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The Trolley Crash of 1905

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

From the Connecticut Trolley Museum

The trolley, or the electric railway, came to Longmeadow in 1896. The Springfield Street Railway Company installed single rail lines from Springfield to Enfield along Longmeadow Street (Main Street). This was instrumental in converting Longmeadow from primarily a farming town to a suburban community.

On November 18, 1905, there was a terrible head-on trolley crash just south of the Longmeadow Green, approximately in the area of Mill Road and Crescent Road. There appeared to be confusion in regard to the switching signal system for the single-track trolley. The motorman in control of the northbound trolley, George A. Charon of Springfield, 33, was killed and at least 30 passengers were injured, many seriously.

Springfield Sunday Republican November 19, 1905 (article transcribed below)

Per a report of the crash which ran in the The Springfield Sunday Republican the next day on November 19, there were 83 passengers on board, most of whom were from Thompsonville and headed into Springfield for a pleasant Saturday of shopping and entertainment.

The accident occurred at around 1:45 in the afternoon. Allegedly, the northbound trolley was behind schedule and may have been trying to make up time. It was traveling at about 20 mph down the hill as it approached the south end of the green when it collided with a northbound trolley on the same, single track.

The newspaper paints the scene in vivid, gruesome detail: “The two cars were locked together in close embrace, neither being overturned or even leaving the track. The up-car, packed with humanity, presented a scene which made strong men turn away heartsick. The conductor had rung up 83 fares. And the people were packed in almost as closely as they could be, the aisle being filled with people hanging onto the straps. Those in the front of the car were most seriously hurt. The flying remnants of the vestibule and front end drove right and left through the car, and the breaking glass from the windows literally showered the passengers at the forward end of the car. Even those at the rear end did not entirely escape it. The seats were torn from their fastenings and the passengers were thrown together in a confused and frightened mass. They were piled one on the other with seats on top of them, and the chorus of cries and those who were in pain made the scene terrible. A large number of the passengers were women, and those women who were not hurt much fainted at the sight of so much blood and the nervous shock which they sustained.

"[People] set to work early to relieve the motorman, who was crushed into a remarkably small space in the corner of the vestibule. Debris covered his body, and his legs were pinned down by the heavy iron bumper of the southbound car. The feet were completely severed just above the ankles. The small band of rescuers tore away the debris and succeeded in getting the motorman from between the cars while he was still conscious. He was remarkably brave, and made a little complaint, except to say that his back was painting him terribly. He was laid on the grass near the car, ropes being used to tie up his bleeding limbs, to prevent death from the loss of blood. He soon became unconscious. Not long after he had been taken from the car, a southbound car came along. It was turned back to hurry the man to the hospital in the hope of saving his life. The car was run with all possible speed to the city and an ambulance was waiting at the car barn to take the man to Mercy Hospital. Doctors worked over the man, but the efforts were futile and the death came about 4 o’clock.”

"The street railway had a wrecking crew on the ground within 20 minutes after the accident.… The Hartford-Springfield car was the lighter of the two cars and consequently was the more damaged. The seats in the car were torn from their fastenings, while the vestibule was a complete wreck. The bumper was bent over so that it almost reached the door of the car. It was this that crushed the motor man. Nearly all the windows in the front of the car were smashed, and many of the wounds received by the injured were caused by the flying glass. The vestibule of the southbound car was also a complete wreck, and the motorman must undoubtedly have suffered the same fate as his brother motorman had he not had time to jump. The interior of the car was not much damaged, only one or two of the side windows being broken.

"As the struggling, excited mass of humanity were striving to untangle themselves. …Men and women, anxious only for their own safety and the safety of their belongings, rushed back-and-forth, in and out of the car to gather up their possessions. The conductor of the car, and of the car with which he collided, endeavored to calm the people and to relieve the distressed."

Nearby Longmeadow residents jumped in to help as nearby doctors were summoned to help. Rooms in houses were opened up to serve as temporary hospital wards. The accident led to considerable local concern surrounding trolley safety. A letter to the editor of The Republican published a week after the crash and signed “A Passenger” expressed fear at traveling on the cars: "The last year I have had occasion to use the electric cars between the state line and Thompsonville, and every time I felt that I had taken my life in my hand: especially on that part of the line between the state line and the Longmeadow green. I have ridden on a great many electric lines this summer in Massachusetts, and my observation is that it is not so much the fault of the motorman as it is of the management back of them, demanding such reckless speed in order to keep the scheduled time. To arrive, with little care how, is the spirit of the age. More trips, more money, money, money. The horrible results to life and the heavy damage is too little to correct this growing evil.”

This event led to converting the single track system to a double track which was felt to be safer and not require the turnoffs and signaling system. This required a considerable construction effort to create the double track.

Construction for the trolley tracks conversion north of the green 1908

Emerson Collection, Longmeadow Historical Society

George Corriveau was the motorman on the last ride

The last trolley ran up and down Longmeadow Street in 1940. By the summer of 1941, all tracks, poles, and electrical lines were dismantled and sold for scrap. Essentially nothing remains in Longmeadow from this trolley era that lasted from 1896- 1940. Occasionally however remnants are discovered and who knows what may yet be unearthed.

Rail spikes unearthed recently by former tree warden and current town resident, Dave Marinelli

For more information on the Longmeadow streetcars please visit here and here.

-Contributed by Lenny Shaker, Longmeadow Historical Society Board Member

Originally published November 3, 2022

Sources: Springfield Republican Boston Herald Boston Globe Connecticut Trolley Museum

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