Hopkins sworn says: Am a fireman at Hitchcock's shops and have been for nearly 3 years. Was on duty night of wreck and saw the engine moving north on south bound track as it passed the shop on Elm-st. Saw no one in the cab. Spoke to Wm. Clark of the Electric Light station about it and ran down to railway station and notified officer Goldsmith and telegraph operator. Saw Chaffee at Elm-st. crossing after the wreck. He was going north. The electric lights were shut down at 12 o'clock and I went up to the wreck. Steam was not escaping from the cylinder cocks when the engine passed me. There was no one inside of cab. I could see through it plainly. The engine was moving a little faster than one could walk. Have never been in the yard but once and know nothing about the condition of the engine previous to the wreck. Was about half way back from depot when I heard collision.
   Albert Goldsmith sworn says: I reside in Cortland and am policeman. I reached station about 11:10 night in question. Operator said train was 3 minutes late. Stood at north end of depot talking with J. H. Schermerhorn and did not see engine leave. First I knew of it was when Hopkins came running down and told us. Operator said something must be done as No. 18 was coming. Went into yard and called to Chaffee, but got no answer and I then went up the track. Ed. Garrity came with omnibus and I rode as far as milk depot. Saw no one on track ahead of me. Conductor Carroll asked me to get wagons and doctors and I went back after them. Did not see Chaffee at all until I arrested him about 2 A. M. in the boiler room of the Whitney shops. I asked him how it happened. He said he was on engine 5 or 6 minutes before it left, was in water closet [bathroom] when it went out. When he came out said engine was going out of switch on Railroad-st., and he started after but couldn't catch it. I told him I had called to him. He said he didn't hear. I spoke loud enough for him to hear. I understand water closet is about 50 feet from where engine stood.
   Jas. B. Schermerhorn sworn says: Saw engine leave and up to the switch to switch down. Don't recollect seeing anyone in cab. Steam was escaping. I think from cylinder cocks. Heard engine puff. Saw on one following. I told the operator what Hopkins said about escaping engine. Heard Goldsmith calling to someone in the yard. The electric lights were burning.
   Edward Garrity sworn says: Live in Cortland and drive an omnibus. Drove to station that night and saw No. 7 in yard. Did not see it leave. First heard it had gone when Hopkins came and a moment later heard the crash. Drove at once to wreck and brought Sherwood to hospital. The other 'bus brought Wallace's remains down.
   Geo. Mee sworn, testified:  Live in Cortland. Between 10:50 and 11:21 was at bathing house not far from where wreck happened. Boys by name of Bentley, Fred Terpenning and another by name of Van Bust were with me. About 11:10 Floyd Terpenning, a fellow called "Peggle" and two others came. One of them looked at his watch and said it was 11:21. Saw train coming immediately. Engineer had just pulled whistle as the crash came. We ran to wreck. Steam was escaping when we arrived. Never knew Chaffee until he was pointed out to me next day. Had frequently seen him standing in front of Opera House in the evening.
   Dr. Jerome Angel sworn, says: Am practicing physician and surgeon and live here. Went to wreck about 15 minutes after accident June 5. Engineer was dead. Was told to do what I could for fireman who was lying on grass. Someone was trying to hold him up. He raised himself sufficiently to allow the blood which was running down his throat to run out of his mouth. He had no pulse and hands were cold. I gave him a grain tablet of morphine. He was taken to hospital and Dr. Dana and I followed. Examined him at hospital. Right side of head, right arm from shoulder to hand and left leg from knee to foot was badly burned. Lower jaw broken in three places and several teeth were knocked out. Mouth was full of coal cinders and dust. Took Dr. Dana some time to clear these out with a sponge after which the cuts on his lips and face were sewed up. He seemed to be in great pain and groaned fearfully. About the time his face was sewed up he wanted to turn over. He died in less than five minutes after. Think he died from shock caused by the injuries. He may have been injured internally. He had wound under right eye. We never found any pulse. It was about 1:45 A.M. when he died. Made post mortem of engineer. He was literally cooked and must have been killed instantly. Found no broken bones.
   Dr. H. T. Dana substantially corroborated the evidence of Dr. Angel.
