Monday, September 15, 2008

Sept. 15 1958

The commuter train wreck in California brought back memories of 50 years ago today. I am amazed how time has flown since a CRNJ shoreline commuter train pulled by two diesel locomotives ran through three stop signals and because it was travelling at full speed the derailleur could not stop the train before it plunged off the open Newark Bay draw bridge.

I believe that two cars were completely submerged and a third dangled over the edge of the opening partly submerged in the water.

Of the 48 fatalities the most famous was "Snuffy" Sternweiss who had been a New York Yankee second baseman. Before WWII Sternweiss had been an All American tailback at North Carolina. I had watched him play. He had a unique running style as if he was in a crouch, and close to the ground.

This was the second major New Jeersey train disaster in a little over 7 years. In February 1951 a steam powered Pennsylvania shore line commuter train known as "The Broker" due to the number of Wall Street brokers that frequented that particular train derailed off a temporary bridge over the Turnpike in Woodbridge. Ironically the bridge was wooden. 85 were killed and hundreds injured in that accident which was due to human error. The train was travelling too fast, the engineer had ignored the speed limit over that section of track.

Disasters are not planned, but preparations for one must be. What is our present status?

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