• Sabotage on the International Railway in 1922...

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by NYCRRson
I was searching on the website quoted by JoeS about the International Railway in Western NY and found this from 1922. Very Interesting… No, my father was born in 1923 and did not do this. I think “Elwood NY” is approximately at the intersection of Brighton Ave. and Colvin Blvd, just a little bit south of where the Twin Cities Expressway intersects with the Youngman Highway.

Quoting from the ICC:

September 8, 1922.
To the Commission:
On August 17, 1922, there was a derailment of a passenger train an the International Railway near Elwood, N. Y, which resulted in the injury of 21 passengers. The investigation of this accident was made in conjunction with the Public Service Commission of New York, Second District.
Location and method of operation.
This accident occurred on the Buffalo and Niagara Falls High Speed Division, a double-track electric line extending between Main and Erie Station and Terminal Station,. a distance of 17.84 miles, over which trains are operated by time-table, no block system being in use. The accident occurred about 1 mile north of Elwood; approaching this point from the south the track is tangent for more than 1 mile, and for most of this distance the grade is practically level. The track is laid with 85-pound rails, from 55 to 60 feet in length, with from 28 to 32 hardwood ties to the rail-length, single-spiked, and ballasted with slag. The general maintenance of the track was good. The weather was Clear at the time of the accident, which occurred at about 11.05 p. m.
The train involved was a northbound extra passenger train consisting of 3 passenger cars, coupled, in charge of Motorman Mason and Conductors Booth, Apothaker and Jarman. After receiving passengers at the New York Central Station, it proceeded from the city station to Main and Erie Station, the junction of the city line with the high speed line, arriving there at about 10.56 p. m. Conductor Booth endeavored to call the dispatcher on the telephone for the purpose of reporting his train, but after two or three unsuccessful attempts departed without having done so, his failure to report his train not affecting its right to proceed. The train left Main and Erie Station at 11.00 p. m., and was derailed at about 11.05 p.m. while traveling at a speed estimated to have been 28 or 30 miles an hour.
The first car came to rest in an upright position on the left side of the track about 250 feet beyond the point of derailment, the second car was diagonally across the track in an upright position, while the third car turned over on its left side.
Summary of evidence
Motorman Mason noticed that the lights used for the purpose of illuminating the platform at Elwood were extinguished and reduced speed considerably when passing that point. Just before reaching the point of derailment, he noticed that the tops of the rails seemed to be covered with dust, immediately after which he saw a hole in the track and applied the air brakes in emergency. After the derailment, he examined the track and found a hole about 4 feet in depth and 10 or 15 feet in length, while the left rail was broken. The conductors also examined the track and saw the hole which had been made. After the accident a southbound train was flagged, and after it had been brought to a stop Conductor Pensel of that train found a bag of dynamite on the southbound track, while Motorman Garrigan, also of the southbound train, said this bag was about 5 feet in front of the head end of his train, resting against a rail, with a wire extending across the running surface of the rail. He estimated that there were 50 to 60 sticks of dynamite in the bag.
Motorman Mason also said two men told him during the afternoon that he had better leave while he was able to, as he might go out on the high speed line and find a rail gone. Conductor Apothaker told of a man on the platform where the Oars were being loaded, calling out to the passengers not to ride on the car, that they were taking their lives in their hands, and that if they did not believe it they would read about it in the morning paper. Similar statements were heard by Conductor Jarman.
General Claim Agent Kline was traveling in an automobile on a nearby highway and heard an explosion a few minutes before the accident occurred. He noticed that it came from the direction of the railway tracks, and on continuing to look in that direction saw the train when it was derailed. He estimated the hole to have been about 3 feet deep and from 12 to 15 feet in length. A portion of the left rail was missing, but the receiving and delivering ends of the rail remained spiked to the ties with the receiving end bent inward toward the right rail, while the track in each direction from the hole was moved slightly out of line. Mr. Kline also said that the bag of dynamite found by Conductor Pensel contained 51 sticks, and that to one of them was attached a fuse and cap.
A portion of the rail about 4 feet in length was missing, but the running surface of this part of the rail was afterwards found among some trees about 1,200 feet distant.
This accident was caused by malicious destruction of a section of track by means of some high explosive, *** dynamite.
The warning said to have been given to passengers before the departure of the train, the destruction of a portion of the track by the use of explosive, and the finding on the adjoining track of a bag containing dynamite, with fuse and cap attached to one of the sticks, clearly proves this to have been a case of malicious train wrecking. The identity of the person or persons responsible for this accident was not determined.
Respectfully submitted,
W. P. Borland.
Chief, Bureau of Safety.
  by tree68
It would be interesting to know if there were other issues going on with the railroad at the time - labor troubles, etc.
  by JoeS
Wow. I saw that report but didn't read it... very interesting. I wonder if some kind of labor dispute was occurring at the time?

