Train wrecks were big news

There were many, many trains daily in and out of Saranac Lake, dead-ending in Lake Placid where a turntable was located. Train-car accidents are a big part of the history of this area.

Many of the accidents that I have found in Enterprise stories in the archives of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library happened at the Pine Street-Main Street crossings. Until about 12 years ago, Main Street crossed the tracks straight down to Pine Street, but that was eliminated, leaving only one crossing on Pine Street.

Pete Donnelly called me from Florida after a recent railway wreck story to tell me that his grandfather, Martin, had been hit at the Pine Street crossing in his milk truck but was not seriously injured.

Then Bud Duffy sent me information about other train wrecks at that same crossing. We grew up at 5 Pine St., and Walter Duffy (Bud Duffy’s family) lived right around the corner from us at 69 Bloomingdale Ave. The day Bud sent that wreck information and before I had a chance to read it through, I saw Jack Sweeney downtown. He said his uncle had been killed at that crossing but did not know many details about that crash; one of the stories from Bud was about Jack’s uncle.

Mr. Duffy is witness to train death

In 1913, when Walter Duffy was 18 years old, he was walking near the Pine Street crossing; here is a piece of the Enterprise story about what he saw:

“Frank McCall, a stonemason of this village, was struck by a D & H train arriving here Sunday at 1:55 p.m. from Lake Placid. McCall was struck about 50 yards south of the Moody Pond and was cut to pieces. Walter Duffy was walking along toward his home on Pine Street and is believed to be the last person to see him alive.

“Dr. Wicker summoned coroner F. M. Noble from Bloomingdale who pronounced the death accidental. The new health law allows a coroner instead of a health officer to officiate in such a case where there is no reason to believe there was foul play.”

Paul Smith’s employee killed

This crash happened in 1936 as a Paul Smith’s Electric Light and power truck crossed the Pine Street bridge and turned right up the steep, short hill to the crossing near the trestle, which is now closed. Here are excerpts from the Enterprise story:

“When the truck in which he was driving was struck by a Delaware & Hudson passenger train at 1:35 o’clock Monday afternoon, John Lamoy of Saranac Lake was killed instantly. Floyd Sweeney, 24, is in the General Hospital with injuries of a critical nature. Struck by the train at the Main Street crossing, near a trestle, the truck was demolished and Lamoy’s body was hurled over a 40-foot embankment, into the Saranac River. Sweeney’s body was also hurled over the embankment. Wreckage was strewn for 60 feet around the crash site. Edward Gadwaw, a witness, went waist deep into the river to recover Lamoy’s body.

“John P. Crowley, Essex County coroner investigated.

“According to Gadwaw, the truck owned by the Paul Smith’s Light Corporation approached the crossing from Pine Street. There is a sharp grade at this point and visibility of the tracks is said to be poor. Sweeney suffered a fractured skull and severe lacerations about the head, body, arms and legs.

“Ralph Witherbee, 81, an employe of the company, had been a rider on the truck but had left his companions just a few blocks before the accidents occurred.”

Jack said his family has always been told that his Uncle Floyd was killed in the crash, so we are making the assumption that he died from his injuries. Bud remembers hearing the crash and wanted to run up there to see what happened, but his mother wouldn’t let him go.

“Two hurt as taxi crashes at crossing” (Enterprise headline, December 1946)

“Two of four occupants of a local taxi cab were injured early yesterday morning when the vehicle skidded on the slippery pavement and crashed into the rear of the New York Central train at the Main and Pine Street crossing.

“Injured were Delina Burnal of Standish and Genevieve Cavallo of 57 Bloomingdale Avenue. The former suffered injuries to the back of her head and both knees and Miss Cavallo suffered a sprained back.

“The taxi was a 110 (taxi companies were all identified by the telephone number 110) cab and was operated by Gifford Hosler of this village. He escaped unhurt from the crash. Also reported uninjured was Anna Caldwell of Roosvelttown, fourth occupant of the car.”

“According to police who investigated the accident which occurred at 12:35 o’clock, Mr. Hosler was driving the taxi down Pine Street and when he stopped at the crossing the car slid sideways on the slippery pavement into the rear of the train.

“As the taxi hit the moving train the force of the crash overturned the vehicle onto its side. Occupants crawled from the wreck and were taken to the home of a physician for medical treatment.

“This was the second accident at a village crossing within a week. Last Saturday at the Upper Broadway crossing Mr. and Mrs. Clifford McCormick and Dr. Anthony Gedroiz escaped injury when the McCormick car struck the New York Central train as it crossed the highway.”