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Newspaper Accounts

Dispatch to the Chicago Tribune
Ashtabula, Ohio, December 30, 1876

The proportions of the Ashtabula horror are now approximately known. Daylight, which gave an opportunity to find and enumerate the saved, reveals the fact that two out of every three passengers on the fated train are lost. Of the 160 passengers who the maimed conductor reports as having been on board, but fifty-nine can be found or accounted for. The remaining 100, burned to ashes or shapeless lumps of charred flesh, lie under the ruins of the bridge and train.

 

The disaster was dramatically complete. No element of horror was wanting. First, the crash of the bridge, the agonizing moments of suspense as the seven laden cars plunged down their fearful leap to the icy river-bed; then the fire, which came to devour all that had been left alive by the crash; then the water, which gurgled up from under the broken ice and offered another form of death, and, finally, the biting blast filled with snow, which froze and benumbed those who had escaped water and fire. It was an ideal tragedy.

 

The scene of the accident was the valley of the creek which, flowing down past the eastern margin of Ashtabula village, passes under the railway three or four hundred yards east of the station. Here for many years after the Lake Shore road was built, there was a long wooden trestle-work, but as the road was improved, this was superseded about ten years ago with an iron Howe truss, built at the Cleveland shops, and resting at either end upon high stone piers, flanked by heavy earthen embankments. The iron structure was a single span of 159 feet, crossed by a double track seventy feet above the water, which at that point is now from three to six feet deep, and covered with eight inches of ice. The descent into the valley on either side is precipitous, and, as the hills and slopes are piled with heavy drifts of snow, there was no little difficulty in reaching the wreck after the disaster became known.

 

The disaster occurred shortly before eight o'clock. It was the wildest winter night of the year. Three hours behind its time, the Pacific Express, which had left New York the night before, struggled along through the drifts and the blinding storm. The eleven cars were a heavy burden to the two engines, and when the leading locomotive broke through the drifts beyond the ravine, and rolled on across the bridge, the train was moving at less than ten miles an hour. The head lamp threw but a short and dim flash of light in the front, so thick was the air with the driving snow. The train crept across the bridge, the leading engine had reached solid ground beyond, and its driver had just given it steam, when something in the undergearing of the bridge snapped. For an instant, there was a confused crackling of beams and girders, ending with a tremendous crash, as the whole train but the leading engine broke through the framework, and fell in a heap of crushed and splintered ruins at the bottom. Notwithstanding the wind and storm, the crash was heard by people within-doors half a mile away. For a moment there was silence, a stunned sensation among the survivors, who in all stages of mutilation lay piled among the dying and dead. Then arose the cries of the maimed and suffering; the few who remained unhurt hastened to escape from the shattered cars. They crawled out of windows into freezing water waist-deep. Men, women and children, with limbs bruised and broken, pinched between timbers and transfixed by jagged splinters, begged with their last breath for aid that no human power could give.

 

Five minutes after the train fell, the fire broke out in the cars piled against the abutments at either end. A moment later, flames broke from the smoking-car and first coach piled across each other near the middle of the stream. In less than ten minutes after the catastrophe, every car in the wreck was on fire, and the flames, fed by the dry varnished work and fanned by the icy gale, licked up the ruins as though they had been tinder. Destruction was so swift that mercy was baffled. Men who, in the bewilderment of the shock, sprang out and reached to solid ice, went back after wives and children and found them suffocating and roasting in the flames. The neighboring residents, startled by the crash, were lighted to the scene by the conflagration, which made even their prompt assistance too late. By midnight, the cremation was complete. The storm had subsided, but the wind still blew fiercely, and the cold was more intense. When morning came, all that remained of the Pacific Express was a winrow of car wheels, axles, brake-irons, truck-frames and twisted rails lying in a black pool at the bottom of the gorge. The wood had burned completely away, and the ruins were covered with white ashes. Here and there a mass of charred, smoldering substance sent up a little cloud of sickening vapor, which told that it was human flesh slowly yielding to the corrosion of the fires. On the crest of the western abutment, half buried in the snow, stood the rescued locomotive, all that remained of the fated train. As the bridge fell, its driver had given it a quick head of steam, which tore the drawhead from its tender, and the liberated engine shot forward and buried itself in the snow. The other locomotive, drawn backward by the falling train, tumbled over the pier and fell bottom upward on the express car next behind. The engineer, Folsom, escaped with a broken leg; how, he cannot tell, nor can anyone else imagine.

