Monsey Memories: Spring Valley Railroad Plunges 30 Feet in 1880
By: Yitzy Fried
Railroad travel is a thing of the past in Rockland County, but in the days of yore, it was the primary means of transportation. In 1880, a terrible accident occurred on the New Jersey and New York Railroad while the train approached Spring Valley, as we read in the New York Times.
“A plunge of thirty feet. Two cars thrown from an embankment at Spring Valley and totally wrecked. Seventeen passengers injured. Scenes in the neighborhood of the accident. By the breaking of one of the axles of a tender, a train of two cars on the New Jersey and New York Railroad was yesterday morning plunged down an embankment 30 feet in height, near Spring Valley, Rockland County, carrying with them about 50 passengers.
“Miraculous as it may appear, not one person was injured, and scarce escaped entirely unhurt. The train to which this accident occurred left Stony Point at 7:20, in the charge of Conductor Wanmaker. It consisted of the engine Westwood, a coach and a smoking and a baggage car combined.
“The train arrived at Spring Valley at 7:48, and left at 7:49, promptly on schedule time. There were then in the smoking car about 15 or 20 passengers, and in the rear coach about 25 passengers, many of whom were women. After leaving Spring Valley, the train ran at the top rate of 20 miles an hour around a sharp curve, and had just shot out upon an embankment—three-quarters of a mile from the station—which carries the track from 30 to 50 feet above a pretty valley, where the forward axle of the forward truck of the tender broke.
“The engineer, Levi Conklin, sounded the signals to apply brakes, and at the same moment there was a shock, the rear of the tender was thrown under the platform of the smoking car, and then the engine became detached from the cars and ran ahead.
“Near to the wreck, not more than 300 yards from the points where the train left the track, is the house of Peter T. Ackerman (a public official from Rockland County during the 1880’s). Several ladies from this house went to the wreck and offered to shelter all wounded persons…
“The tender was supplied with a new axle before 4 o’clock, and was in running order last night. The passenger cars remained where they fell and are to be removed this morning by a wrecking train. Nobody on the ground knew whether the acles of the tender had been recently tested how long they had been in use. Several wounded persons made their way to their homes, and the following list of injured persons is believed to be complete.”
The Times goes on to list each of the passengers and their experience in this accident, concluding a dramatic retelling of a day on the railroad tracks in Spring Valley.