Ellwood Park was a settlement at the junction of Englewood, Highland and Belmont Aves. in the town, and was only about 1/2 mile from the ROW. It may be that the RR timetable - in typical RR fashion - had a different name from what the town was actually named.

If this is correct then the station probably was in the area of the Harrison Rd. crossing or certainly south of Sheridan Drive. Of course you may be correct in your location estimate since "near Elwood" is not very specific.

Is there anyone in the area that can do a quick field recon for old foundations along the ROW this weekend? :-D
  by NYCRRson
JoeS, my inital guess about the location of "Elwood NY" was just that. The train left Main St and derailed about 5 minutes later. Travelling at 30 mph this is about 2.5 miles. I think this would be somewhat less than the distance from Main St to Sheridan Drive. So your location is probably more accurate than mine. But it was somewhere between Main St. and Tonawanda.

Sure seems like some kind of labor dispute ? I never heard of this incident before and found the report interesting, wonder if they even had a "bomb squad" back then ?

Cheers, Kevin
  by Howiew
I know the area well and agree with Joe that the station may be in the area of Harrison. But I never saw any remains of the old high speed line in that area.
I have to find my book on Buffalo Streetcars and see if there is anything on the high speed line showing location of stations.
EDIT: I found the book. The title is "The Last Decade of Buffalo's Trolleys" by the then Buffalo Chapter of the NRHS. Nothing on the high speed line.
  by jr
There was a large strike in the Summer of 1922 by shop workers, against multiple railroads across the country. My Great Grandfather was a carman for the PRR in Olean. He went on strike, and never returned to the PRR. He finished his time working for the BR&P.

The strike in Olean was prolonged, bitter and violent - relations between the railroad and the workers in Olean (and many other places, I believe), never really recovered.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Rail ... ke_of_1922
  by NYCRRson
JoeS, I did some more mapblasting;

if you search on the intersection of "Harrison Ave" and "Center Ave" in "Kenmore NY" you will find the what used to be a RR crossing of the Erie and the High Speed Line. If you look at the mapthere is a gap between "Center Ave" and "Gettysburg Ave". This was the ROW of the HIgh Speed line and the Erie Branch to Niagara Falls. This gap between the roads starrts down near Main St and Lasalle Ave and heads Northwest out towards Tonawanda(town and city).

The report says the motorman slowed down and derailed at 30 mph about 1 mile North of Elwood, so that would somewhere around Sheridan drive. So the derailment seems like some place North of Harrison and South of Colvin.

Cherrs, Kevin
  by Howiew
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&g ... 8&t=h&z=18
I was doing the same. You can see where the high speed line ran near the former EL (ex-Erie) Niagara Falls Branch.
Between Englewood and Sheridan, the only crossing is Harrison.
I just remembered some of the older members of the Ellwood Fire Company when I joined in the early 70s telling me of a station stop at Sheridan.
I'm guessing that the derailment could have taken place between Sheridan & Colvin.
  by JoeS
Yep, I have to agree with you guys - the station was probably on the northeast corner of the Sheridan crossing. If memory serves there was a cinder-covered lot which accessed a team track about 300 feet north of the crossing. The lot may have been the place where the station once stood.

To digress a bit for historical purposes - a southbound C&O train went into that siding once after vandals threw the switch. The engineer must have seen the mis-aligned switch and slowed the train down, although the lead unit still wound up atop the loading dock at the end of the siding. Big excitement back in the day.
  by Howiew
You are correct about the location of the team track. When did that incident occur?
Getting off topic, when we had a response on the east side of the tracks, depending on location of call and route we took, any train traffic we had to call in to fire control and the direction so we could re-route following fire apparatus as we only had three crossings in our fire district, Englewood, Harrison & Sheridan.
  by JoeS
Regarding the derailment the best I can come up with is the mid-1960s. I think this was discussed some years back on one of these forums, though I didn't do a search.

