by QB 52.32
Sometime after midnight in the early hours of Wednesday, September 11, 1968, residents of the village of Rochdale awoke to the thunder of an eastbound train coming down the hill from Charlton Depot piling up in the curve just east of the French River bridge 52.81. 58 cars of the 86-car train derailed in an area about .2 miles long with reports of cars piled 3 high. Local lore recalls the type of cargo scattered about the wreck, including giveaways the likes of televisions and butter, as well as witness accounts of canned corn, newsprint and rubber blocks scattered along the right-of-way. Though the NH merger with the young NYC/PRR-merged company was still months away, from the latter description it would seem the train was carrying a NH (Readville) block. Service resumed later that afternoon on the #2 track with trains creeping through at slow speed. The official cause of the derailment was mechanical failure, though apparently the reason was the crew fell asleep with estimated speed in the 40 mph curve exceeding 70 mph as the train rolled downgrade. It took years to fully clean the wreck up and dig out a variety of freight car parts bulldozed underground in the initial hours to re-open the railroad. Undoubtedly, this particular derailment, one of many in the succeeding years as New England's railroads deferred maintenance, holds the region's record for sheer size.