   Geo. A. White sworn, says: Live in Cortland and was night watch at Whitney wagon works June 5. Factory within 100 feet of where the engine usually stands. Engine room where I worked was 300 feet from engine No. 7. It was my business to keep up steam and make hourly trips through building. Saw Chaffee in the yard every hour up to 11 o'clock evening June 5. He sat in cab of engine two or three minutes before 11 o'clock. He was not in habit of coming where I was when the engine was in the yard. At 11 o'clock No. 7 stood just off the turntable toward Railroad-st. At 12 o'clock Chaffee came into the boiler room where I was and said "seven spot" had gone. He told me about the accident and said didn't know how engine got away. Was in water closet when it went. One closet is about 80 feet from engine, the other is over beyond where Italians' car stands. Have seen Joe Rose and Barney Metcalf in the yard nights. The night No. 7 backed into engine house doors, Joe Rose, was in the cab. I got in and stopped it for him. Chaffee was not there. Have known engine to start of its own accord. It was about three weeks ago. I was on engine myself and stopped it at once. Reversing lever should be left in the centre. Engine could move if lever was left in centre. Have known it to do so. When Higgins was there have seen him put lever in centre and then give her steam to see it move. It did not go far or fast as he stopped it. Before the ratchet was put on lever, it used to be in the habit of running away. Then watchman used to keep it well blocked. Don't know that it ever got away from him. Think Chaffee has been known to fall asleep when on duty.
   Eugene Higgins sworn says: Live in Cortland. I used to be the watchman in the Cortland yard of the D. L. & W. The witness, under the advice of counsel, declined to answer any of the material questions put to him.
   Louis Kistler sworn says: Live in Syracuse and am master mechanic of the D. L. & W. R. R. from Binghamton to Oswego. My duty is to see that all rolling stock on the line is kept In good order, also hiring and discharging help. I hire watchman for Cortland yard. I was never informed that No. 7 was not in good condition. Never knew her to start up when left standing alone. This engine was in Cortland when I took charge of the line six years ago. Have been in the employ of the road 57 years. All engines are overhauled once in a year and a half or two years. She was overhauled last January and was again examined carefully for two days commencing May 10 last and put in as good shape as possible. Had ratchet put on throttle valve last January and valve was then as good as new. Every engine is taken in every four or five weeks and has the boiler washed out and is generally looked over. No. 7 went through this process Jan. 19, Mar. 1, Apr. 10 and May 10. If an engine is to be left for any time with steam up I should leave cylinder cocks open and the lever on center and shut off throttle as tight as possible. To open throttle one must raise the ratchet, but when the throttle is closed, it is not necessary to touch the ratchet for it adjusts itself. I have never seen an engine move if the lever is fixed right even if throttle was left wide open. I don't believe it would be possible for it to start. After the wreck I examined this engine. The throttle valve was in perfect order. This engine was almost entirely rebuilt two years ago. It was as good as new. I hired Chaffee on recommend of the engineer, Mr. Fennell. At the time accident happened to engine house doors, the engineer said watchman let engine backup too far. I did not know that Chaffee was away from his post. The accident was undoubtedly caused because the young man did not close the throttle tight or else some one tampered with it.
   Jas. Fennell sworn says: I live in Cortland, was engineer of No. 7. Have had accident with her but only such as occur to other engines. Never saw her start when it was shut off. Think valve leaked a little four or five years ago. Am not sure. It has not leaked for two or three years. When I leave engine at night I leave it with back motion, cylinder cocks open and boiler full of water. Watchman has to move her several times to dump ashes and coal and wipe up. Been an engineer 8 years. Never had an engine start up if left with lever centered, cocks open and throttle closed. It couldn't be done. Watchman never told me engine was liable to start up.
   John Buckley, fireman of No. 7, and Amos C. Hobart, an expert from Syracuse, agreed with witness Fennell about the possibility of an engine moving when lever is left on center with cylinder cooks wide open.
   Joe Rose sworn, detailed his experience while left in charge by Chaffee. Said he undertook to run it back a little and couldn't stop it. He finally did reverse it and then it went ahead and he couldn't stop it. He called to White and he got on and stopped it. Never knew Chaffee to leave the yard without leaving Buckley or myself in charge.
   Fred Terpenning sworn, says: Live in Cortland. Was at bathing house night of June 5, with Geo Mee and others. I know George Chaffee. Did not see him there.
   C. Van Bust sworn says: Live in New York but work for J. S. Squires in this village. I was at bathing house with Geo. Mee and others night of the wreck. I think I saw Geo. Chaffee there. I won't swear positively. I did not know him then but I think he is the same person I saw there and who has since been pointed out to me to be Geo. Chaffee.
   Geo. Mee, Floyd Terpenning and Fred. Mosler testified that they did not see  Chaffee at the bathing house.
   The jury after finding that Wallace and Sherwood were killed in the manner sworn to, make these findings:


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