 

There is no death-list to report. There can be none until the list of the missing ones who traveled by the Lake Shore Road on Friday is made up. There are no remains that can ever be identified. The three charred, shapeless lumps recovered up to noon to-day are beyond all hope of recognition. Old or young, male or female, black or white, no man can tell. They are alike in the crucible of death. For the rest, there are piles of white ashes in which glisten the crumbling particles of calcined bones; in other places masses of black, charred debris, half under water, which may contain fragments of bodies, but nothing of human semblance. It is thought that there may be a few corpses under the ice, as there were women and children who sprang into the water and sank, but none have been thus far recovered.

Dispatch to Cleveland Leader

The haggard dawn, which drove the darkness out of this valley of the shadow of death, seldom saw a ghastlier sight than was revealed with the coming of the morning. On either side of the ravine frowned the dark and bare arches from which the treacherous timbers had fallen, while at their base the great heaps of ruins covered the one hundred men, women and children who had so suddenly been called to their death. The three charred bodies lay where they had been placed in the hurry and confusion of the night. Piles of iron lay on the thick ice, or bedded in the shallow water of the stream. The fires smouldered in great heaps, where many of the hapless victims had been all consumed, while men went about in wild excitement, seeking some trace of a lost one among the wounded or dead.

 

The list of saved and wounded having already been sent, the sad task remains of discovering who may be among the dead. The latter task will be the most difficult of all, until the continued absence of here and there a friend will allow of but one explanation - that he was among those who took this fatal leap.

The Morning After the Longest Night

The Wrecked Columbia Engine

All the witnesses so far agree to the main facts of the accident. It was about 8 o'clock, and the train was moving along at a moderate rate of speed, the Ashtabula station being just this side of the ravine. Suddenly, and without warning, the train plunged into the abyss, the forward locomotive alone getting across in safety. Almost instantly, the lamps and stoves set fire to the cars, and many who were doubtlessly only stunned, and who might otherwise have been saved, fell victims to the fury of the flames.

 

On the arrival of the Cleveland train, the surgeon of the road organized his corps of assistants, and made a tour of the various hotels, where the wounded were attended to, such help being given to each as was possible. The people of Ashtabula lent a willing hand, and all that human skill and money could do to save life or ease pain was done. The train which came from Cleveland for the purpose was immediately backed into position, and long before daylight the least wounded were being prepared for transportation to Cleveland, to be sent to hospitals or their homes.

 

The scenes among the wounded were as suggestive almost as the wreck in the valley. The two hotels nearest the station contained a majority of these, as they were scattered about on temporary beds on the floors of the dining-rooms, parlors and offices. In one place, a man with a broken leg would be under the hands of a surgeon, who rapidly and skillfully went at his work. In another, a man covered with bruises and spotted over with pieces of plaster, would look as though he had been snowed upon, except when the dark lines of blood across his face or limb told a different story. In some other corner, a poor woman moaned from the pain which she could not conceal, while over all there brooded that hushed feeling of awe which always accompanies calamities of this character.

 

Towards morning, the cold increased and the wind blew a fearful gale which, with the snow, that had drifted waist-deep at points along the line made all work extremely difficult.

 

At 6 o'clock, the beds in the sleeping-car of the special train were made up and such of the wounded as could be moved were transferred there.

