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The Woodbridge Train Wreck

The Story And Pictures Of The Third Worst Train Disaster In American History

On Febuary 6th, Of 1951, It Was Just Like Any Other Febuary Day, Damp And Cold.
The New Jersey Turnpike Was Was Being Built, So Where The Train Tracks Ran Parrallel To Fulton Street, A Temporary Wooden Tressel Was Built Over The Turnpike. It Had Been Raining, So It Was Speculated That The Rain Had Weakened The Supports. That Day, Several Workers From The Pennsylvania Railroad Called Out Sick, Due To Problems With Their Contracts. So Therefore, There Was No Operators For The Lights And Signaling Systems. Train Engineer Joseph Fitzsimmons Pulled Train Number 733 Into Woodbridge Like Usual At 6:00 P.M. This Train Was Called The Broker, Because The Majority Of The Passengers Were Stock Brokers On Wall Street In New York City And From Other Businesses In Newark, New Jersey. That Day, The Train Was Overcrowded. As The Train Was Going Past Woodbridge, The Driver Was Unaware That He Was Supposed To Slow Down To 25 Miles Per Hour At The Temporary Tressel By Fulton Street. Also, Because There Were No Sign Men Working, There Was No Warnings. At The Fulton Street Tressel, The Engineer Actually Accelerated To Past 50 MPH.

When The Train Went Over The Wooden Tressel, The Foundation Not Able To Withstand The Train Collapsed, Sending The Train Crashing Below.
It Was Said That The Second And Third Cars Had Suffered The Most Damage.
Within Minutes, All Of The Residents From Fulton Streety Had Heard The Accident And Rushed To Help In Any Way That They Could. Police, Fire And First Aid Crews From Woodbridge Did All They Could At The Time.
National Guard Troops Were Called To Duty To Do Anything That They Could Do.
What They All Found Was A Pile Of Mangled Metal Railroad Cars, And Dozens Of People That Were Hurt, Dead, Trapped Inside, And Worse. Once News Spread Through The Area About The Train Crash, People; Civilians Throughout Woodbridge Had Went To The Scene To Help In Any Way That They Could.
In The Early 1950's, Perth Amboy General Hospital, Now Known As Perth Amboy Division Of Raritan Bay Medical Center, Was One Of The Only Hospitals In The Area. When The First Ambulances Brought The First Few Injured People To Perth Amboy, The Staff Doctors Wanted An Estimate Of How Many People Were Injured. The First Aiders Had No Clue That There Will Be Hundreds Injured. Perth Amboy Hospital Was Put Into Full Disaster Mode.
Civilian Volunteers From The Community Helped The Emergency Workers Any Way That They Could. Some Went Directly To The Scene To Pull Trapped Passengers Out Of The Train. Other People Assisted Victims That Were Injured, But Were Able To Walk. Several Neighborhood Homeowners Opened Up Their Homes To Shelter People. Many Of The Organizations And Businesses Around Main Street Also Helped In Any Way That They Could.
Within Minutes, It Was Apparent That There Would Be Several Casulties, But The Priority Was On Saving Any People That May Be Injured, Or Trapped.
The Scene Of The Train Accident Was Described Almost Like A War Scene, As There Were Hundreds Of Hurt People And Scores Of Dead People. After The First Several Bodies Were Found, They Had To Be Secured For Later Identification. But The Question Of How And Where Are All Of The Dead People, Some With Missing Body Parts, Are Going To Be Put Remained. Finally, A Solution Came As A Local Butcher Donated Wax Paper That Is Used To Pack Meat. The Wax Paper Was Layed Down On The Floor Of The Woodbridge Emergency Squad Building On Brook Street. As The Bodies Were Brought To The Squad Building, They Were Placed On The Wax Paper, Making It A Temporary Morgue.
Even Though, The Idea Of This May Be Gross And Disgusting, It Simply Had To Be Done.
As The Less Injured People Were Treated, They Had To Contact Their Families. At That Time, Not Too Many People Had Telephones. Those Who Did, Opened Their Doors To The Ones In Need. Not Only Did They Allow The Victims To Use Their Phones, But They Welcomed The Injured Into Their Homes To Be Treated, To Warm Up, And Even Fed While They Waited To Be Reunited With Their Loved Ones. Other People Needed To Use Telephone Communications Too, Such As Many Of The Emergency Responders Like The Police, Firefighters, And First Aiders.
The Train Wreck Proved To Be A Rebirth Of Public Safety Agencies In Woodbridge And The Surrounding Towns. Police, Fire, And First Aid Gained A Tremendous Amount Of First Hand Experience From The Work That They Had To Do.
In The Months Before The Train Wreck, The Woodbridge Fire Department Became The Second Fire Department In Middlesex County To Have An Arial Ladder Truck. The Department Was Often Criticized That The Ladder Was Only Used As A Painters Ladder.
The Ladder Truck Was A Very Eccential Tool At The Train Wreck To Rescue People.
After The Crash, No One Ever Criticized The Department Ever Again.
Medical Personnel At The Scene And At The Hospitals Learned How To Deal With A Mass Casulty Incident Of A Disaster-Size.
Woodbridge Police Officers Did Everything In Their Power To Coordinate The Scene.
This Still Remains The Worst Train Disater To Occur In The United States Since World War 2.

One Year After The Train Wreck, Everything Was Back To Normal. The Bridge Had Been Repaired And The Train Had Been Back To Running. A Group Of Survivors Requested To The Pennsylvania Railroad To Stop A Train At The Accident Spot For A Few Minutes At 6:00 p.m. The Railroad Refused, So The Group Stood At The Back Of The Train And Tossed Out A Bundle Of Flowers On To The Track - One Flower For Every Life That Was Taken.

Several Years Later, It Became Known That The Military Personnel On Scene Had Video Cameras And Had Filmed The Rescue & Recovery Efforts.
In 1993, Woodbridge Township Television (WTT-35) Aired The Footage, With Narration From Witnesses And The Woodbridge Historical Society.

In Late 2000 And Early 2001, Several Programs Were On Local Television.
On Febuary 6, 2001,For The 50th Anniversary Of The Woodbridge Train Wreck, A Special Ceremony Was Held At The Methodus Church Of Woodbridge, Just 3 Blocks Away From The Crash Site. A Plaque Was Proclaimed To The Victims That Tragically Lost Their Lives And For Those Who Survived. Those Who Lent Their Hands In Time Of Crisis Were Also Honorably Mentioned.

The Plaque Will Be Placed At The Woodbridge Train Station, Just 500 Feet North Of The Accident Site. There Are Rumours That A Second Plaque Will Be Placed At The Existing Bridge At Fulton Street.


- Photos Of Scenes Fof The Woodbridge Train Wreck. -