Sheaffer statement

Q. Have you been in the service of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company for some time?
A. Since 1877.

Q. In what capacity?
A. Messenger, operator, train despatcher, and at the present time, Division Operator. I have been Division Operator since October 1885.

Q. What is the extent of your division?
A. From Pittsburgh to Altoona, and all branches of the Pittsburgh Division.

Q. What are your duties as Division Operator?
A. To look after the operators; and also the wires, and see that they are kept in proper order.

Q. Where are your headquarters?
A. Pittsburgh.

Q. State what took place on this Friday of the flood.
A. I came to the office about eight o'clock on Friday morning, and on arrival at the office, I found some of our wires were in trouble between Lilly and Sonman. The Manager of the office, who has charge of testing the wires, had located the trouble there, and found it was caused by high water, which had washed severla [sic] of our poles down. He had succeeded in keeping up communication with Altoona by connecting onto the Western Union side. From Johnstown east, our poles are on the north side, and the Western Union poles on the south side and we had used our wires on their side from Conemaugh, on account of the trouble at Bens Creek. We kept communications up with Altoona until about 10.30. We experienced trouble then east of Conemaugh at some point which we couldn't locate definitely, and also trouble at several other points between Johnstown and South Fork. We still had communication after 10.30 with Conemaugh, but we couldn't reach any point east of that from Pittsburgh. After 10. 30 [sic] we were cut off entirely from Pittsburgh east of Conemaugh. About 12.30, the telegraph repairmen reported re-setting two poles that had been washed down by a land slide east of Conemaugh. That gave us communication as far east as "AO" tower. That was as far east as I understand they could get through from Pittsburgh from that time until the flood. About 11 o'clock, I left Pittsburgh on the Special with Mr. Trump and a lot of telegraph repairmen, to make the necessary repairs at the points we had report of, and with the intention of going to Bens Creek. We reached Johnstown about 2.40, as near as I can recollect, and didn't find any trouble with our wires between Pittsburgh and Johnstown, with the exception at the east side of the Johnstown bridge, there was one of our poles that had been washed out of shape, and had broken one of our wires, and the broken wire hanging down caused some trouble on several of the other wires. We cleared that; and also, our two wires on the Western Union side were in trouble. We left Johnstown somewhere about 2.40 or 2.50, and started to Conemaugh. Our poles from Johnstown up to Conemaugh were all in good order. We reached Johnstown about 3.10, or somewhere in that neighborhood, and I went into the tower and talked with Pittsburgh, and asked them what trouble they were having west, but didn't wait for any answer. I sent a message to the manager of the office, reaceived [sic] in Pittsburgh at 3.25, asking if he had any trouble wast of Conemaugh, and told him we found all right with the exception of one wire, and told him what would clear the wires on the Western Union side, in trouble west of Conemaugh. When I was in Conemaugh tower, Mineral Point called up Conemaugh, and said he would have to get out of the office on account of high water, and I told the operator to tell him if it wasn't safe to stay in, to get out. That was about 3.23. The way we came to get Mineral Point from Conemaugh was on a special signal wire, between us and between South Fork towers. We [sic] have a wire which acts as a short wire between the different offices, cut in at each office, and Pittsburgh couldn't get Mineral Point on that wire without having all the cuts taken off west of Conemaugh. We left Conemaugh abot [sic] 3.25, and got a short distance east of Buttermilk Falls, and we notice d [sic] the drift wood coming down, and we all remarked at the time that the dam must have broken. We stopped the train and walked on up, and the train came up to "AO" tower. We met the operator running down, and he said the office was going town. We went on back and found the office in shape, and carried some of the things out of it, and afterwards remained there until the water had got down to about the height it was before the dam broke, and the flood was over. We walked on up to bridge 6, and took in all we could see, and held a consultation to decide what we were going to do; and finally we decided to send three parties to Conemaugh to see the condition of things, and see what damage the flood had done, and sent a couple of men out to see if they could hire a horse or some kind of a conveyance, so that we could send a message or report to Altoona and Pittsburgh. We calculated to send the reports to Ebensburg, and have then sent through by wire from there. The parties came back after a while and reported that they couldn't get a rig, and the parties from Conemaugh gave us a full report of what damage they could see at that time. Of course, it was dark, and we couldn't do anything then, and I remarked at that time that I wouldn't go up over the mountain the way it was. The parties who had come back got lost, and we had to blow the whistle of the engine to get them down off the hill. So we concluded to stay there. About daylight on Saturday morning, we divided the party, Mr. Wierman and Mr. Webb and several others going east, and Mr. Trump and myself with the balance started west. We walked to Conemaugh and down through Johnstown on the other side of the river, and arrived in Pittsburgh at 6.50.

Q. Where is Buttermilk Falls with reference to Conemaugh station?
A. I judge it is a little over a quarter of a mile east.

Q. You were at that point when the flood came along?
A. Just a short distance east of that; if we had been there, we would have been washed away. We remained on the only high piece of track there, and the onluy [sic] piece of track that was left. I judge about a half mile of track that wasn't covered with water.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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