One of the worst railroad accidents in United States history occurred on June 16, 1925 in the Rockport section of Mansfield Township, New Jersey, near Hackettstown in Warren County. The accident killed 42 passengers and 5 crew members.

A nasty storm had hit the area causing widespread damage and washing debris over the tracks. The Hoboken-bound train was a special Lackawanna Rail Road train (Extra 1104) transporting German-Americans from Chicago. They were scheduled to board a ship to sail to Europe in Hoboken.

According to an account on Lehigh Valley Live, around 3 AM, while most of the 180 passengers were asleep, the steam locomotive’s front wheels hit the debris and jumped the track. The engine was buried in an embankment and the passenger cars became uncoupled and the first passenger car came to rest on the locomotive’s boiler, the second car landed across the boiler, and the third car wound up next to the locomotive. A line on the boiler ruptured and steam from the boiler shot into the passenger cars.

Many passengers who had survived the impact were scalded, some to death. The porter initially survived and made his way to a nearby farmhouse, but the storm had knocked out phone service; the porter, OJ Daniels, collapsed and died on the walk back to the train.

When the 1104 was put back in use, it was renamed for Daniels. The death toll of 47 may not be accurate as many of the injured and dead were taken to hospitals as far away as Morristown and some to Easton, PA; also, many of the passengers did not speak English well so the toll may be slightly higher. An investigation by the regulatory agencies of the time determined that there was no blame to be assigned for the wreck. It was deemed to have been caused by an “Act of God.”

The tale of this wreck is being told in the form of a documentary. See the trailer below.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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