The Other Fatal Crash at the Philadelphia Railroad Curve

It was a fatal train crash that “transformed the Washington-to-New York express into a mess of…

Georgia (May 13, 2015) — It was a fatal train crash that “transformed the Washington-to-New York express into a mess of tattered metal as it headed into a curve last night.” This may sound like a description of the rail accident that occurred near Philadelphia on May 12 and killed six people. But the quote, taken from the Chicago Tribune in 1943, actually refers to a train wreck some seven decades prior—in nearly the exact same spot.


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On Labor Day of that year, a Pennsylvania Railroad Congressional Limited train with 16 or 18 cars traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York City derailed after the box holding the axle overheated on one of the cars, causing the axle to break. Some 80 people died in the accident, prompting Newsweek to call it “the worst railroad wreck in a generation.”

“With a banging and rattling like the swinging gates of hell, the seventh coach dropped to the roadbed, rolled over and horizontally split itself from end to end against a signal tower,” Newsweek wrote.

Albert Churella, author of The Pennsylvania Railroad, Volume 1 and a professor at Kennesaw State University, says the 1943 crash “ranks about number 10 or 15 on the list of the worst crashes.”


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