Train Wreck On Panama Railroad
A passenger coach, two boxcars and the
caboose of the Panama Railroad's early morning mixed train from Mt. Hope
overturned at 5:35 a.m. today at a washout three miles south of Monte
Several passengers, and the conductor of the southbound train were injured, none seriously.
Of the 27 passengers and three crewmen rushed to Coco Solo Hospital for examination and treatment, only two were admitted.
Last night's heavy rains caused the washout at a point where the roadbed runs along the bank of Gatun Lake.
Engineer I.A. Price said he "saw a yellow spot on the track" a few moments before the engine hit the washout. The engine crossed over and stayed on the rails, but the track collapsed und the first car. The four rear cars overturned, but none fell over the embankment into the lake.
Early this afternoon railroad officials said the freight train No. 41 leaving Mt. Hope at 7:50 tonight has been scheduled. Also train No. 12, leaving Panama for Colon tonight at 10 o'clock will run as usual. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.
Replying to a question, engineer Price said: "You will see that the Angel of Providence looked after us when you see the wreck."
The top speed limit for freight or mixed trains at the site of the crackup is 45 m.p.h. For passenger trains it is 50 m.p.h.
Price said that at about 5:30 he glanced ahead and saw a yellow spot on the track, although it was still pretty dark out, and then the train was in the dip. "The first thing I thought of was to find out if anyone was hurt. I figured the it was a washout".
Conductor Charles T. Smith appeared to have received the most painful injuries of any of those hurt. He was reported thrown through the window of the caboose. Smith was treated for cuts on the face and head, and abrasions of the arms and legs. After receiving treatment at Coco Solo, he was admitted for further observation.
Of the 52 passengers, some 35 to 40 were reportedly women and children. The train carried six crewmen. All but three of the passengers were given first aid treatment and dismissed. Two American women employees of the Supply Division, Mrs. M.A. Stone and Mrs. F. A. Salter, were both treated for leg injuries but neither was hospitalized. Mrs. Mary Pittersen, an employee on the local-rate roles of the Supply Division, and an expectant mother, was admitted to the hospital for observation. She had no apparent injuries other that being badly shaken up by the wreck.
The wreck was the most serious for the Panama Railroad since November 1944 when two trains collided at Caimito, north of Gamboa. Prior to that time no serious railroad wreck had occurred in 21 years. In the Caimito disaster a brakeman on one train was killed and 29 others were injured.
In today's derailment, two box cars, a passenger coach, and the caboose were overturned. The engine and one box-car remained on the track.
Doctors and nurses from Coco Solo Hospital were rushed to the scene of the wreck by a special train from Colon. Also aboard the special train were officials of the Transportation and Terminals Bureau and Cristobal Police. All the injured were given first aid treatment at the scene and then taken to Coco Solo Hospital for examination and treatment.
The wrecked cares are being lifted by a wrecker and crew dispatched from the Pacific side. This was necessary as the entire train had cleared the washout before the four cars derailed. It will be necessary to rerail the cars, ballast the roadbed and repair the track before train service can be resumed. Apparently the overturned cars were not severely damaged. Probably they can be lifted back onto the track and towed cautiously to Balboa for repairs. After a preliminary survey of the damage, engineer Price was told to bring his engine into Balboa to pick up the wrecker and return to the scene.
Other echelons of the Canal organization steped in to help in the emergency. The Electrical Division ran a special telephone to the scene which cannot be reached from any road and is several miles from any habitation.
At the point where the washout occurred, the railroad tracks run along an embankment of Gatun Lake with a hill on the opposite, or east, side of the train. All of the cars toppled to the right but none fell over the embankment.
The wrecked train left Mount Hope at 5 a.m. and the accident occurred just 35 minutes later. The train was placed on early departure schedule last month when the Panama Railroad revised its operating schedules.
Most of the passengers using this early-morning combined passenger and freight train commuters who work on the Pacific side.
This article was in the September 23, 1957 - Panama American newspaper that Ike had saved. There were three photos with the article, but could not be scanned because of poor condition. I have included the photo's captions below for your information.
Photo 1 - (Photo taken from behind the caboose looking south down the track line. The photo shows the derailed caboose and other cars laying on their side along the embankment. The car's trucks have separated and are laying separately next to the cars.) The caption reads: End of the line - Caboose of Train No. 13 lies on the right side of the derailed railroad track near Monet Lirio, about 17 miles out of Colon just past the washout which left a big hole about 17 feet down. Conductor Charles T. Smith, who was in the caboose at the time of the accident early this morning was thrown through the window and escaped without serious injuries, but was badly cut up about the face, head and legs. He was X-rayed, and being kept under observation at Coco Solo Hospital.
Photo 2 - (Photo showing work crew repairing track and overturned cars in background) The caption reads: Laying a temporary track to replace 150 feet of track uprooted in the accident, about 80 crewmen worked in the blazing sun today to complete the work which will permit the regular 7:45 p.m. run tonight from Colon. George Smith, manager of the Railroad, as well as other top officials of the Canal surveyed the scene of the accident.
Photo 3 - (Photo showing damaged track with one rail missing and row of overturned cars with their trucks off). The caption reads: the three wrecked cars, a boxcar, a passenger coach and the caboose will be left at the accident site until Wednesday when they will be carted away. Shortly before noon today a wrecking crew set the first car to be rerailed back on the track and pulled it out of the way to clare the railroad track. The engine had been detached from this car during the accident. About 600 yards of stone will be dumped into the hole caused by the washout. This fill-in should be completed tomorrow.