Hurtling westward through the dawn at Becket yesterday, the Western Express, crack Boston & Albany train, slammed squarely into a freight car, thrown across its path but a second before from a passing westward train, careened off the rails, ripped up 1000 feet of track and came to a staggering stop with eight of its 12 Pullman cars leaning at a crazy angle against a rock cliff. The engine with the wreckage of the freight car wrapped all over the front end stayed on the rails. The 137 passengers escaped injury except for a few bumps and bruises.

The only persons who might be said to have been injured were the engineer of the express, Howard H. Baily, of 59 Hawthorne Avenue, this city, who was bruised when slammed about in the cab; L.F. Scott of Boston, dining car waiter, who had a cut on his forehead received when he was thrown into a buffet; Conductor Hager of the westbound freight, struck by flying wreckage, and Hector Simard of Nashua, N.H., a passenger, who was bumped on the head when thrown across the club car.

The accident happened at 7:13 just east of the Becket station on the stretch of meadow land which a year ago was a swirling mass of raging water during the famous flood. The express, known in railroad circles as “46,” left Pittsfield on time at 6:39, just the hour of sun rise. Thirty-four minutes later, the 12-car train with its cargo of human lives, hauled by one of the new $90,000 Pacific type locomotives, came thundering down through Becket. At the same time, creeping up the steep grade, westbound was a heavy 65-car freight train. A low drawbar on an empty stock car dropped further, caused the air line to break and threw the emergency airbrakes on. The sudden stop buckled the car out of line. It swing across to the east-bound track dragging two other cars off also.

Just at that moment, and without the slightest chance to flag it, down came the express tearing along at 55 miles an hour. Engineer Bailey saw the blocked track. With a steady hand he eased on the air. The front end of the engine struck the freight car squarely and the train continued with brake shoes screaming and sparks flying. One hundred yards after striking the curve, the train came to a stop on a sharp curve, eight of its Pullmans leaning against a stony cliff jutting up out of the meadow, their trucks buried in the plowed up road bed, their passengers picking themselves up and hastily coming out of the doors. The engine trucks remained on the rails. The tender was off.

Had the accident happened 100 feet to the east, the heavy train would have been catapulted into the Westfield river, from the bridge which took the brunt of the flood.

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.