 

The story of most painful interest to us - to all who will read this book, and all who knew and loved P.P. Bliss and his wife - is that told by Mr. J. E. Burchell, partner of Mr. B. F. Jacobs, of Chicago, who was on the ill-fated train. We give his account in full:

 

There were eleven cars on the train that left Buffalo at two o'clock Friday afternoon. There were two engines, three baggage, one smoker, two coaches, three sleepers and one parlor car. I should judge there were 250 passengers. We pulled out of Buffalo in a blinding snow-storm, an hour late, and ran at the rate of fifteen miles an hour until about an hour, or maybe only half an hour, before the accident, when she slacked up to about ten miles an hour. The second engine was taken on at about Dunkirk. Just before reaching the bridge, the snow was very heavy, and at that station near by, the name of which I have forgotten, there was every danger of being snowed in. We had lost an hour and a half from Buffalo to the bridge.

 

Before reaching the bridge, I went through the train and noticed that the coaches and the smoker were filled. The smoker did not come in its regular order. There were two passenger coaches ahead of it. Next behind the smoker was the parlor car, in which Mr. Bliss and his family were, and I noticed it was one-third full. I was in the car behind the parlor, and my car was filled. Behind that were the three sleepers, which were also nearly filled.

 

We neared the bridge at about 7:45, though due at Ashtabula at 5:15. East of the bridge, the country is rolling, and beyond the creek it grows more level. We ran on the structure at a rate of about ten miles an hour, and the whole train was on the bridge when it gave way. The bridge is about two hundred feet long, and only the first engine had passed over when the crash came, the weight of the falling cars nearly pulling back the locomotive that had passed over.

 

The first thing I heard was a cracking in the front part of the car, and then the same cracking in the rear. Then came another cracking in the front louder than the first, and then came a sickening oscillation and a sudden sinking, and I was thrown stunned from my seat. I heard the cracking, and splintering and smashing around me. The iron work bent and twisted like snakes, and everything took horrid shapes. I heard a lady scream in anguish, "Oh! help me!" Then I heard the cry of fire. Some one broke a window and I pushed out the lady who had screamed. I think her name was Mrs. Bingham.

 

The train lay in the valley in the water, our car a little on its side, both ends broken in. The rest of the train lay in every direction, some on end, some on the side, crushed and broken, a terrible but picturesque sight. Below were the water and broken ice; seventy feet above was the broken bridge.

 

Mrs. Bingham sank down in the snow, and I went back after my coat. Securing that, I went to her and carried her, with a dozen stumbles and falls, up the bank. The snow in the valley was nearly to my waist, and I could only move with difficulty. The wreck was then on fire. The wind was blowing from the east and whirling blinding masses of snow over the terrible ruin.

 

The crackling of the flames, the whistling wind, the screaming of the hurt, made a pandemonium of that little valley, and the water of the freezing creek was red with blood or black with the flying cinders. I did not then know that any lives had been lost. All had escaped alive, though all were bruised or injured. The fire stole swiftly along the wreck, and in a few moments the cars were all in flames. The ruins covered the whole space between the two piers, the cars jammed in or locked together. One engine lay in the creek, smashed to pieces, the ruins breathing steam and fire.

 

I carried Mrs. Bingham to the only house near by, and which appeared to be an engine-house. I was completely exhausted, and remained there forty-five minutes, when the injured began to arrive. I think there were fifty-two brought in alive, but one or two died after their removal to the town, where they were subsequently taken. The town was about a quarter of a mile distant.

 

I did not go back to the wreck, but from the engine-house door I could see into the ravine, and the fearful scene it presented. The sight was sickening. The whole wreck was then on fire, and from out the frozen valley came great bursts of flame. There were crowds of men there, but the fire beat them back, and they could do nothing. The wounded were lying around in the snow, or were laid on stretchers or taken on the backs of men and carried up the bluff. The spectacle was frightful, but those who had gone to assist worked steadily and well in spite of the intense heat. They carried away all who could be rescued, and then waited mournfully for the flames to subside, so that bodies might be taken out. As fast as the injured were secured, they were taken to the hotel. That was some time before anything could be done, for in thirty minutes after the fall it was impossible to get near it for the fire. I think it likely that a great many were buried under the cars, and lost in that way.

