Atlantic City Train Wreck
By the wrecking of a three-coach electric train on the West Jersey and Seashore railroad, this afternoon, at least fifty passengers perished and the list may reach a total of 75.
While crossing a draw bridge spanning the waterway known as "the thoroughfare" which separates Atlantic City from the mainland, the train left the track and plunged into the water.
The passengers in the first two coaches, with one or two exceptions, were drowned. Up to midnight 25 bodies had been recovered, and, it is believed, at least 25, and possibly 50 more bodies, are still in the submerged coaches.
At least fifty persons lost their lives this afternoon when a three-car train of the Pennsylvania Railroad's newly equipped electric service from Camden to this resort plunged into the water from a drawbridge. The exact number of the dead will not be known until to-morrow, when divers are expected to reach the car, now submerged.
The accident occurred at the Thoroughfare, a stream something like the Coney Island Creek at New York's resort, and similarly situated.
Whether the accident resulted from the spreading of rail or from the failure of overlapping rails to meet nicely at the drawbridge has not been determined yet. The latter theory seems to be held by most of those who have looked into the conditions.
Two of the cars of the train lie thirty feet below the surface of the Thoroughfare late to-night, while the third car hangs from the abutment of the bridge, its front end submerged in the swift-running tide.
It seems probable to-night that this is the worst disaster recorded in recent years at least against an Eastern railroad. Penned in the cars, the doors shut, and the vestibules between tightly closed, making escape practically an impossibility, a hundred passengers were bumped and tossed for fifty yards over the ties of the bridge after crossing the draw and then plunged over into the Thoroughfare. Not a soul in the first two cars had the slightest chance to escape.
What had gone wrong? The operation of the bridge had been tested following the recent electrification of the line; and a westbound train had already crossed following the opening without incident. Investigation later revealed that the interlocking of the signals only worked on the bridges lateral positioning; not its height. In order to disengage the bridge was raised slightly; on this occasion it had not returned to the correct level. The weight of the westbound train had depressed the bridge, so allowing it to pass; but the same had not happened for the eastbound; leaving two of its shiny new carriages totally submerged in thirty feet of water.
The accident led to what is regarded as the first ever press release when public relations expert Ivy Lee, working with the Pennsylvania Railroad convinced them to present a statement to journalists at the scene of the accident. The New York Times printed it word-for-word on 30 October, 1906