All Photos by Nick Gomich
Story by Randy Kotuby
On Saturday, November 4, 1972, the Central Railroad of New Jersey, the CNJ, westbound station (pictured above on the right) at Elizabeth, NJ was destroyed in a spectacular derailment. The cause of the 2:15 PM wreck was determined to be a boxcar which was too high to make it under the Penn Central's (originally Pennsylvania Railroad) Northeast Corridor bridge. The car was about midway through the 81-car freight train bound for Philadelphia and Chicago. Cars of excess height were suppose to travel on tracks 2 and 3, which had a lower roadbed. This day the train was routed west on track 4. The fact the car was empty probably contributed to the wreck. Several railroad authorities speculate that had the car been loaded, the weight would have kept it on the tracks and the top of the car would have been sheered off. Because the car was empty, it bounced off the overpass and derailed, dragging several other cars behind it off the tracks. The wreck tore up over 600 feet of rail.
The westbound station building served as the CNJ police headquarters. Inside the station at the time of the wreck was Thomas Engle, a 25-year-old commuter on his way home, 32-year-old Railroad Lt. John Meyerhoff and 56-year-old Railroad Detective Frank Monthony. Despite the massive amount of damage to the station, none was seriously hurt. Monthony, who was pinned under some rubble and was freed by Meyerhoff, suffered some scrapes and bruises. The desk he was sitting at when the wreck occurred was only inches from a derailed hopper which smashed through the station. Meyerhoff and Engle, though badly shaken by their brush with death, were not hurt.
Cleanup of the wreck began late Saturday afternoon and continued through the next couple of days. The first train past the wreck site was at 5:41 AM on Monday, November 6, 1972. Jersey Central member Nick Gomich was on had to record the clean up on Saturday night and Sunday morning. As you can see from the photos, it was a spectacular wreck. For a larger image and a brief description, click on the thumbnail photo.
This page last updated September 15, 2015.
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