The hotel was about a quarter of a mile from the creek, and as the long line of stretchers and stout men bore the sufferers along, the stormy air was filled with moanings of anguish. At the hotel, the wounded were kindly cared for. Physicians and surgeons were early on hand, and every effort was made to relieve the sufferers. One lady, whose foot had been crushed, was carried shrieking in labor pains to the little hotel, and during the night she gave birth to a child.

 

From the top of the bluff to the water's edge it is, I should think, from seventy to eighty feet, and along that bluff there ranged lines of excited men looking down on the burning, helpless agony below. It was a heart-rending scene. The mangled, bleeding bodies writhed in the terrible tortures around them. Some died with prayer and some with shriekings of woe on their lips. Some were caught in the iron and woodwork, and held while the flames crept upon them and burned them in the very sight of cool, rippling water. As they died, they fixed their bloodshot eyes longingly upon the snow that beat pitilessly down, and lay white and beautiful on their smoke-blackened faces. The fire crept steadily on through the snow flakes, leaping from one mass of ruins to another, licking up the blood as it passed along, and crushing out human lives as remorselessly as it curled around the stubborn woodwork.

 

When the train fell, Mr. Bliss succeeded in crawling through a window, supposing he could pull his wife and children after him. But they were jammed fast and every effort of his was unavailing. The car was all jammed up, and the lady and her children were caught in the ironwork of the seats. Finding that he could not save them, he staid there with them and died. [the Bliss children were not on the train - editor]

 

Most all the passengers who escaped did so by way of the windows. There was no egress at the doors, for the stoves were there. One lady was pulled from a window, and almost every stitch of clothing stripped from her, and when they were taking her out the rescuing party could hear the screams of women and children for aid, but could render them no assistance.

Those who came from the wreck said they could see into the cars and could see the charred trunks of those who had been literally burned to death. They described them as wholly unrecognizable beyond identification, and presenting the most ghastly scene they had ever looked on. Some of the unfortunates were burned literally to ashes, and in some cases only calcined bones were left to tell that human beings had ever been there.

 

Of the fifty-two taken from the wreck, all were more or less injured, and about forty of them dangerously, if not fatally. I don't remember any names. I was badly shaken up and bruised, and I think there was only one man who was as little hurt as I was.

 

There was a fire-engine there, but there was no hose. I think the fire lasted about an hour, and by that time, all the cars were burned. I don't think anyone was taken out alive after the fire. I am fearful that all who were not saved before the flames got headway perished in the general conflagration.

 

I should say there were at the least reckoning one hundred and fifty persons killed outright or burned to death, and this in spite of the fact that some of the officers claim that there were only one hundred and sixty-five on the train.

I don't know the name of a human being among the killed, except Mr. Bliss and his family, and I don't know the names of any of the injured. All along the road coming from the scene are anxious men, fearful that friends or relatives were on the train and killed or injured. Perhaps some of them may yet hear of deplorable losses, for the railroad officials admit that there were over one hundred killed.

 

Fortunately, the dear children of Mr. and Mrs. Bliss had been left at Rome, and they were safe. The father and mother "went before" them into the valley of the shadow of death.

 

Copied for WholesomeWords.org from Memoirs of Philip P. Bliss edited by D.W. Whittle... New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1877. pp. [290]-296.

 

 

New York Times, December 29, 1890
The Story of a Disaster -- Anniversary of the Ashtabula Railroad Wreck -- A Terrible Night and a Terrible Loss of Life--How a Relief Train Started From Cleveland--The Scene at Ashtabula Bridge.


