Geotourism Mapguide: A travel guide to the places most respected and recommended by locals.
 
  Historic Districts and Sites

D&H Trainwreck of 1946

 
Two trains collided head-on August 26, 1946.
A view of the engines
The upended coal tender buried engineer Frank Keehan.
The Trainwreck of 1946 marker
Private 9/11/2001 memorial
 

The sun shone brightly August 26th, 1946, and the sky was blue -- a gorgeous summer day in the Adirondacks. The southbound train on the Adirondack line of the D&H was bubbling with excited children--318 of them--all headed south to New York City to return to their families after a summer at camp in the Adirondacks. The train they rode was called a “passenger extra” – a train being run in addition to the regularly scheduled passenger and freight trains. Neither they nor the train's crew knew that at that very moment passenger train 181, from Saratoga Springs, chugged steadily northward toward them—unaware of their presence on those very same tracks. No one knew that disaster was imminent until one of the trains rounded a curve and engineers on both trains realized that they would collide.

The trains were traveling in what was called a “dark zone,” an area in which written orders had to be issued. The southbound extra had been instructed to pull off onto the siding at The Glen and wait there until the regular train has passed before resuming its trip south. Controversy remains: Was the message not received? Did the engineer of the southbound train ignore the orders, believing he could make it all the way to the next siding at Thurman Station before the northbound train got there?

Whatever the reason, around 10 a.m. that sunny August morning, the two trains met each other at a point about two miles south of The Glen. Although both engineers made heroic efforts, there was not enough room to stop. Engineer Frank Keehan, coming from the south, ordered his crew members to jump as he clutched the throttle and headed toward certain disaster. When the two engines collided, Keehan’s coal tender upended, pouring tons of coal onto Keehan, snuffing out his life. Some of the trainmen suffered  injuries as they leapt from the train, and some passengers on his train were injured, as well. Many say it is a miracle, while others credit the heroic efforts of Keehan to slow his train, but no child on the passenger extra was seriously hurt.

In 1998 the John Thurman Historical Society teamed with the Town of Thurman and Warren County to erect a commemorative plaque near the site of the 1946 train wreck to honor Engineer Frank Keehan. Find it on River Road, just about two miles from New York State route 28's interesection with Glen-Athol Road. (Take Glen Athol Rd. to River Road, and find the historical marker in a little trackside clearing on the left, an easy walk from the road. There is no paved walkway to the marker, so wheelchair or walker access could be difficult. There is no fee to visit this marker.

Don't Miss This When Visiting

Don't miss this when visiting Thurman, or when staying at The Glen Lodge B&B, recreating at Wild Waters Outdoor Center, or are trekking up to North Creek, to the Adirondack Museum and other points north. The Glen is about five miles from Route 9, not far from Warrensburg, and visiting the marker will be a ten minute side trip off your route.

Related Sites Or Experiences

Do make a point of visiting Thurman Station Association's web site, where you can read news about activities along the Thurman rails in current times. Also, make a date to visit North Creek and tour  the fascinating North Creek Depot Museum. TheDepot Society has conducted extensive research on the train wreck of 1946, and can share more details. Railroad buffs will also wish to take in Railroads on Parade, a phenomenal display of modle railroads in Pottersville, not far away. Admission or donations are requested at these sites.

Suggested Further Reading

The Bridgeline Historical Society ran an article on this trainwreck in a back issue of its publication. For extensive information about the Adirondack Line of the D&H, seek out books by Michael Kudish, Jim Shaughnessy: You may also visit the comprehensive website of Jon Patton, The Adirondack Branch.

Additional Notes And Comments

It has been noted by local people who witnessed the train wreck that this marker placement is not completely accurate, the actual site being slightly farther up the tracks.

Beside the train wreck marker you will also find a marker in memory of  two victims of the World Trade Center disaster on September 11, 2001. This marker was erected by family and friends of the men who had been frequent visitors to Thurman.

