Conductor Warthen Statement

Q. Where were you employed on the last day of May 1889?
A. I was on No. 12, Mail Train east.

Q. Conductor, were you?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. What time did you leave Pittsburgh?
A. 5.30.

Q. And what time did you arrive at Johnstown?
A. About 8.30.

Q. How long did you remain there?
A. I suppose we remained at Johnstown two or three minutes; long enough toload [sic] our baggage and discharge our passengers.

Q. How many passengers had you from there east?
A. I think about 13.

Q. Where did you stop next?
A. Conemaugh.

Q. Why did you stop there?
A. We were held there for orders.

Q. Where was your train placed, and who placed it?
A. Mr. Walkinshaw placed it on No. 1 track right by the coal tipple.

Q. Was that the track next to the river?
A. No, sir, it isn't -- [sic] the nearest track to the river. My train was furthest over from the hill.

Q. How far was your train away from the river?
A. Oh, I suppose 10 yards.

Q. Was the train moved after you were placed there?
A. Yes, sir, they pulled us up further. We first lay down by the township bridge, and the track commenced to wash into us there, and we had to pull up.

Q. What time was it, as near as you can tell, that the tracks commenced to wash out?
A. Well, it was between 2 & 3 o'cloc(k).

Q. Was the river out of its banks at that time?
A. No, sir, it wasn't there, but the township bridge had gone.

Q. Up until the time that the flood came, was the river out of its banks?
A. No, sir.

Q. During the time you lay there, did you hear anything said by Mr. Walkinshaw or anybody else as to the danger of the dam giving way?
A. Yes, sir, there was a message came. The operator told us that he had a\ [sic] message from the dam saying that it was liable to break at any moment, and we went out then in the train, and talked with the passengers about it, but I had never seen the dam, and didn't know how bad it would be if it did break. I told my passengers, in case there would be any trouble of that kind, to be ready to get out of the train. I didn't know what the danger might be. The only warning we had of the dam breaking, and the water coming down, was an engine whistling up the track. It commenced to whistle an alarm, and we looked out and saw the water coming, and hollowed to the passengers, and we just had time to get them out and get on the hill.

Q. You had a theatrical troupe, didn't you?
A. Yes, sir; "Night Off" Company.

Q. Had you any other passengers in the train?
A. Yes, sir; they all escaped.

Q. What time was it the operator told you he had that message about the dam?
A. That was along about three o'clock.

Q. How long was it until the flood came?
A. I think it was along about 3.30 somewheres. [sic]

Q. Did you hear of any more than one message?
A. No, sir, just the one.

Q. Were the passengers out and around the tower there and the station?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. W asn't [sic] the matter pretty generally known that the water w as [sic] running over the dam, amongst them?
A. Yes, sir, the matter was talked about, and I heard it mentioned frequently among the passengers, and several people living at Conemaugh talked with the passengers in regard to it, and said that had been the cry for the last ten or fifteen years that the dam would break, every little rise that t [sic] would come, and they didn't think there was any danger.

Q. Where were the two Day Expresses laying at that time with reference to the situation of your train?
A. They were laying over next to the station.

Q. Were they closer to the river or further away from the river than you?
A. Further away.

Q. And how far were they from your train?
A. There were four tracks between us and the Day Expresses.

Q. They were further towards the hill?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. How long had you been running on the road?
A. I have been on the road now very near 7 years.

Q. From your knowledge of the flood that day, would you say before the dam broke, and from your knowledge of the yard at Conemaugh and where these trainsw ere [sic] placed, that they were placed in as safe a place as the Yard Master could put them?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Why couldn't you have gone east after you got there?
A. We didn't have any orders; we were ordered to stay there for orders.

Q. And you remained there ---------- [sic] for orders?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Where were you when the flood from the dam came?
A. I was in my train, in the rear end of it; in the rear coach.

Q. Was it raining at the time?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. How long before was it that you warned these passengers about the flood coming, that you went into the rear coach?
A. I suppose it was an hour or an\ [sic] hour and a half.

Q. Was there anybody about there, the Yard Master or yourself, any of the railroad employes, or any of the passengers that seriously apprehended what happened afterwards by the breaking of the dam?
A. No, sir, nobody had any idea of what it would be.

Q. Did you have any fear yourself on the subject?
A. No, sir, I didn't; I had never seen the dam, and hadn't any idea of the body of water there, or what condition it was in.

Q. What effect had the flood on yourtrain? [sic]
A. It washed the train some distance down the track? It didn't take any of it away.

Q. Did it turn any of the cars over?
A. No, sir.

Q. Or the locomotive?
A. No, sir.

Q. Did it move it off the track?
A. No, sir, not until the water went down, and it settled away.

Q. Did anybody remain on your train, or did they all go away?
A. The baggage master staid there.

Q. What is his name?
A. Grove.

Q. Did you see the wave coming?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. What did it look like to you?
A. I don't think I could hardly tell you. I suppose that it was as least 25 feet high anyhow , and it was taking everything before it, trees, houses, logs, and everything else shooting up out of it; it looked fearful frightful.

Q. What did you do when you saw it coming? Run for the hill?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. You made pretty good time, I suppose?
A. I didn't lose any time; had none to lose.

Q. Did the engineer and fireman leave?
A. Yes, sir, everybody left but the baggage master.

Q. What induced him to stay?
A. He says he was locking his car, and looked in the passenger car, and he got too late, and he couldn't get out, and he jumped on an old yard engine there, and staid on that. I believe it was the only yard engine that was left in the yad [sic] yard that wasn't turned over.

Q. Was it raining all that morning?
A. Yes, sir, raining hard.

Q. Suppose the passengers had been taken out and put in the station house, what would have been the result when the flood came?
A. They would all have been lost.

Q. So that the trains were in the safest place they could be put?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. That is yourdeliberate [sic] judgement?
A. Yes, sir.



Last updated: February 26, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

733 Lake Road
South Fork, PA 15956

Phone:

(814) 886-6170

Contact Us