Chapter 19

    An interesting story of endeavor was related on Monday by a correspondent of the New York Sun, who made his way to the scene of disaster:
    Although three days have passed since the disaster, the difficulty of reaching the desolated region is still so great that, under ordinary circumstances, no one would dream of attempting the trip. The Pennsylvania Railroad cannot get within several miles of Johnstown, and it is almost impossible to get on their trains even at that. They run one, two or three trains a day on the time of the old through trains, and the few cars on each train are crowded with passengers in a few minutes after the gates open. Then the sale of tickets is stopped, the gates are closed, and all admission to the train denied. No extra cars will be put on, no second section sent out, and no special train run on any account, for love or money. The scenes at the station when the gates are shut are sorrowful. Men who have come hundreds of miles to search for friends or relatives among the dead stand hopelessly before the edict of the blue-coated officials from eight in the morning until one in the afternoon. There is no later train on the Pennsylvania road out of Pittsburgh, and the agony of suspense is thus prolonged. Besides that, the one o'clock train is so late in getting to Sang Hollow that the work of beginning a search is practically delayed until the next morning.

INSERT PHOTO FROM PAGE 218 here

Ruins of the Cambria Iron Works.

    The Sun's special correspondents were of a party of fifteen or twenty business men and others who had come from he East by way of Buffalo, and who reached Pittsburgh in abundant time to have taken the Pennsylvania Railroad train at eight o'clock, had the company wished to carry them. With hundreds of others they were turned away, and appeals even to the highest official of the road were useless, whether in the interest of the newspaper enterprise or private business, or in the sadder but most frequent case where men prayed like beggars for an opportunity to measure the extent of their bereavement, or find if, by some happy chance, one might not be alive out of a family. The sight-seeing and curious crowd was on hand early, and had no trouble in getting on the train. Those who had come from distant cities, and whose mission was of business or sorrow, were generally later, and were left. No effort was made to increase the accommodations of the train for those who most needed them. The Sun's men had traveled a thousand miles around to reach Pittsburgh. Their journey had covered three sides of the State of Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia at the extreme southeast, through New Jersey and New York to Buffalo by way of Albany and the New York Central, and thence by the Lake Shore to Ashtabula, O., passing through Erie at the extreme northwest corner of the State; thence down by the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie road to Youngstown, O., and so into Pittsburgh by the back door, as it were. Circumstances and the edict of the Pennsylvania Railroad were destined to carry them still further around, more than a hundred miles, nearly south of Pittsburgh, almost across the line into Maryland, and thence fifty miles up before they reached their destination.
    The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad ordinarily does not attempt to compete for business from Pittsburgh into Johnstown. Its only route between those two cities leads over small branch lines among the mountains south of Johnstown, and is over double the length of the Pennsylvania main line route. The first train to reach Johnstown, however, was one over the Baltimore and Ohio lines, and, although they made no attempt to establish a regular line, they did on Sunday get two relief trains out of Pittsburgh and into Johnstown. Superintendent Patten, of the Baltimore and Ohio, established headquarters in a box car two miles south of Johnstown, and telegraphed to Acting Superintendent McIlvaine, at Pittsburgh, to take for free transportation all goods offered for the relief of the sufferers. No passenger trains were run, however, except the regular trains on the main line for Cumberland, Md., and the branches from the main line to Johnstown were used entirely by wildcat trains running on special orders, with no object but to get relief up as quickly as possible. Nothing had left Pittsburgh for Johnstown, however, to-day up to nine o'clock. Arrangements were made for a relief train to go out early in the afternoon, to pick up cars of contributed goods at the stations along the line and get them into Johnstown some time during the night. "No specials" was also the rule on the Baltimore and Ohio, but Acting Superintendent McIlvaine recognized in the Sun, with its enormous possibilities in the way of spreading throughout the country the actual situation of affairs in the devastated district, a means of awaking the public to the extent of the disaster that would be of more efficient relief to the suffering people than even train-loads of food and clothing. The Sun's case was therefore made exceptional, and when the situation was explained to him he consented, for a sum that appalled the representatives of some other papers who heard it, but which was, for the distance to be covered, very fair, to set the Sun's men down in Johnstown at the earliest moment that steam and iron could do it.
