B & O Station

The B & O Station at Childs in 1891.

Q: Do you have any information on a serious train wreck that occurred in Childs about 1900?

— Sam Mitchock

A: One of Cecil County’s most serious railroad crashes occurred there on June 20, 1890. Early on that Friday morning, the overnight Baltimore & Ohio Express Train, No. 114, bound for New York hurtled across Cecil County. As the engine, baggage car, and two Pullman sleepers neared Childs Station, it was going full speed, the throttle opened up to 55 miles an hour. Seconds after passing the dark station, the engine rushed onto the high overpass that spans Blue Ball Road. There the connecting rod on the left drive wheel of the locomotive broke, the one end flying up and demolishing the part of the cab where Fireman John McNamara of Philadelphia was sitting.

The rod struck the railroader, hurtling him from the cab to the roadside. Instantly killed, his skull was fractured, and both arms were broken. Engineer J. P. Fitzgerald applied the airbrake, reversed the engine, and escaped injury by jumping behind the firebox. In the first Pullman, seventeen passengers were asleep when with a terrifying, shuddering jolt and bang the heavy car hurled down the fifty-foot embankment. The heavy coach broke into two fragments as the sound of twisting metal filled the air, the car striking against a stone abutment. Crawling out of the break created by the impact, all the passengers were more or less injured. Chief Engineer Charles Ackenheil of the Staten Island Railroad was aboard this car, and he was thrown into the roadway where he was found unconscious in a pool of blood. He was put on a train for Philadelphia but died before reaching there. Engineer Fitzgerald, not realizing that the rear coaches, had toppled off the high bridge at Blue Ball Road, grabbed a lantern, starting off to search for his fireman. But to his horror, he found that the two passenger cars had toppled some distance down the steep drop. About the same time conductor Robertson rushed back to the Childs Station to telegraph Philadelphia for urgently needed assistance. There a special train with surgeons was assembled and rushed to the scene to render medical aid. The injured were then moved to that City. Coroner Litzenberg summoned a jury with Daniel Harvey as foreman, the coroner’s jury rendering ed a verdict in the case of the deaths “in accordance with the facts” and exonerated the company from any fault.

— Mike Dixon

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