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A Runaway Locomotive

Ulster & Delaware Railroad
"The Only All Rail Route Through the Catskills"

A Runaway Locomotive

From the Catskill Mountain News, July 15, 1904



The Pine Hill Pusher Gets Away from the Engineer and Nearly Collides with a Passenger Train

The Ulster and Delaware narrowly averted a serious accident Tuesday, when engine No. 16 , used as a pusher on the steep grade east of Pine Hill, ran away with Engineer George Ertle in the cab. Ertle was powerless to shut off steam because of a broken rod. He had to ride down Pine Hill, past Big Indian, and into Shandaken, a distance of seven miles, narrowly averting collision with a work train, which he does not care to take again. The engineer stuck bravely to his post and finally stopped the runaway engine just after passing Shandaken. Most of the run was made at a mile a minute clip and a portion of the distance was covered even at a greater speed.

Engine 16 helped a train up Pine Hill and was running east. As the engine's speed increased on the down grade, which is 150 feet to the mile, Ertle attempted to shut off the steam and discovered that the rod operationg the steam valve was disconnected and that he was powerless to shut off the steam or to reverse the engine, the reverse lever also refusing to act. He immediately applied the brakes. The engine was feeding about 100 pounds of steam and the brakes out the pressure on the drivers down to about 80 pounds and in a measure controlled the speed so that the sharp curves on the run were made in safety.

The engine was running at terrific speed and sparks were flying from the wheels against which the brakes were pressing when Ertle passed through Big Indian. At this station a work train on which were a score or more laborers had taken the siding only a few moments before the runaway went through. The operator at Big Indian wired Shandaken and Phoenicia that 16 was coming and an engine was hastily gotten out on a siding at Phoencia to be switched on the main track after Ertle went throug to chase him with the hope of coupling to the runaway and hold him up.

At Shandaken the runaway narrowly escaped running into an open switch, workmen being engaged there in cutting out a switch onto a side track and just completed the laying of a rail closing the gap. After passing Big Indian Ertle saw that his only salvation was to dump the fire box and thus run the steam down until the speed could be controlled by the brakes. This he died, at the same time letting off all the steam possible through the escape valves. He finally brought the runaway to a stop a short distance east of Shandaken. Ertle was pretty badly used up when he stepped down from the cab. He declared that he had never ridden so fast before in his life and that he had had enough of fast riding if it must be done on a runaway under similar circumstances. His fireman jumped from the engine at Pine Hill.

Fortunately the runaway met no westbound passenger trains, one of which was due to arrive at Shandaken but a short time after Ertle stopped his engine.


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