No man who was a witness of any portion of the terrible railroad disaster at Ashtabula Bridge on the evening of Friday, December 29, 1876--fourteen years ago today-- will lightly recall that event; nor will the pictures there displayed soon fade from his memory. The night itself was one not easily forgotten.
     
The wind filled the thoroughfares with pelting hailstones and snow, piled huge drifts upon one street corner and swept the stones bare at another; the unsteady lamps flickered and went out; the cold was intense, and those who had business abroad made short work of it, and with faces set against the blast made such headway as they might for shelter. The trains from the East and West were late, and the few persons who waited for the Pacific Express stood grimly about the Union Station at Cleveland, expecting the tedium of a long vigil, but with no premonition of the death harvest already reaped a little to the eastward.


Out of the grasp of the storm a mite of a Western Union messenger boy was blown into the office of a Cleveland daily newspaper. He shook the snow from his rubber coat, cleared his eyes from a film of ice, and drew from his pocket a slip of paper, which he handed to the city editor, and which read as follows:


9 p.m., December 29, 1876


The Pacific Express, Lake Shore Road, westward bound, has gone through the bridge at Ashtabula and is burning in the gorge, seventy feet below. Can I help you in any way.


George Lowe, Night Manager

There were various sharp suggestions in this, and room certainly for all the emotions of fear and horror the human mind can carry, but to the little group of men who heard it read there was one pressing idea that for the time threw all else into the background--work: and that of a decisive and effective character. Some were sent their ways upon varied lines of investigation, while to the writer of this fell the not inviting but truly exciting task of finding a place upon the relief train, sure to be sent, and of tying the office and the wreck together by telegraph at the earliest possible moment.
It was a hard race to the Union Station against the driving storm. The little telegraph office by the entrance was filled with operators, trainmen, and physicians who had been summoned from all directions, and officers of the road. Here was Charles Couch, Superintendent of the Erie Division, pale, but clear-headed, and giving orders in a manner that insured immediate obedience; Henry Stager, on whom fell the care of the dead or wounded upon all parts of the road; Charles Collin, the chief engineer, who knew ad few men did the defects of that bridge, but powerless to repair them, had been listening for this very crash for years -- poor Collins, who locked himself into his bedroom and blew his brains out while the inquest was in progress rather than tell the world all he believed he knew.


The relief train was already making up in the station yard, while a pony engine had been sent to Glenville for Mr. Paine, Superintendent on the road. It was announced that a start would be made as soon as possible. The telegraph now and then gave a morsel of news to the silent and heavy-hearted groups in waiting; sometimes the number killed and wounded would be lessened and then increase; the slow progress at the wreck was told, how the pitiable excuse of the engine from Ashtabula had been dragged through snow and storm, only to stand useless and unused upon the brink of the chasm; how the scores of wounded were being carried up the steep banks to places of shelter; how the flames were finishing the work of destruction wrought by the fall; and how the people of the little town were working like heroes to save such lives and prevent as much suffering as possible.


An hour of suspense dragged by, and still no sign of the engine that had been sent plowing through the drifts for Mr. Paine. The depth of the snow and the slippery tracks kept the locomotive moving at a snail's pace at best, while frequently the men upon it were compelled to shovel a path before it. But the run was completed at last, and when it crept into the eastern doors of the station all was ready for the desperate fight against the elements that the relief train must make before Ashtabula could be reached.


The clock pointed to a few minutes after 10 when the one relief car -- all the Superintendent dared to attempt to carry -- with its two heavy engines linked together ahead, started eastward in the very teeth of the gale. A number of railroad officials, a half doze3n surgeons, a brace of reporters, and three or four half-crazed men who had friends on board the wrecked train, composed the relief party. Half a mile up the track a halt showed that the snow was too deep even for the twain of giant engines. The trainmen were out at the front immediately up to their waists in the drift and with them a gang of shovel men. And thus the road was fought for, mile by mile, for the three and a half hours required for the run over the short stretch between Cleveland and Ashtabula. From Painesville two engines had already been sent ahead, on telegraphic orders, and were breaking a way over the last half of the run while the train was laboring upon the first, and consequently progress from that point onward was not so difficult.


