Length: 45 minutes
Time Period: 1934- 1955
Locations: Queens New York, Brooklyn, Olathe KS, Bridgeport CT, Carlin NV, Woodbridge NJ, Indiana Harbor, IN, more..
Sources: Newsreels. (black & white film)
A dozen major train wrecks are seen in this program. The scenes appear to have been filmed by news cameras of the time. Even one steam locomotive collision is purposely staged. Sometimes, the disasters in progress, look chaotic. Others are strange-looking, as railroad workers struggle to repair a site, as rescue personnel are still dealing with a wreck. Most of the wrecks had already completed rescue operations, but not all were evacuated before cameras filmed. There are some graphic shots that are unsuitable for sensitive viewers.
Although the entire show is shown in black and white film, the film is very clear. Nighttime wreckage is illuminated by floodlights. Access to all of the sites is unrestricted. All the earmarks of official, media access are present.
The screen has a detailed header, that is shown at the beginning of each report. Date, location, railroad, type of wreck, fatalities, injuries and speed, are some of what is listed.
A documentary style has been used to communicate a high level of detail, for each wreck. The busy narrator is constantly giving information, as the scenes are viewed. Root causes and in some instances, major discrepancies with official findings, are discussed. Some of the causes remain a mystery. The no-nonsense, direct narrative is fitting to the serious subject matter.
Major railroads and some named passenger trains are involved. Busy commuter wrecks have high numbers of fatalities and injuries. Operator error, structural failure and sabotage are some causes. There are disastrous results. Some of rhe disasters are…
1934: Boston and Maine had The Potato Wreck at Clinton, MA.
1934: Long Island Railroad with The Vandeveer Park collision.
1936: Santa Fe mixed freight with 25 tank cars was a derailment, has very watchable footage, that anyone could see. Very bizzare scene, as ATSF workers are busily clearing wreckage, repairing track and in very close proximity to the still burning gasoline tank cars! The flames are large enough to melt the steel. Those cars are being dragged across the disaster and still on fire. Huge fires are just a short distance up the track. Smoke is everywhere, as the 250,000 gallons of gasoline burns. Unbelievable to see . Modern OSHA standards would not approve of the safety issues.
1938: Milwaukee Road’s The Olympian has crashed into Custer Creek. Flash flooding washed out the bridge.
1939: Southern Pacific’s City of San Francisco was a victim of sabotaged roadbed in Carlin, NV. This case remains unsolved.
1940: Death Curve on New York Central. The Lake Shore Limited derailed near Utica, NY. Excessive speed on the curve. Later, New York Central widened the curvature. Heavy rain does not deter a large crowd.
1950: Long Islands macabre scene at Kew Gardens, NY was a very deadly, infamous collision . 78 killed/ 350 injured. Filmed at night, during the ongoing rescue. Viewer discretion advisement on this very graphic film sequence.
1951: Pennsylvania had an even worse passenger derailment. The Broker derailed on a temporary trestle. 84 killed/ 450 injured.
In a heavy blizzard, with poor visibility, a 77 mph passenger train collided into another. Union Pacific’s City of San Francisco and City of Los Angeles collision occurred, in 1951. The massive passenger car and other wreckage is still being cleared by huge railroad cranes in Wyoming. Freight trains go about their business, albeit slowly, in the background. 35 pieces of equipment were derailed. The two trains had also crashed into a freight train, on an adjacent track, making it a three way crash.
1955: New Haven’s Federal Express had derailed badly. The sight of twisted mainline track, at Bridgeport, CT., is unreal. The big electric locomotive tumbled down an embankment, right into an unlucky switcher. Track repairs are already underway, as cleanup is in progress. Many questions arise regarding the blame placed on the dead engineer. Was this a coverup for other New Haven mistakes? Was the engineer already dead, before the accident?
This show is a good, solid documentary on train wrecks. Well researched and professional presentation. Some footage is not suitable for children. Railfan types will find this an engaging look at the subjects that are reported.
Rating: 4 Stars