Brakeman McGuigan Statement

Q. What train were you employed on?
A. I left Pittsburgh on No. 2, and got to Conemaugh, and traded my run off at Conemaugh, and traded my run off at Conemaugh. I got off No. 2 there, and got onto No. 12, which was sidetracked at Conemaugh.

Q. Did you get to Johnstown on time or not?
A. About ten minutes late on Limited's time.

Q. What was the condition of the flood when you got there?
A. The water was very high; higher than I had ever seen it.

Q. What time did you get to Conemaugh ?
A. We got to Conemaugh about 9.40.

Q. How deep did the water seem to be in the town of Johnstown when you went along there?
A. When we passed through Johnstown, the water was up to the first story of the houses, and the women and children were all up in the second stories, and were waving their handkerchiefs and hats out, and seemed to enjoy it more than anything else.

Q. Now, your train, the Mail, preceded the Limited to Conemaugh, did it?
A. Yes, sir. I jumped off, and traded my run there to a young fellow living in Altoona.

Q. Now,tell [sic] us where the Mail Train was put by the Dispatcher after it got there.
A. Well, Mail in the first place was lying right along the river on No. 1 track. Well, that track washed out, and then we pulled up right above the tower. The rear end of our train was lying right under the tower on the eastbound freight track, No. 1 track.

Q. How long did you stay there?
A. We laid there until the flood came; that was the position we were in when the flood came.

Q. Was the position of the Mail train changed to any other track?
A. It pulled up on the same track, but didn't cross over. We were moved on up above where we had the protection of the round house.

Q. About how many engines were in that round house?
A. They say there were 28. That is what I hear; I couldn't say myself.

Q. What time of day was it when you got up there?
A. About 9.40.

Q. And Limited went on, did it?
A. Yes, sir, the Limited went through, and I staid on Mail.

Q. Was the water at that time up to the top of the bank?
A. No, sir, it was just washing in, and when it would wash in, th [sic]the ground would fall.

Q. And from where the Mail Train stood near the round house, how many yards was it down to the river bank, or to the river itself?
A. Why I judge it was 50 yards; perhaps more than that.

Q. Did you stay around the train until the flood came?
A. Yes, sir, in the train and in the telegraph tower.

Q. When you were in the telegraph tower, did you hear anything about the water at South Fork dam?
A. At 11 o'clock, I went up and made inquiry of the operator if there was anything new; and he said, " Yes, we have a message that South Fork dam is liable to burst at any moment". I staid [sic] there about five minutes or so, and then came down to the train and notified the passengers, and told them just what I was told by the operator, but I didn't know anything about the size of the dam at that time. I told the passengers the dam was very unsafe, and by the message the operator got, the dam might burst at any moment, but if anything would turn up, they would let me know. The passengers paid attention to me, and the women got at little frightened at the time, but they staid [sic] right on the train, Then, about 1 o'clock, I went up to the tower again, and asked if there was anything further, and the operator said, "Nothing only another message that the dam is in a very dangerous condition", and me, now [sic] knowing what the dam was, or looked like, and not knowing the amount of water it contained, I said to him, "If the dam would burst, what would the consequences be"?, and he kind of smiled, and said "It would cover this whole valley from hill to hill with water". I got kind of frightened myself then, and I came right down, and told the passengers the second time to be on the lookout , that [sic] the dam was liable to burst, and if it should happen to burst, that we would have to get to the hills or some place of safety, as the operator said the body of water contained there, would fill the whole valley. The ladies got frightened, and one of them wanted to know if they would not better go to the hills now, but the manager of the troup said "No, there is no danger yet"; and I told them I would be around the train, and if there was anything new, I would let them know. The women seemed to be ready for it; they had pinned their dresses up,and [sic] started to pin their clothes up so as to be ready, and I think they were very sensible people; I staid in the coach, and it started to rain very hard then;

Q. Which coach did you stay in?
A. The front end of the rear coach of No. 12. Mr. Easton was in the front end with me there, and we were trying to light a fire to dry our clothes, about 3.50, I guess it was, and I heard Mr. Hess, the engineer of the ballast [sic] train, blowing his whistle very loudly, and I looked out the window right next to us, and saw it coming, and I hollowed to Levi to run

Q. Levi who?
A. Levi Easton. I holled [sic] for him to run to the hill. He started to run,and [sic] that was the last I saw of him until after the flood. I went to the passenger coach where the passengers were, and hollowed that the flood was coming. The women were sitting down, and the men were all standing up, and they all had their grips and valises in their hands, and the men ran to the upper end of the car, and the ladies to the west end where I was. I assisted them out, and got up and looked through the train, and I couldn't see anybody on the train, and then I ran with two of the ladies, caught hold of their hands, and ran until we came to the ditch which was about six feet wide, and about two feet of water in the bottom of it, and I judge it was about eight feet deep, it not deeper, and Miss Eberly, she refused to go into the ditch, and I threw her into it, and jumped down and assisted her up on the other side, and ran up the hill.

Q. Was she saved?
A. Yes, sir; there wasn't a soul lost off of the train

Q. Where does she reside?
A. Her address is "1835 Lexington Avenue, New York City; here is a photograph of her (producing photo).

Q. When did you get that photograph? immediately after the flood or sometime afterwards?
A. I got it a week afterwards.

Q. So there wasn't any person lost off of your train; crew and passengers all escaped?
A. No, sir; they all escaped.

Q. Were any of the cars swept away?
(Text here seems to be missing. The following begins at the top of a page.)

Q. Where were the two No. (?)'s lying with reference to the Mail Train, opposite, above, or below?
A. Opposite, a little bit west of the Mail.

Q. They hadn't any protection in front of them, like the Mail had?
A. We didn't have the round house in front of us; we had it on the side of us.

Q. But the other trains hadn't that protection?
A. No, sir.

Q. Now, when you heard that alarm whistle, and looked out, what did this wave look like?
A. My opinion was, when I first saw it coming, that it looked more like a hill of rubbish than anything else; I couldn't see any water in front of it: that was,where [sic] my eye caught it; it may have been different in any water; nothing but trees and rubbish of all description.

Q. How fast do you think it was coming?
A. I didn't think it was coming so very fast; I judge it was going about 8 or 9, probably 10 miles an hour.

Q. How high did it seem to be?
A. It seemed to be about 20 or 30 fetthigh; [sic] trees, logs, brush, and debris and everything seemed to be coming in a great broad wave, taking everything right in front of it.

Q. Well, now, what time was it that you heard about the second dispatch?
A. It was one o'clock when the operator told me when I was up in the tower the second time.

Q. Do you know where that dispatch came from?
A. No, sir.

Q. Or who sent it?
A. No, sir.

Q. Was telegraph tower swept away?
A. It stood for a long time, and afterwards, it went.

Q. What became of the operator?
A. He saved himself; he got out.

Q. How many cars were there in your own train?
A. A combined car and two coaches.

Q. What was the name of this troup that was on your train?
A. "Night Off" Company.


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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