1902 Park Avenue Tunnel Collision

—A New Rochelle Tragedy—

A Work in Progress!

Old Grand Central Depot (circa 1900)

On January 8, 1902 during the era of the steam engine, two trains were taking their daily commuters to work in Manhattan. One train was traveling what is today called the "New Haven line" from New Rochelle in Westchester County. The other train was traveling what is now called the "Harlem Division Line" from White Plains. In the tunnel just north of the old Grand Central Depot at about 56th Street and Park Avenue below ground, John Wisker, the engineer on the train from White Plains, missed seeing the track signals in the dark and steam filled tunnel, and his train plowed into the last car of the train from New Rochelle which was waiting in the tunnel for a signal to begin moving again. As a result, seventeen people died and many more were injured.

This train accident caused a great outcry from the people in the New York City area as well as throughout the nation on the hazards of steam engines and caused the local governments and railroad companies to push for a conversion to electrical rails. Subsequent laws were passed in New York State barring the use of steam in the underground tunnels leading to Grand Central Depot. And to accommodate the electrical rails and trains, a new Grand Central Station was built to handle the change in the rail system and the additional electrified train tracks. The current Grand Central Terminal building is the result of this 1902 tragic event.

Although this accident occurred in New York City, it was a great tragedy for the city of New Rochelle in Westchester county, located just north of New York City. It was the custom of the railroad to leave the last two cars locked until it arrived in New Rochelle where the daily commuters from that city would then board the last two cars and be assured of a seat. Thus, the tragedy of that day hit the city of New Rochelle very hard. This web site gives a brief glimpse of the people who experienced that tragedy that fateful day and their families, as well as some of the events of that time.

Please note that the research into the lives of these people is a work in progress and has not yet been completed. To that end, all resources that have been found can be seen in the following genealogies along with any research notes. The companies where these people worked are also being looked into and where the company employee records have been found, information regarding their repositories has also been included. In time, I plan on transcribing a number of newspaper articles giving accounts of that day as well as the aftermath and add them to this site. Additionally, as time permits, there may appear information about those people who survived this tragedy. Should you, the reader of these web pages, have information to add to this project, I would welcome hearing from you.

Surname List Index of Names The Survivors
Companies where they worked Table of Contents Court Cases
Events of the Day Research Journal

Those Who Lost Their Lives

That fateful day, fifteen people lost their lives and two of the injured died within the following week for a total of seventeen people. The linked pages below tell some of the story about those seventeen people, their families and their descendants. If you have any additional information to add, I would be interested in hearing from you.

An initial review of the seventeen people above shows several connections other than the fact that they all lived in New Rochelle, Westchester county, New York, and all died from the same accident. See these connections on the attached chart.

Additionally, I have listed the names of those who survived the crash that date, whether they were injured or not.

This is a work in progress and much more work need to be done in regard to this project. So, please check back from time to time to see what has been added. And, of course, if you have any information about these people, I would welcome hearing from you.

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Copyright © 2007-2013 by Cathy Horn. All rights reserved.
Researched and compiled by Cathy Horn