West Hartford is the most rural of Hartford’s five villages and it has been known to have been hit with more than its share of tragic events. Almost half of the village was wiped out by a flood in 1927 and it was severely damaged by
Tropical Storm Irene. However, the Hartford Railroad Disaster which happened in 1887 is the most tragic event of them all. The hauntings at this site are so scary, they could be straight out of a horror movie.
The Hartford Railroad Disaster.
It all started on a frigid -15 degree on February 5, 1887.
Off to a late start.
The Boston-Montreal “Night Express,” was an hour and twenty minutes late out of White River Junction in the freezing early morning hours.
It finally got under way at 2:10 a.m.
The train proceeded north and reached the West Hartford bridge, 4.2 miles away, at about 2:20 a.m. at an average speed of about 25 MPH. The train was under orders to meet the southbound Montreal train at Randolph, “as usual.”
Despite the need to make up time, the engineer followed the rules.
The engineer reported that he slowed the train in accordance with standard practice, making the crossing at about 12 MPH.
The first indication that something was wrong was reported by a Henry Tewksbury.
The train started to sway and the back carriage swung off the bridge.
The distance from the top of the track to the ice-covered river below measured 42 feet, and the trusses themselves 16 feet from the surface.
On top of the wooden trusses was a layer of sheet iron, an apron to deflect any sparks from the train. Ironically, what had been designed to protect the bridge from fire contributed to its ultimate demise.
As the train fell off the tracks and tumbled down below, it caught fire and brought the bridge down with itself.
Only the front compartment of the train survived.
Two buildings stood at the ends of the bridge.
The Pingree house and the Paine Farm both immediately became hospitals, refuges, recovery rooms, and morgues.
In all, 115 people were accounted for in the worst railroad disaster in the history of Vermont.
The tragedy killed 37 people and injured 50.
Some passengers were identified by bits and remnants of clothing or personal items.
Other passengers were not able to be identified at all. One of the most heart-rending remains was that of a parent and child fused together in a final poignant embrace, burned beyond immediate recognition.
The hauntings have been reported ever since the tragic event.
The farm still stands and passerby have heard screaming coming from the barn. The area where the bridge stood has been known to emit smell like burning wood.
Some have seen ghostly apparitions of conductors patrolling the road to prevent another accident.
Could this be Conductor Sturtevant? Records report that he was in this coach, clothes ablaze, as people tried to put the flames out by showering him with snow.
Others have reported seeing a child in 19th century clothing hovering above the river where the crash occurred.
A father from Canada was so pinned down in the wreck he was unable to get out, and gave his personal belongings, watch, and pocketbook to his young son and bade a tearful good-bye before the creeping wall of flames engulfed him.