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Grand Central | Article

The Woodlawn Crash, 1907

On February 15, 1907, the New York Central Railroad Company initiated electrified rail service from Grand Central to the Westchester suburb of White Plains. The New York papers reported commuters' delight with the new train, although a few complained that it was too fast.

Grand Central, 1905 - 1915. Courtesy; Library of Congress

The following evening, the Brewster Local left Grand Central on that same track. At Woodlawn, in the Bronx, as the train rounded a curve, it flew off the tracks -- due to a design flaw in the new electric engines. In an instant 20 people were killed and 150 injured. The wreckage stretched for over a mile.

The press exploded -- they hadn't forgotten the Park Avenue tunnel accident. Newspaper stories relayed images of mangled bodies in graphic detail.

Central Wreck; Eighteen Dead

Dashing northward through the Bronx at a speed, some say of sixty miles, others a hundred, but officials aver only of thirty-five or forty miles an hour, the White Plains and Brewsters Express, one of the first new electric trains over the New York and Harlem Division of the New York Central Railroad, was wrecked in fearful fashion near 205th Street at 6:40 o'clock last night.

It was in many respects the worst wreck the Central has had in years. At midnight it was estimated that eighteen persons were dead, including many women, and more than 70 injured, many of them seriously.

The train consisted of five passenger cars with two of the new electric motor cars ahead of them. Near 205th Street four of the five passenger cars, beginning with the last, toppled over on their sides, left the tracks, and with the shrieking passengers in them, were dragged over the ties for a distance of nearly 200 yards before the train was brought to a standstill.

Express Wreck Within New York; At Least 22 Dead

The four passenger cars were piled in a single pile of tangled wreckage with almost every crevice filled with a human body.

Dead and injured passengers spilled from the cars were strewn all the way from Two Hundred and First street, on under the Woodlawn road bridge at Two Hundred and Fourth street, and then to Two Hundred and Seventh street, where the train finally came to a stop. For a distance of over 1,000 feet the tracks were strewn with parts of the bodies of the dead. Many of the bodies picked up along the highway of death were so badly ground up and so completely divested of clothing that it is likely to be a long time before they are identified.

Most Victims are Women
The greatest horror was wrought in the last car, which was just whipped from the track. The passengers in this car were almost all women and children. The sides, floor and roof were ripped from this car. There was little left of it or those who were in it when the grinding stopped.

Night of Agony in White Plains

The usual Sunday peace of this town was absent to-day. It was a day of mourning for the New York Central wreck victims. In some seven homes the families waited for news of the arrival of the bodies of some member of the circle, while about them were the evidences of the daily life of the missing one...

...Early in the evening those within the station and on the outside platform near the tracks heard the rumble of many vehicles driving to the rear of the station. Many of the women hurried to the rear platform, where a view could be had of the wagon arrivals. There they saw all of the ambulances of the village and two patrol wagon... Many of the women at the sight of the ambulances moaned and some of them turned away their heads

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