June 13, 2024
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Haunting and Tragic Tale of Vermont’s Worst Railroad Disaster

On the morning of November 26, 1887, a small rural community in Vermont was about to experience a tragedy that would go down in history as one of the worst railroad disasters of all time. As a train filled with passengers and goods made its way towards the village, no one could have predicted the horror that was about to unfold. In this article, we will delve into the details of Vermont’s worst railroad disaster, examine its causes and consequences, and pay tribute to the victims whose lives were lost in the blink of an eye.

Vermont's Tragic and Worst Railroad Tragedy and Haunting Rumors

The Hartford train wreck occurred on November 26, 1887 near Hartford, Vermont. A night express train traveling from Montreal to Boston collided head-on with a local passenger train traveling in the opposite direction on a single-track line. The accident occurred around 7:30am in dense fog. The two locomotives collided at full speed, telescoping into each other. The wreckage caught fire, trapping many passengers in the wreckage.

The exact death toll is uncertain, but estimates range from 25 to over 50 killed. Many more were seriously injured. It remains one of the deadliest train wrecks in Vermont's history. Poor visibility in fog was cited as the main cause of the accident. Questions were also raised about the adequacy of safety measures and procedures on the railroad at the time.

The disaster made national headlines and fueled calls for improved railroad safety regulations. It was one of the worst US train wrecks of the 19th century and helped lead to the development of more stringent operating rules for trains as well as improved signaling/communication systems to prevent such accidents.

If there is a haunted railroad bridge to be found in Vermont, the best place to find it would be in Hartford

railroad bridge accident hartord vt
Aftermath of the tragic accident

The Buildup to Disaster: A Brief Overview

Before the disaster, the railway system in Vermont was relatively undeveloped, and the trains were often overcrowded and poorly maintained. As a result, many accidents occurred, but none were as catastrophic as the one that took place on November 26, 1887.

On this fateful day, two trains, the Montreal Express and the local mail train, were heading towards each other on a single track line. The Montreal Express was running late, and its engineer, trying to make up for lost time, was driving the train at a dangerous speed. Meanwhile, the local mail train was carrying more than 400 passengers, far exceeding the recommended limit.

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The Fateful Day: How the Disaster Unfolded

As the two trains approached each other, disaster struck. Due to the engineer's excessive speed and the crowded conditions on the local mail train, the two trains collided head-on, causing a massive explosion that could be heard for miles.

The explosion and resulting fire killed at least 37 people, and many more were injured. The victims were mostly from the local mail train, as the Montreal Express managed to escape with only minor damages.

The incident was so catastrophic that it took days to clear the debris and identify all of the victims. The community was left in shock and mourning, and the disaster became known as Vermont’s worst railroad disaster.

The Aftermath: Loss, Sorrow, and Anger

The disaster had a profound impact on the community and the entire state of Vermont. Families were left devastated by the loss of their loved ones, and the public outcry against the railway company was immense.

Many were angry at the railway company for its negligence in maintaining the tracks and for allowing the local mail train to be so overcrowded. The tragedy sparked debates about railway safety regulations and the need for more responsible engineering practices.

Investigating the Causes: Negligence and Overcrowding

An investigation into the disaster revealed that the railway company had ignored safety regulations and failed to maintain its tracks properly. Additionally, the local mail train had been severely overcrowded, with more than 400 passengers on board, far exceeding the recommended limit.

The engineer of the Montreal Express was also found to be at fault, as he was driving the train at a dangerous speed in an attempt to make up for lost time.

Lessons Learned: Railway Safety Regulations and Innovations

The disaster led to significant changes in the railway industry, with new safety regulations being introduced to prevent overcrowding and ensure proper maintenance of tracks. Additionally, new technology was developed to make railway travel safer, such as the implementation of automatic train control systems, which could detect and prevent collisions between trains.

The disaster also prompted the development of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is responsible for investigating transportation-related accidents and making recommendations to improve safety.

Today, railways are much safer than they were in the past, and the lessons learned from Vermont’s worst railroad disaster have helped to shape the modern transportation industry.

Remembering the Victims: Honoring the Lives Lost

While it has been over a century since the disaster occurred, the memory of those who lost their lives lives on. A monument was erected in 1894 to honor the victims, which still stands today.

Every year on the anniversary of the disaster, a memorial service is held at the monument, and the names of the victims are read aloud. The service serves as a reminder of the tragedy that occurred and the importance of learning from our past mistakes.

The tragedy of Vermont’s worst railroad disaster will forever be etched in the annals of history as a stark reminder of the importance of safety regulations and responsible engineering practices. It serves as a cautionary tale of what can happen when negligence and greed take priority over public safety.

Through this disaster, we have learned the importance of proper maintenance and safety regulations, which have helped make railway travel much safer than it was in the past. However, we must always remain vigilant and continue to learn from past tragedies to ensure that they are never repeated.

As we honor the victims of Vermont’s worst railroad disaster, we must also remember that they did not die in vain. Their loss has helped to shape a safer and more responsible transportation industry for generations to come.

Hartford Railroad Bridge Accident
Tortured souls are said to re-live the gruesome event in perpetuity

The old wooden bridge was eventually replaced with a steel structure on the original concrete footings. The bridge spans the White River and Route 14 in West Hartford. Tortured souls are said to re-live the gruesome event in perpetuity, a haunting and tragic tale to be sure.

Some say that the area is haunted by ghosts of the hapless victims

It is said that people in nearby Hartford, Vermont often avoid that particular section of road, near the failed trestle, late at night. Probably just as well, since the few who have rallied their courage to venture forth have come back in a near state of shock. Whether it is truly haunted by ghosts or not doesn't really matter. The memories of the tragedy are certainly haunting enough.

The lingering scent of burning wood, a ghostly railway worker, and a small boy who materializes just above the river (as if standing on the ice), have been just some of the ghostly events encountered. Touching even the hardest souls are the plaintive cries for help, the wailing and screaming, as if those lost that night are reliving the tragedy over and over again, year after year.

A truly haunting scenario doomed to repeat it's ghostly, tragic origins for years to come.

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