This is a story from a newspaper article in a scrapbook that belonged to the late Pauline Leonard of Athens.
Now that the wreckage which was the result of a journal breaking in a Lehigh fast freight train in East Waverly at 5:45 o’clock Saturday morning November 29, has been nearly cleared away it is possible to make an estimate as to the amount of damage done to the equipment but it is impossible as yet to make an estimate as to the amount of damage to the ladings. Estimates so far made show that the wreck was the most expensive that has occurred on the Lehigh in several years.
The estimated amount of damage to equipment at East Waverly was $8,600 ($127,929 would be the value today). The estimated amount of damage to equipment at the wreck at Irving’s Siding in October 1918, was about $6,000. The amount of damage to ladings in the East Waverly wreck was also much greater than the wreck at Irving’s Siding. The wreck in October 1918, was the most expensive that had occurred in several years.
It is as yet impossible to make any estimate of the amount of damage to the contents of cars for the reason that four of them were loaded with eggs. One of the cars of eggs left the tracks but was not wrecked. It is thought that the eggs in the car are practically undamaged. But three of the cars were wrecked. Examination of the crates thus far made show that the top and bottom layers of eggs are broken while the layers in the center do not appear to be so badly damaged. There were 30,000 eggs in the four cars, and they are now at the Lehigh freight house in Sayre where they are being sorted. Smashed eggs are being thrown away. Cracked eggs will be offered to local bakers for immediate use. Upon examination the eggs that are found good will be placed on crates and forwarded to the consignees. Until this work is completed it will be impossible to make any accurate estimate of the damage. W.W. Abbott, superintendent of the Seneca division of the Lehigh, said this morning that in his opinion the loss will amount to about twenty-five percent of the value of the eggs, but the amount may be much larger, or slightly less. Five cars loaded with beef, which were more involved in the wreck were in condition to forward to designation with out the contents being transferred. It was necessary to transfer the contents of three of the cars loaded with meat. But as the temperature outside the cars was nearly as low as inside the cars, there was practically no damage to the meat that was transferred. One thousand cases of sardines were in the wreck and about 100 cases were not punctured, although dented, and as a result they are still salable, although there will be a depreciation in their value. A car loaded with cheese was in the wreck and the damage to the cheese was slight. A car containing 405 tubs of butter was in the wreck and all were saved but six which were broken and became covered with dirt. A car loaded with oleomargarine was badly wrecked but out of 812 packages 768 were saved. Two of the wrecked cars were loaded with the bodies of Ford coupe motor cars but only one of the Ford bodies appeared to have been damaged.
There were twenty-two cars involved in the wreck. They were part of the fast freight known to railroad men as “Advance SJ-2.” When the train was running at an estimated speed of thirty miles an hour a journal broke on the right side of the second car from the engine. This occurred at about forty feet west of the first bridge west of East Waverly. The oil box and the frame dropped down far enough to split a few ties of the bridge but luckily did not fall down to the track until after the bridge had been crossed. Then the cars commenced piling up until twenty-two of them were involved. The eastbound track was torn up for a distance of 500 feet and the westbound track was shoved to one side while cars and contents were scattered over the ground in a mumbled mass. The Sayre wrecking crew was first summoned, and the Manchester crew arrived about 10:30 o’clock to give assistance. At 12:15 o’clock, Saturday afternoon the west bound track was ready to carry traffic. The eastbound track was open at 6:30 o’clock Saturday night. The members of the wrecking crews continued work until 9:30 o’clock Saturday night. They worked all day Sunday and on Monday morning the work continued it was expected that all the wreckage would be cleared away by nightfall Monday December 1.
According to Mr. Abbott it was indeed lucky that the journal broke forty instead of 100 feet west of the bridge. If it had broken 100 feet from the bridge the track frame and oil box would have dropped far enough to tear down the bridge and the cars would have piled up on Cayuta creek.
I found this wreck mentioned in the Towanda Daily Review where it was stated “Lehigh detectives were place on guard until the wrecking crews got to the scene.”
The engineer on the freight train was Lewis Sternberg and the conductor Homer Thrall, both of Sayre.
Henry Farley is a founding member and a current board member of the Sayre Historical Society. He is also president of the Bradford County Historical Society.