Twice halts were made at way stations to learn the latest of the wreck. The tragedy increased in proportions with each report. The gloom of those on board was deep enough at the start; it was terrible as the last half of the run was made. One man, a prosperous and cultured Cleveland businesses man, who had been t the Union Station waiting for the wrecked express, was on board, and all that he knew was that his wife and little daughter were on that train--but whether alive and safe, or wounded, or dead he had no means of learning. At each stop he made desperate efforts to learn their condition, and it was not until he reached the wreck that he learned they were neither with the save nor the injured, but had been crushed side by side and burned out of all r3ecognition by the flames.


As the relief train drew toward Ashtabula a flare of light against the sky and fitful clouds of smoke that veered with the winds above the abyss, showed where the bridge had fallen. The steady gleam of a headlight upon the western abutment showed where the engine stood that only the lightning quickness of Daniel McGuire had saved from the fall, for two locomotives had hauled the train from Erie because of the heaviness of the road, and when the break came the engineer in front threw his while weight upon the lever, and with a mighty lunge the old Socrates parted its couplings and rushed up the already sinking rails to safety. The force of the engine was such that the tender jumped from the track and lay helpless and broken on the stone arch that formed a portion of the bridge. it was to Daniel McGuire that "Pop" Folsom, as he was dragged from under the second engine, bruised, maimed, white-faced, and bleeding, cried out: "Another Angola Dan!" The Socrates was soon covered with snow and ice, the fire out, the sharp winds lashing in vain fury about it, and its headlight still shining serenely and lighting the track clear up to the little station.


The relief train was one of relief indeed. It brought skilled medical and surgical aid; the authority that could assume responsibility, and bring order out of chaos; cheer to those who were able to be moved, and who were already longing for home; and the facilities by which the anxious thousands all over the land could learn whether their friends aboard the train were numbered among the living or the dead.

On the arrival of the Cleveland train, the surgeon of the road organized his corps of assistants, and made a tour of the various hotels, where the wounded were attended to, such help being given to each as was possible. The people of Ashtabula lent a willing hand, and all that human skill and money could do to save life or ease pain was done. The train which came from Cleveland for the purpose was immediately backed into position, and long before daylight the least wounded were being prepared for transportation to Cleveland, to be sent to hospitals or their homes.
 
The scenes among the wounded were as suggestive almost as the wreck in the valley. The two hotels nearest the station contained a majority of these, as they were scattered about on temporary beds on the floors of the dining-rooms, parlors and offices. In one place, a man with a broken leg would be under the hands of a surgeon, who rapidly and skillfully went at his work.
 
The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway Train, the Pacific Express, was doomed.
In another, a man covered with bruises and spotted over with pieces of plaster, would look as though he had been snowed upon, except when the dark lines of blood across his face or limb told a different story. In some other corner, a poor woman moaned from the pain which she could not conceal, while over all there brooded that hushed feeling of awe which always accompanies calamities of this character.


Towards morning, the cold increased and the wind blew a fearful gale which, with the snow, that had drifted waist-deep at points along the line made all work extremely difficult.


At 6 o'clock, the beds in the sleeping-car of the special train were made up and such of the wounded as could be moved were transferred there.

 

 

 


Harper's Weekly Magazine - January 20, 1877
 
Ashtabula, Ohio Train Disaster in December, 1876. Illustration from Harpers Weekly, January, 1877.
 
