Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Derailment At Freeman's Bridge, May 28th, 1958!


On a quiet Wednesday Night in May of 1958, the residents of Goose Hill in Schenectady were stirred from their TV's by a loud sound.  What sounded like an explosion turned out to be a derailment on the D&H at The Mohawk River Bridge...



Engineer William Doolittle and Harry Stapleton were running their 99-car D&H freight North to Mechanicville when a 'hot box' on the 21st car sent 18 cars to the ground,  2 of them into the Mohawk River, 50 feet below. (Photo: Ken Bradford, Joseph Smith Collection)


Trains were rerouted around Schenectady via Delanson on the Albany Main, up the Colonie Main to Mechanicville.  One of the car's placards described the load as 'Dangerous.'  
(Photo: Ken Bradford, Joseph Smith Collection)



Salvage crews hurried to the scene from Oneonta and Whitehall.  Contrary to local legend, the 2 river-bound cars were pulled up and not left behind in the water below.  A map of The State Barge Canal lists the depth at the bridge to be an average of 13'.  Higher in the Spring after ice melt. 
(Photo: Ken Bradford, Joseph Smith Collection)


Damage to the track and the bridge was estimated to be around $500,000.  30 heads of cattle spent the night at the Seneca Street Crossing, which closed due to the wreck, but re-opened the next day.  The Maxon Road crossing remained closed for 2 days, with the bridge remaining closed for over a week.
(Photo: Ken Bradford, Joseph Smith Collection)


The bridge involved in the wreck continues to carry freight and passengers in 2013, although one track was removed to handle 'wide-loads' from The General Electric Plant in Schenectady.  This postcard shows the deck-plate-girder bridge that was replaced by the current structure.  Abutments from the previous bridge remain in place and can be seen in the top photo.  The view is from a bridge crossing The Erie Canal at the site of the original Freeman's Toll Bridge.  This is currently the start of Maxon Road from Erie Boulevard.  (Photo: Union College Archives)

Newspaper Articles Referenced Are From The Schenectady Gazette.  Special thanks to Ken Bradford for the use of the Photographs...