    In fifteen minutes one of the Baltimore and Ohio's light passenger engines, with Engineer W. E. Scott in charge and Fireman Charles Hood for assistant, was hitched to a single coach out in the yard. Conductor W.B. Clancy was found somewhere about and put in command of the expedition. Brakeman Dan Lynn was captured just as he was leaving an incoming train, and although he had been without sleep for a day, he readily consented to complete the crew of the Sun's train. There was no disposition to be hoggish in the matter, and at a time like this the great thing was to get the best possible information as to affairs at Johnstown spread over the country in the least possible time. The facilities of the train were therefore placed at the disposal of other newspaper men who were willing to share in the expense. None of them, however, availed themselves of this chance to save practically a whole day in reaching the scene, except the artist representing Harper's Weekly, who had accompanied the Sun men this far in their race against time from the East. As far as the New York papers were concerned, there were no me n except those from the Sun to take the train. If any other New York newspaper men had yet reached Pittsburgh at all, they were not to be found around the Baltimore and Ohio station, where the Sun extended its invitation to the other representatives of the press. There were a number of Western newspaper men on hand, but journalists in that section is not accustomed to big figures except in circulation affidavits, and they were staggered at the idea of paying even a share of the expense that the Sun was bearing practically alone.
    At 9.15 A.M., therefore, when the special train pulled out of the Baltimore and Ohio station, it had for passengers only the Sun men and Harper's artist. As it was started Acting Superintendent McIlvaine was asked: - -
    "How quickly can we make it?"
    "Well, it's one hundred and forty-six miles," he replied, "and it's all kinds of road. There's an accommodation train that you will have to look out for until you pass it, and that will delay you. It's hard to make any promise about time."
    "Can we make it in five hours?" he was asked.
    "I think you surely can do that," he replied.
    How much better than the acting superintendent's word was the performance of Engineer Scott and his crew this story shows. The special, after leaving Pittsburgh, ran wild until it got to McKeesport, sixteen miles distant. At this point the regular train, which left Pittsburgh at 8.40, was overtaken. The regular train was on a siding, and the special passed through the city with but a minute's stop. Then the special had a clear track before it, and the engineer drove his machine to the utmost limit of speed consistent with safety. It is nineteen miles from McKeesport to West Newton, and the special made this distance in twenty minutes, the average time of over a mile a minute being much exceeded for certain periods. The curves of the road are frightful, and at times the single car which composed the train was almost swung clear off the track. The Sun men recalled vividly the ride of Horace Greely with Hank Monk, and they began to reflect that there was such a thing as riding so fast that they might not be able to reach Johnstown at all. From Layton's to Dawson the seven and one-half miles were made in seven minutes, while the fourteen miles from Layton's to Connellsville were covered in fourteen minutes precisely. On the tender of the engine the cover of the water tank flew open and the water splashed out. Coal flew from the tender in great lumps, and dashed against the end of the car. Inside the car the newspaper men's grips and belongings went flying around on the floor and over seats like mad. The Allegheny River, whose curves the rails followed, seemed to be right even with the car windows, so that one could look straight down into the water, so closely to it was the track built. In Connellsville there was a crown to see the special. On the depot was the placard: - -
    "Car will leave at 3 P.M. to day with food and clothing for Johnstown.
    In Connellsville the train stopped five minutes and underwent a thorough inspection. Then it shoved on again. At Confluence, twenty-seven miles from Connellsville, a bridge of a Baltimore and Ohio branch line across the river was washed away, but this didn't interfere with the progress of the special. For sixty miles on the road is up hill at a grade of sixty five feet to the mile, and the curves, if anything, are worse, but there was no appreciable diminution in the speed of the train. Just before reaching Rockwood the first real traces of the flood were apparent. The waters of the Castlemore showed signs of having been recently right up to the railroad tracks, and driftwood and debris of all descriptions lay at the side of the rails. Nearly all bridges on the country roads over the river were washed away and their remnants scattered along the banks.
    Rockwood was reached at 12.05 P.M. Rockwood is eighty-seven miles from McKeesport, and this distance, which is up an extremely steep grade, was therefore made in two hours, which includes fifteen minute's stop. The distance covered from Pittsburgh was one hundred and two miles in two hours. Rockwood is the junction of the main line of the Baltimore and Ohio road at its Cambria branch, which runs to Johnstown. The regular local train from there to Johnstown was held to allow the Sun's special to pass first.
    The Sun's special left Rockwood at 12.20 in charge of Engineer Oliver, who assumed charge at that point. He said that the branch to Johnstown was a mountain road, with steep grades, very high embankments, and damaged in spots, and that he would have to use great precaution in running. He gave the throttle a yank and the train started with a jump that almost sent the newspaper men to their heads. Things began to dance around the car furiously as the train dashed along at a great pace, and the reporters began to wonder what Engineer Oliver meant by his talk about precautions. All along the route up the valley at the stations were crowds of people, who stared in silence as the train swept by. On the station platforms were piled barrels of flour, boxes of canned goods, and bales of clothing. The roads leading in from the country to the stations were full of farmers' wagons laden with produce of all kinds for the sufferers.
    The road from Rockwood to Johnstown lies in a deep gully, at the bottom of which flows little Stony Creek, now swollen to a torrent. Wooden troughs under the track carry off the water which trickles down from the hills, otherwise the track would be useless. As it is there are frequent washouts, which have been partly filled in, and for ten miles south of Johnstown all trains have to be run very slowly. The branches of trees above the bank which have been blown over graze the cars on the railroad tracks. The Sun's special arrived in Johnstown at two o'clock.


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