Our illustration shows the scene of the terrible railroad accident at Ashtabula Creek on the night of December 29, 1876. The train, consisting of eleven cars drawn by two engines, reached the bridge over Ashtabula Creek about eight o'clock, and was moving at a low rate of speed. The engines had crossed in safety, when the bridge, without warning, gave way, and the whole train, with the exception of the leading engine, the couplings of which broke, was precipitated into the ravine, a distance of seventy-five feet. The banks are steep, and the furious snow-storm that had been raging for several hours rendered it difficult for those who hastened to the scene of the disaster to reach the wreck. To add to the horror of the situation, the cars took fire from the stoves, and many passengers who were not killed outright by the fall were burned to death. Imprisoned by heavy fragments of the broken cars, or unable to move on account of injuries, men, women, and children met death in this agonizing form. Some, it is supposed, were drowned.
 
Help arrived early from Ashtabula village, but nothing could then be done to save life, except to remove the wounded, who had already been taken from the cars, to places where they could have surgical attention. The heat from the burning wreck was intense, and in the confusion of the moment the means which might have been used to extinguish the flames were not thought of until too late. At the water-works, within 150 yards of the burning cars, lay 500 feet of hose, the coupling of which exactly fitted a plug within pistol-shot of the fire, the plug being connected with a powerful pumping apparatus, and there being sixty pounds of steam in the pump boiler. The hose could have been pouring a stream on the fire within five minutes but for somebody's fault or stupidity.


A survivor of the disaster, Mr. Burchell, of Chicago, describes the scene in vivid colors: "The first thing I heard was a cracking in the front part of the car, and then the same cracking in the rear. Then came another cracking in the front louder than the first, and then came a sickening oscillation and a sudden sinking, and I was thrown stunned from my seat. I heard the cracking and splintering and smashing around me The iron-work bent and twisted like snakes, and every thing took horrid shapes. I heard a lady scream in anguish, I Oh! help me!' Then I heard the cry of fire. Some one broke a window, and I pushed the lady out who had screamed. I think her name was Miss Bingham. The train lay in the valley in the water, our car a little on its side, both ends broken in. The rest of the train lay in every direction, some on end, some on the side, crushed and broken. The snow in the valley was nearly to my waist, and I could only move with difficulty. The wreck was then on fire. The wind was blowing from the east, and whirling blinding masses of snow over the terrible ruin. The crackling of the flames, the whistling wind, the screaming of the hurt, made a pandemonium of that little valley, and the water of the freezing creek was red with blood or black with the flying cinders.


The number of persons killed can not be accurately stated, as it is not known exactly how many there were on the train, and it is supposed that some bodies were entirely consumed in the flames. The official list of the killed and those who have died of their injuries, gives the number as fifty-five, but it is supposed to be somewhat higher.


On this page we give a diagram showing the construction of the bridge, which was of iron. It was built about eleven years ago, and was supposed to be a structure of great strength. It had been, tested with the weight of six locomotives; heavy trains had crossed on both its tracks at the same time; it was believed to be well constructed of the best materials. Yet suddenly it fell under a weight far below its tested strength. No wonder that the traveling public anxiously inquire, "What was the cause?" Was it improperly constructed? Was the iron of inferior quality? After eleven years of service, had it suddenly lost its strength? Or had a gradual weakness grown upon it unperceived? Might that weakness have been discovered by frequent and proper examination? Or was the breakage the sudden effect of intense cold? If so, why had it not happened before in yet more severe weather? Is there no method of making iron bridges of assured safety? And who is responsible (so far as human responsibility goes) for such an accident—the engineer who designed the bridge, or the contractor, or the builders, or the railroad corporation? Was the bridge, when made, the best of its kind, or the cheapest of its kind? Was the contract for building "let to the lowest bidder," or given to the most honest, thorough workmen? These and a hundred similar queries arise in every thoughtful mind, and an anxious community desire information and assurance of safety. The majority of people can not, of course, understand the detailed construction of bridges, but they do desire confidence in engineers, builders, contractors, manufacturers, who have to do with the making of them, and in the railroad companies, into whose hands they are constantly putting their own lives and the lives of those dearest to them.