Fees

no

ADA Accessible

no

Tours Are Offered

no

Site is Child-friendly

yes

Site is Pet-friendly

yes

For More Information, Contact:

Ray Flanigan

North Creek Depot Museum

director@northcreek depotmuseum.com
http://www.northcreekdepotmuseum.com/
5 Railroad Place, North Creek, NY 12853
(518) 251-5842
 

Persis Granger

John Thurman Historical Society

PersisGranger@aol.com
www.PersisGranger.com
11 Clarence Russell Road, Warrensburg, NY 12885
518-623-9305
 
Meet the Author:
Persis Granger

kathy keehan allen wrote on April 14, 2014: ray and perky: sorry i'm just seeing your comments now and will be in touch shortly. am excited to exchange information!

Persis Granger wrote on December 03, 2013: Joanne! Is there a chance that you would jot that story down? I'd love to share it with our John Thurman Historical Society in our Quarterly. And I don't think we have ever had contact with any of the passengers on either of the trains. On a side note - A Thurman couple bought one of the cabins from Camp Redwing, moved it to Thurman and used it as their home, adding on to it over years. Perky Granger

Joanne wrote on December 03, 2013: My 1st year at Camp Red Wing. I was 8 years old coming home to Grand Central Station when the train wrecked. I have told that story many times.

Ray Flanigan wrote on August 22, 2013: Kathleen, contact me. I have a copy of a picture of your grandfather with a crew - not sure it was the crew. You are right about who was the hero. Your grandfather stayed with the engine applying the brakes. The entire Southbound crew left the train, may have been drinking and were accused of gross negligence. Certainly they were not heroes. RayFlanigan@aol.com

Perky Granger wrote on August 22, 2013: Hi, Kathleen--Thanks so much for contacting us about the photos you have. We would love to have copies (emailed is great). I believe one of the trainmen still resides in Saratoga. It might be possible to put names with faces. I forwarded your remarks to Ray, and he has more information about the prosecution of the crew of the Northbound train, and also noted that both crews had written orders that told them of the presence of the other train. One train was to have waited on a siding for the other to have passed. My summary lacked considerable detail! Perky (PersisGranger@aol.com)

kathleen keehan allen wrote on August 21, 2013: persis, i have photos of my grandfather with other men who may have been part of his crew. would these be of interest to anyone? btw, i am so grateful to find this story simply by "googling" my grandfather's name. i am going to send this to frank's 3rd grandchild, my cousin anne louise keehan who lives in perth, australia. i know she will be very excited for the news. my husband and i look forward to visiting the site mentioned in your article. i appreciate the fine work done by you and ray in researching the article.

PersisGranger wrote on March 15, 2013: Thanks for your comment, Kathleen. I do believe that the other engineer was blamed for the accident. Ray Flanigan, who researched the topic extensively was unable to find the final court findings, but said there were indications that the crew of the other train never worked on the railroad again. By "heroic efforts of both engineers", I meant only that they made every effort to slow or stop their respective trains when it was clear that a collision was imminent. It is sad, indeed. Some time ago I spoke with a man in California who believed the other engineer was his grandfather, and he said he had always sensed there was a "family secret" that lay just below the surface. When he read the story, he became convinced that this was it.

kathleen keehan allen wrote on March 15, 2013: my dad, francis "bud" keehan was one of frank's sons. years ago, i found newspaper clippings on film in the nys library, that were published in the "Saratogian" when the crash happened. i was suprised to hear about the "heroic efforts" of "both" engineers, as the original articles faulted the other engineer and declared my grandfather a hero. either way, i am saddened that my father lost his father when he was only 27 years old and that i never got to meet my grandfather. his heroism and caring were certainly passed down to my dad who had great integrity and a loving heart.

Perky Granger wrote on October 29, 2012: I'm glad you liked it. He was considered a hero for remaining at the throttle. The story is both sad and inspiring.

Mike Keehan wrote on October 29, 2012: Frank Keehan was my grandfather. I was very gratified to see ths article and the recognition of his efforts and sacrifice.

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Explore the landscape and history of Lakes to Locks Passage.
 

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Latitude: 43.572245200
Longitude: -73.856620800
Elevation: 713 FT (217 M)
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