Statement of Conductor Easton

Q. What train were you conductor on, Mr. Easton?
A. Second Day Express.

Q. What time did it leave Pittsburgh?
A. About 8.10

Q. Well, you ran without interruption to what point?
A. To between Lockport and Lacolle. There was a small land slide there, and we were detained there probably ten minutes until the Division force got it out of the way. Then we ran to Johnstown, and received orders there to run to Conemaugh, following first Day Express carefully under green signal, expecting to find them on the Main Track. When we arrived at Conemaugh, we again received orders to wait for orders. After laying there about five minutes, I went to the telegraph tower and asked if there were any orders for me, but they had no orders. I came down out of the tower then, and Mr. Walkinshaw, the Yard Master, put me on the siding.

Q. Which one?
A. He put me on the north side; I don't remember which track it was on. It was ahead of first Day Express on the same track.

Q. Now, Mr. Easton, after you got on the siding where the dispatcher put you, did your passengers get out?
A. Yes, sir, there were quite a number of them got out, and looked at the water and the drift coming down the river. They were all interested in the wagon bridge there expecting to see it go.

Q. Where was the Mail Train standing with reference to your train?
A. The Mail Train was lying on No. 1 track; the rear end of it right at the telegraph tower.

QQ. Closer to the river than you were? [sic]
A. Yes, sir.

Q. How far was your train from the river bank?
A. Well, after we were placed on this siding, we were moved again to No. 3 siding. The engine was then up in front of the station house. What was where we laid until the flood came.

Q. Well now, were you about your train all that time?
A. I was about the train and close to the telegraph office.

Q. Did you hear any report as to the condition of the water up at the South Fork dam, or any report of the danger of the dam breaking?
A. No, sir; I didn't anything from anybody. I was in and about the office, but nobody advised me that they expected the dam to break. If they had, I wouldn't have staid [sic] there.

Q. Had you any reason to believe that the flood was going to constantly increase, or that the water would get up to where the trains were?
A. No, sir; I didn't feel the least bet afraid of the flood.

Q. Was the train in a place of safety in your judgemtn [sic] at that time?
A. Well, it was in the safest position they could find for it. I felt as if the train was safe.

Q. Where were you when the volume of water came down from the dam?
A. I was in the rear coach of Mail. It was lying right at the tower of telegraph office. Our clothes were all wet, and we were trying to make a fire to dry them.

Q. What did you do when you saw the water coming?
A. I ran for the hill. I didn't run until I saw everybody else running, the passengers getting out of both trains, both the Mail Train and first and second Day Expresses. I saw them all running, and people from Conemaugh running for the hill,

Q. Did you go to your train before you ran for the hill?
A. No, sir, couldn't get to the train; if I had gone to the train, I would have been caught in the water; -- that is, before I could have gotten out of it again.

Q. What was the first knowledge you had when you were in the rear car of the Mail that the flood was coming?
A. Well, the first I knew of it was from the whistle signal given by engineer Hess, who had been up the mountain, and came down with his whistle wide open.

Q. How far was that from where you were?
A. Well, he was coming towards us. I hoisted the window, and told Brakeman McGuigen there was something wrong, and I looked up and sa w [sic] the water coming around the bluff.

Q. How do you account for the fact that the passengers got out of one of the Day Expresses and not out of yours?
A. All the passengers got out of second Day Express except four, and they were save. If the passengers of second Day express had all remained in the cars, they would all have been saved, as the cars were not washed away at all. They were on the rail yet after the flood. The water got up only about two inches in the floor of the sleeping cars. The people who were drowned lost their lives trying to escape. If they had staid [sic] in the cars, their lives would have been saved.

Q. And how many people were drowned from your train?
A. I learned of three passengers and one porter. I had only 32 passengers on second Day Express;33 [sic] leaving Pittsburgh.

Q. And how long was it from the last time you were at your train until the flood came?
A. I was back and forward all the time we were laying there. I was close to the train all the time. They were all lying close to the telegraph tower.

Q. How many cars, if any, were swept out of your tra in? [sic]
A. None. The train was after the flood the same as it was before excepting that the track washed down probably 50 to 100 feet, may be more. The engine and train were all washed down with the track.

Q. Who was the conductor of the other Day Express?
A. Mr. Bell; he was in the same car with me keeping out of the rain

Q. Do you know how many people were on his train?
A. No, I have no idea how many he had. He didn't have the opportunity of getting his record of his passengers that I had, as I had all sleeping cars on mine, and he hadn't lifted his tickets out of Johnstown, and wasn't able to tell how many he had.

Q. Do I understand that he was in the Mail car with you when this danger signal was given by engineer Hoss [sp?]?
A. Yes,sir, [sic] and then he went right up to his train.

Q. Was his train nearer to the Mail Train than yours?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. He ran to his train did he?
A. Yes, sir. At the time he ran, they were all running. I could not get to my t rain as easily as he could to his, as my cars w ere all vestibule cars, mail cars, and express cars; my train was back of his, and I would have had to crawl over his train and then run to my train, and by the time I would have got to my train, the water would have been onto me. The passengers all knew it about as soon as I did, and all ran about the same time, except four, a gentleman, two ladies, and a little girl, and he told me the next morning that he would rather have taken his chances in the train than run, as the water was too close onto them. That was the four that staid [sic] in the train.

Q. Had you or anybody any reason to believe that there would be a sudden burst of water anything like there was?
A. No, sir; I had no idea of the size of the dam, as I never saw it.

Q. Well, there was nothing in your mind to create any apprehension that there would be a disaster?
A. No, sir, not the least idea.

Q. The Company's operator was in duty in the tower there, was he?
A. Yes, sir, there were two of them in when I went up to the office to see if there was any orders. The reason I staid [sic] near the tower was because I was looking for orders; the rear end of the car we were in was right at the telegraph tower, and they have an extra signal they hang out when they have orders for us, and I staid [sic] right there looking for it.

Q. Do you know the name of this old gentleman who was saved?
A. No, sir, I don't know.

Q. Do you know where he was from?
A. No, sir.

Q. Do you kn ow the names of the ladies?
A. No, sir, I didn't see them; I only saw the man, and I don't know where he was from.

Q. What was the height of the water for say half and hour preceding the coming of the water from the dam?
A. I couldn't say exactly.

Q. I mean as near as you can tell. Were the banks nearly full? I mean when you were in the coach on the Mail Train.
A. Yes, sir. There is a bridge goes across right at the railroad telegraph tower, and the water wasn't running over that yet.

Q. So that so far as you could see, there was nothing to create alarm as to the safety of yourself or passengers?
A. No, sir; I had seen the water line as high there before; -- not quite as high, but almost as high.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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