Statement from Brantlinger

Q. Where were you and in what capacity at the time of the Johnstown flood?
A. Freight Conductor.

Q. Where did you start with your train from on that Friday?
A. Blairsville.

Q. And what time did you get to Conemaugh?
A. Well, we came to Conemaugh in the first place about 3 o'clock in the morning, between two and three, and there was a fellow had a little wreck there and held us there until after six o'clock.

Q. What time had you leave there?
A. We laid there then for No. 20 and Johnstown Accommodation, and it was about half- past seven o'clock when we got away.

Q. Where did you stop next?
A. At Mineral Point about half- an/ [sic] hour. Then we got orders to go on South Fork middle siding.

Q. Well did you go on up?
A. Yes, sir, we went on up, and pulled in on the middle siding, and pulled to the east end of it.

Q. Now, how far was that siding away from the river?
A. Well, the east end of the siding isn't more than about six car lengths off the bridge.

Q. What was the condition of the water in the river at that time Was it out of the top of the banks or not?
A. It was pretty near to the tope fo [sic] the bank before the flood came. I was up at it, and I was up at the front end of my train.

Q. Did it seem to be rising rapidly?
A. It did for a while, but I thought about the time the reservoir broke, the water was on a stand still.

Q. Was the place where your train was put changed after you ------ went there?
A. No, sir, we staid there from the time we were ordered in.

Q. How many years have you been running over the road?
A. I was railroading thirty years on this Pittsburgh Division in October.

Q. You have been hundreds of times along the Conemaugh in that time?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Have you seen floods before in the Conemaugh?
A. Yes sir, I seen high water, but I never seen the water so high at South Fork.

Q. How much higher was this last flood than any you had seen, do you suppose, in feet, before that reservoir broke?
A. I don't think I ever seen it within three or four feet of as high.

Q. Did you hear anything said when you were at South Fork about the dam breaking?
A. No, I didn't hear anybody saying anything; in fact, I wasn't ever in the town. I was there next to the tower where No.2 [sic] was laying; I was there within about 15 or 20 minutes of when the flood came.

Q. Where was you when the flood didcome [sic]?
A. I had been up all night, and was wet through and through, and I started back to the cabin and took my coat and hat off, and I thought I would dry them while we were laying there, and it wasn't more than about 15 or 20 minutes until the train began to move back, and I just ran and looked forward at the front end of the train, and the flood was coming then, and I suppose was a third of theway [sic] along the train, over the tops of the cars.

Q. What did you do?
A. We always have a pusher up the mountain, and I cut the pusher loose, and went without a hat or coat, and ran back until we got away from the flood a little. I thought it best to get out of that because the water looked like a big mountain.

Q. How far did you see it off?
A. I didn't see it until it was pretty close to me; about a third of the way along the train. It was just where the ower [sic] stood. I saw it turn the tower over, and I cut the pusher off and ran it back along the siding;

Q. Did the flood strike you when you were under way?
A. When I jumped off the engine, it wasn't quite at me yet, and I went for the hill, and it was so slippery when I would get up a piece I would slip back; the second time the water got to me, and of course I went back the second time, and then a big wave came right in there, and it raised me right up and I got hold of a limb of a tree, and as the water raised, I went along from one brush to another. It was horrible, I tell you. There was a draught of very strong air ahead of the water, that I believe was most worse than the water, for when that air struck me, it seemed to lift me right off of the ground. A man could see it; it just looked like a blue heat you know. I don't know whether it was imagination or not but I thought I could see things falling before the water got to thm [sic]. It made a terrible noise; you would think the whole earth was being torn up. The rest of the fellows had all been away from the train, and they got away nice to the hill.

Q. How long were you getting out?
A. I don't remember; not very long.

Q. How long was it until the water went back ?
A. It wasn't long. I don't think it was more than 25 or 30 minutes.

Q. Did you get in a tree and hold on?
A. The hill is all brush and briers there, and I hung on from one to the other until I got where the water stopped.

Q. Where it couldn't reach you?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did it come up high on thathill [sic] ?
A. I think the water must have been over a hundred feet high in the middle of that river. The water just appeard [sic] to stand in the middle of the river like the roof of the house. The cars of my train stood coupled together for a long while and they got to swinging around like a string of beads, and one would break off and then another one.

Q. What became of that engine that you had been running?
A. It floated around for a good while, and got fast on the bank some way, and turned over on its side. It didn't hurt that engine much. They got her on very soon.
I wouldn't have cared myself for the water if it hadn't been so much drift. A man didn't have any show in that on account of the drift. It took a good many houses at South Fork and they were all in it.

Q. Did you get any notice about the condition of South Fork dam when you were?
A. No; I wasn't over on the South Fork side. We were just on the other side.

Q. Didyou [sic] hear anything at the telegraph office about the dam?
A. No, I didn't. That passenger train was laying there, and the people were around there, and I didn't ask the operator any questions. I knew it was not use. The wires had all got down long before it came.

Q. How deep do you think the water was on that middle siding?
A. It was 20 feet or more. It never left a bit of railroad track.


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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