Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Bit of Local History

I found this article at the Old Fulton Post Cards website. James Hollington was my cousin. What this article doesn’t tell is that he wasn’t scheduled to be the fireman on this train. He had taken the run of James Robertson who left the train in Syracuse.

Unnamed newspaper, no date, a part of a scrapbook

Way It Used To Be
by Grace Lynch

The Wreck of The Flyer

About forty- five years ago when automobiles on our streets were outnumbered by horses ten to one, the railroads operated about two dozen passenger trains a day through Fulton.

Each railway had one train in which it took special pride and on the D. L. and W. such a train was the Manhattan Flyer which made the run every night from Oswego to New York.

One night in October, 1914, the flyer was speeding through the town of Granby, its whistle screeching a warning as it approached the crossing at Bowens Corners Rd. It tore across the road at high speed and right on time. Minutes later, residents of the area heard a terrific crash and a great hissing of steam as the huge locomotive jumped the tracks taking several cars full of passengers with it. The heavy engine and tender tipped over and settled deep in soft muck land.

In no time at all, people were making their way toward to wreck to begin the work of rescue. Railroad men were rushed here from Oswego to find that dozens of volunteers, including several doctors were trying desperately to free the impris-oneid (sic) passengers while others worked valiantly to prevent fire from the engine spreading to the rest of the train.

It took hours for the workers to get the passengers out and to attend to the injured. They were battered and bruised and badly shaken up, many of them with broken bones, but none fatally hurt.

The train crew was not so fortunate. Engineer Charles Wilson of Fulton was found unconscious and terribly burned close by the engine. He died two days later in the Fulton hospital, but before his death he insisted on what the railroad officials had already noted to be true - that the switch light indicated a clear track ahead.

The body of Fireman James Hollington of Syracuse was nowhere to be found. Heavy equipment was sent here in an endeavor to lift the locomotive. Great crowds of people streamed along the tracks and stood for hours watching the work. It took two days of constant effort to lift the great engine and the fireman's body was found buried beneath it.

It was the worst wreck that the D. L. and W. had suffered in years and there was clear evidence, railroad men declared, that the switch had been tampered with. Lackawanna president Truesdale offered a reward of $3,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for it.

For a time nothing happen. Then a man named Carey heard a young fellow boasting to a group of boys that he and two of his pals had wrecked the flyer. Carey at once reported the conversation to the police and they with the railroad detectives, began to question the youth. Soon they learned the names of his two companions and they, too, were rounded up.

Gradually, the story was pieced together. All three boys had been inmates of the State School for feeble minded in Syracuse. They had run away from the institution and after wandering, about the city for a time, they made their way to the D. L. and W. yards.

A freight train ready to pull out suggested to them a way of getting far beyond the reach of school authorities. Not knowing where they were headed, they climbed aboard just as the train was headed out, bound for Oswego. Shortly after they had passed South Granby, a train man discovered them and put them off.

In their anger at the rough treatment they had received, they vowed to get even with the railroad. As they tramped along, the track toward Fulton in the evening, they came upon the switch south of the Bowens Corners Road. The sight of it gave the oldest of the three an idea for revenge. With the help of the other two, he broke the switch lock, turned the switch, but left the light still set for a clear track. Then they hid in a thicket to see what would happen.

All three were tried on a murder charge the leader was found guilty. However, after he was found mentally defective by a commission appointed to examine him, he was sentenced for life to the institution for the criminally insane at Matteawan, NY. The other two were returned to the State School in Syracuse.

But that was not quite the end of the story. When Mr. Carey applied for the $3,000 reward, no cash was forthcoming. Finally , he brought court action against the railroad to obtain it. Eventually the State Supreme Court decided the case in his favor and at long last he received his reward.

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