Year
1943

Train derails on way to New York

A new high-speed train traveling between New York City and Washington, D.C., derails, killing 79 people, on this day in 1943. An apparent defect in an older car attached to the train combined with the placement of a signal gantry resulted in the deadly accident.

The Congressional Limited was a newly designed train that would carry passengers through the Northeast corridor at the then-unprecedented speed of 65 miles per hour. On September 6, there were so many customers seeking to ride from Washington to New York that it was decided to add another dining car, of an older design, to the train.

After a stop in Philadelphia, the train began to pick up speed as it moved northeast of the city and the just-added dining car began to experience axle problems. Observers near the track reported that they saw the axle burning and throwing off sparks. Two miles further, in Frankford Junction, Pennsylvania, the axle fell off, derailing the dining car.

The derailment happened just as the train was approaching a signal gantry, a steel structure built right next to the tracks. The gantry sliced right through the dining car, instantly killing many of the passengers. Seven more cars derailed as well, pulled off the tracks by the dining car. In addition to the 79 people who lost their lives, almost 100 more were seriously injured.

A subsequent inquiry placed more of the blame on the location of the signal gantry than the decision to add the old dining car to the speedy new Congressional Limited.

A new high-speed train traveling between New York City and Washington, D.C., derails, killing 79 people, on this day in 1943. An apparent defect in an older car attached to the train combined with the placement of a signal gantry resulted in the deadly accident.

The Congressional Limited was a newly designed train that would carry passengers through the Northeast corridor at the then-unprecedented speed of 65 miles per hour. On September 6, there were so many customers seeking to ride from Washington to New York that it was decided to add another dining car, of an older design, to the train.

After a stop in Philadelphia, the train began to pick up speed as it moved northeast of the city and the just-added dining car began to experience axle problems. Observers near the track reported that they saw the axle burning and throwing off sparks. Two miles further, in Frankford Junction, Pennsylvania, the axle fell off, derailing the dining car.

The derailment happened just as the train was approaching a signal gantry, a steel structure built right next to the tracks. The gantry sliced right through the dining car, instantly killing many of the passengers. Seven more cars derailed as well, pulled off the tracks by the dining car. In addition to the 79 people who lost their lives, almost 100 more were seriously injured.

A subsequent inquiry placed more of the blame on the location of the signal gantry than the decision to add the old dining car to the speedy new Congressional Limited.

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