Kew Gardens Train Crash
It is 6:32. The train bound for Babylon, after leaving Penn Station four minutes behind the Hempstead train, now comes barreling down the tracks at about 65 mph.
Suddenly, with a cataclysmic boom, it slams into the rear of the stalled train -- precipitating the worst train wreck in Long Island history, the worst in New York State history and the worst in the nation since 1943. The shuddering impact sends the front of the onrushing train plunging down the middle of the other train's last car -- cutting it in half lengthwise as if sliced by a giant cleaver and driving it 15 feet into the air.
In moments, death, destruction and chaos descend on the lonely trackside. Dolores Barnes is dead. John Barnes is dead. George Brown is dead. Stephen Brown is dead. John Steinheuser is dead. Bernard Bahn is dead. Seventy-two others are either dead or dying. Those who survived offered anguished accounts. Harold Rosenberg, 34, was riding in the last car of the Hempstead train. "I saw a terrific red flash and felt a jolt like an atom bomb,'' he told a reporter. He fell to the floor. He was bleeding from the mouth and nose.
"People were lying all about, screaming in pain,'' Rosenberg said. "Others beat frantically at doors and windows, which were jammed shut. Seconds later, neighbors from across the way arrived at the scene with ladders and jimmied open the doors and started to take out the injured.''
A head poked out of the window staring wide-eyed with blood streaming down the face. It was one of the dead.
That horror-stricken mask stared at clawing workmen for four hours. They ripped away the wreckage of two Long Island Railroad trains to pull out the dead and more important - to trace the faint cries of "help" which still sounded for many hours after the crash.
It was a scene of utter horror. The lead car of one train had telescoped into the rear car of the other. It was what railroad men call "a perfect telescope."
Neither car jumped across the track. It was simply that one car plowed into the other, sheared off the top, and sat there.
Neither train derailed, the impact pushed the stationary train forward 75 feet and split its last car lengthwise as the front car of the Babylon train telescoped into it, shearing off the superstructure above the floor and driving the roof 15 feet into the air. 78 were left dead and 363 injured, one witness described the dead as "packed like sardines in their own blood". A survivor recounted "All I could see was parts of bodies, arms and legs protruding from the windows". Many of those who survived the impact were trapped in the dark; unable to move in the pileup of dead bodies, amidst the screams and wails of the dead and dying. Help was soon on the scene but it was over five hours before the last of the living was removed from the wreckage