Trolley disaster at Greenbush

Trolley Crash.pngThe 1890 railroad sabotage at Greenbush miraculously took no lives. But a 1901 trolley crash outside Greenbush (which is now part of the city of Rensselaer) was much more serious, killing at least seven people.

It was May 26, 1901, and the trolleys were at the start of their summer runs. In those days, most local trolley companies had amusement parks way out at the ends of their lines; the Albany Fast Line’s destination resort was Electric Park in Kinderhook.

“Electric-cars racing for a switch while running in opposite directions at the rate of forty miles an hour, cost five lives yesterday afternoon by a terrific collision in which over forty prominent people were injured, some fatally, and others seriously.” The five killed immediately included the two motormen; two more died shortly of their fatal injuries. At least 11 others were seriously injured.

“The lobby of the post-office filled with dead and wounded, hysterical women and children looking for relatives and friends, surgeons administering temporary relief, and ambulances racing through the city, taking the wounded to hospitals … The scene of the accident was a point about two miles out of Greenbush, on the line of the Albany and Hudson railway. The point where the cars met on the single track was a sharp curve, and so fast were they both running and so sudden was the collision that the motormen never had time to put the brakes on before South-bound Car No. 22 had gone almost clean through North-bound Car No. 17, and hung on the edge of a high bluff, with its load of shrieking, maimed humanity.”

Fortunately for the sensitive readers of the age, the newspaper accounts were reserved and tasteful:

“Fully 120 men, women, and children formed a struggling pyramid, mixed with bloody detached portions of human bodies and the wreckage of the cars … The few women and children who had escaped injury and death were hysterical, and added their cries to the shrieks of the dying and mutilated. Men with broken arms and bones, dislocated joints, and bloody heads and faces, tried to assist others who were more helpless. Help had been summoned from East Greenburg [sic] and vicinity, and in a little time the bruised mass of humanity, with the mutilated dead for a gruesome and silent company, were loaded on extra cars and taken to Albany.”

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