I know it was the evening C&O train from points west, possibly Detroit, that came across southern Ontario and into the country at Niagara Falls, then to Bison Yard via the Erie. At that time there were 8 trains a day, 4 Erie/E-L and 4 C&O.
  by Howiew
Thank you. I knew that C&O had trackage rights. It was busy branch.
  by jimpellow
The Ellwood Station (IRC not the earlier Erie Railroad that was most likely somewhat to the south was situated between Harrison and Highland Avenues. About one third of the way north of Highland. It is referenced as a nameless bright orange station in "Growing Up/Pains In Ellwood". The 1920s Erie County Aerials shows it there with two paths leading to it. There are also several newspaper references to it in 1915/16 from a developer that lead one from the station to new housing on what is now Harrison. I do area history, rather than railroad, but felt confident when I inspected the area that a station had been there.

There is so much conflicting information about the location, distances, etc of the dynamiting it is humorous. It is also difficult to get a feel for the area as the 1920s aerial was probably circa 1926, and the dynamiting was 1922. The town went through a speculation boom at the time so much changed in a very short time.

Some smart local history buffs are confident it occurred just north of the Colvin-Belmont crossing, and there is a suspicious "hole" there on the 1920s aerials.

I, however, looking at the totality of the newspaper reports after the event, and reported courtroom testimony feel currently very strongly that it occurred somewhere between Harrison and Sheridan (which was built 1924-1925). Most reports state it was due west of the Curtiss Flying Field and witnesses speak of the being shaken in that area and seeing a car flee, close to where the explosion was, down Harrison to Belmont and then South into Buffalo.

One thing that has thrown me off about this as a location for the event is that I really thought that it was single tracked north of Harrison up into the Brighton area. So when reports stated that the train on the southbound tracks was flagged down in time one would think this area a non candidate. But I think at one point shortly after then they went to a single track there. Maybe due to the damage done, and/or perhaps because of foreseen issues with the new Sheridan Drive and Colvin grade crossings. The flag station which still stands at the corner of Harrison was erected in 1929 I believe.

That I am unsure of as a non-railroader, but perhaps somewhere here can add to that. As for the mystery platform on Sheridan drive, it is impossible to find reference to it as any kind of station and no sane old timer I have talked to claims to have ever heard it ever had been. My latest pie-in-the sky theory is that it was built for the offloading of construction materials and equipment for Sheridan Drive and all the other infrastructure that went up in the countryside during the speculation boom.
  by JoeS
I did some internet searching, trying to find out about Lewis Siding which I believe was immediately north of Sheridan Drive on the E-L (ex-Erie) tracks. I found a few things:

An article on the construction of the Erie line between Buffalo and N. F. referred to the addition of a siding at Lewis, NY.

Another article referred to Lewis siding, near Shaw Road... could that have been an early name for Sheridan?

Also the derailment I referred to in a previous post happened on August 1, 1963. Here is a snip from the Tonawanda News article, courtesy of Old Fulton NY Post Cards site, http://fultonhistory.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
This siding was indeed used by area construction companies to receive materials during the 60s housing boom. I knew a couple of workers from the M. J. Peterson Co. who were supposedly unloading one of the boxcars at the time of the incident. How they escaped injury or worse, is something we will probably never know.

Back to the original topic: One of my searches on the High Speed line brought up articles from the Electric Railway Journal, volume 60, July-December 1922. This was found in Google Books.

On page 304 is a description and photograph of the incident near Elwood.

On page 406, this incident was mentioned as part of an article mentioning the fact that the president of the company was offering a $100,000 award for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the party(s) responsible for this and EIGHT other "dynamite outrages" in the area in the same time frame. Most involved trolley cars in Buffalo, but there was another incident the same day as the Elwood incident.

Apparently, at 3:15 AM on August 17 the saboteurs attempted to blow up the Gill Creek bridge in Niagara Falls. The Elwood incident happened later that same day.

This removes any doubt in my mind that the incidents were strike-related.
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  by JoeS
Just came across this, from Old Fulton Post Cards site:
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