Monahan Statement

Q. What were you employed in on the day of the big flood at Johnstown?
A. I was running the 1167.

Q. An engineer?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Where did you start from ?
A. Well, our run is from Altoona to Blairsville. I started from Blairsville that evening at about 9.50 or 9.55.

Q. On Thursday?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Go on now in your own way, and tell us where you went?
A. We got as far as Conemaugh, and there was a little wreck there, a couple cars off track there, and they held us there until morning. It was, I guess, about 6.15 that I got away from there.

Q. Where did you go from there?
A. I went from there to South Fork.

Q. At the time you left Conemaugh, was the water in the Conemaugh over its banks or not?
A. Why, no,I [sic] don't think it was over the bank anywhere that I seen.

Q. Was it over any of the tracks you passed over?
A. No, sir.

Q. As near as you can tell, what time did you leave Conemaugh?
A. I think it was about 6.15 when we pulled out.

Q. Where did you go then?
A. We ran on up to South Fork; and we got orders to lay off thee [sic] for an A Extra, and took the middle siding. We got to the upper end of the middle siding, the east end of the middle siding, and there was a train laying on the main track ahead of us on account of red block, and from what I found out, No. 20 was on the block yet between Wilmore and South Fork, and the Accommodation, I forget the number of it, whether it is No. 15 or not, was laying between Wilmore and Lilly; and there was a washout wast of Lillys [sic] that was holding it.

Q. Did you get an order to go away from South Fork?
A. No, sir, we laid there until the flood washed us out.

Q. Where was your train laying when the flood came along?
A. We were laying on the middle siding, and our engines stood right under the coal tipple.

Q. How many cars had you?
A. I think we had 34 or 36 cars.

Q. Were they loaded or empty?
A. All loaded.

Q. What with, do you know?
A. Indeed I couldn't say.

A. [sic] Was it coal cars, box cars, or what?
A. There were a great many bo x [sic] cars, and there were some trucks loaded with a pair of big boilers, next to the engine, and te [sic] the next couple cars were loaded with bridge iron, and there was another one loaded with car sills.

Q. While you were laying there at South Fork, what did you hear, if anything, about the danger of the South Fork dam coming out.
A. About twenty minutes to twelve, I started up to South Fork to get my dinner, along with a brakeman we had, by the name of George, that lives at South Fork, and he was taking me up to get my dinner at his place; and we met a man coming down, George called him by name, I don't remember the name; he was all over mud, and he said when he came down, the water was running over the breast of the reservoir, and he came down to telegraph to Johnstown to look out. From the way he talked, he seemed very much excited, we thought there was a good deal of danger of it breaking; [sic]

Q. You don't know the name of the man?
A. No, sir, I forget his name; I didn't know the man myself; this other man I was with knew him. After I got my dinner, I came back, I judge about twenty minutes after one, we came down there, and then they were getting No. 2 over the birdge [sic]. I had nothing to do with that, more than I saw them taking it over there, and I staid there and watched them. They cut the front engine loose, and ran over it, and then hauled the train over afterwards. Then I went down to the engine, and staid there a while, and then I went up to the telegraph office.

Q. What did you learn there, if anything
A. I went up there to see if I could find out anything. I heard the operator saying there was 18 rail-lengths washed out below Lillys, and the water was so high they couldn't do anything. She was telling Conductor Vance of No. 2 that they couldn't do anything on account of the water being so high, and that she didn't know when they would get out of that. Vance said he was getting hungry, and said he would like to have his dinner, and I told him he had better go and get it. He said "Where are you laying?" and I said "On the middle siding", and he said, "If there are any orders come for me, toot your whistle, and I will know then, and I'll come back and get them". I told him all right, if there were any orders came for him, I would whistle for him. Then I went to the engine and staid there until I heard the alram [sic] of the flood coming. The first thing I heard was the people screaming and hollowing, and I hollowed to the fireman; he was sleeping on the othe r [sic] side; that the flood was coming and that he had better get up on the bank. So he went up on the bank at the coal tipple, and the flood came; and the train backed in there on what they call "Argyle siding", Extra 1165, they cut the engine loose and ran across the bridge just before the flood came. He had only four cars and the cabin, and it washed them away, and washed the tower away. there was two men in that cabin got drowned there.

Q. What became of your train?
A. Our train got washed back about 20 or 25 car-lengths down west, down the middle siding, and the front ten cars and the front engine staid on the track, and the balance of the train I guess 24 cars, floated all off tracks and wound around there like a snake. Finally it washed them on the bed of the old Portage road, over against the hill.

Q. How many years had you been running on the road?
A. Since September 1873.

Q. Did you ever see a flood anything like as high as that?
A. No, sir.

Q. Wasn't it an extraordinary flood? I don't speak now with reference to the dam breaking, but before the flood itself?
A. I believe the river was higher before the flood than I ever seen it.

Q. If it hadn't been for the breaking of the dam, and the flood coming over where you train was, didn't you consider the train was in a safe place?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. There wouldn't have been any trouble if it hadn't been for the dam breaking?
A. No, sir. From the level of the roadbed down to the water was eight feet, may be ten, before the flood came.

Q. Was the bank full, did you notice, before the flood came?
A. Not at that point; the bank is pretty high there.

Q. The two men that were drowned, that you have spoken of, were on the train that went over the bridge, were they?
A. They cut loose and ran the engine over, and the train was left standing on the siding. They were left on the west side of the bridge, and it swept that train right away.

Q. Were they employes of the Company?
A. Yes, sir; two brakemen?

Q. What were therir [sic] names?
A. Coho and Henderson.


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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