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The 1950 Richmond Hill / Kew Gardens, NY Long Island Railroad Train Wreck.
[Photograph from the Collection of Ron Ziel.]

[The following is excerpted from Train Wrecks Crashes and Disasters 1934 - 1955 (Questar Video, Inc. 1995) at 27m:30s.]

The Wreck at Kew Gardens

"Train 780's motorman will testify that he slowed his train in response to two caution signals. He found that his brakes would not release, however, and so he brought his train to a stop and deployed his rear brakeman to protect the train. Long Island [Railroad] personnel will testify that Train 174 was then given a "Stop and Proceed" signal, indicating that a train was ahead of it. Records will indicate that Train 174 slowed accordingly, but then proceeded forward, almost as though its motorman had read the wrong signal. Train 780's brakeman reports that he signaled frantically with his lantern but was unable to stop the following train. Speed at impact will be determined as more than 35 mph."

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[The following article is reprinted from The Long Island Press, p. 6, cols. 3 - 5 (Nov. 24, 1950)]

Eye-Witness Account

Dead Face Stared at Rescuers

By B. JOHN MARKA, United Press

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.

On this mass of twisted steel rescue workers slaved.

Doctors hung precariously from ladders, from windows of the train and they perched upon bent girders holding plasma bottles whose little red tubes fed to within the mass of steel where the injured lay pinned.

Pinned almost between the two cars was one woman, alive and visible from the trackside. Doctors reached in and swathed her head in bandages and stuffed in a blanket to protect her from the chill wind. There was not a word from her, but she was conscious.

She would move her hand toward her head and then she would slap it on the steel overhead, fighting obvious pain.

Police emergency squadmen blazed away under a bath of hastily erected spotlights quietly and businesslike. Suddenly, one would say, "coming."

The crowd of rescue workers were tense. A stretcher would be rushed to the trainside. "Here it is," was the next shout.

Sturdy arms would reach into the twisted steel and pull out the body. A doctor would bend over and answer the big question - dead or alive.

They carried out the lower half of a man, his shoes and pants gone but his socks strangely on his feet. And untorn.

They carried out, five hours after the wreck, a woman who moved her head and murmured. Half of her face was smashed in.

They carried out a man who smiled after they amputated his leg to free him.

They carried out just a leg.

The entire neighborhood of little plain houseswas alerted for the emergency. One home, just 50 yards from the crash, became an emergency hospital. The dining room furniture was carted out inot the back yard.

The dining room became an operating room, and there police surgeons worked silently over the injured. As fast as doctors dared they rushed the injured out the front door into ambulances, poised on the lawn.

Police lines were thrown up keeping the curious three blocks from the accident. "This is the toughest job of all," said one policeman maintaining the line.

As he spoke, a frantic youth wriggled through the crowds, reached over the restraining ropes and grabbed the officer by both shoulders. "My brother was on that train," he screamed, "I gotta get through!"

"Son," said the officer kindly, "go home. You can't find out anything here."

The youth looked wildly about him. He dashed to the next policeman and again demanded and got the same quiet response.

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