"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

24 May 2014

Trolley Car Crash

Come in from the wind and rain, come in from the thunder
Come in with your aching heart, I won't see you go under
I'll hold you from the bitter cold, through the wonder
In the hollow of the wild, no more need to hunger
--"What's Closest To The Heart" by Cathie Ryan

At 12:40 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 1902 (112 years ago today), my 3rd-great-grandmother Leonora Johanna Siegel was riding the trolley home to Lakeside, after doing some shopping in downtown Richmond, VA.

(Richmond then and now:  1901 vs. 2014)

Along the way, a bad storm passed over the area.  Leonora was the only passenger, sitting in about the middle of the car.  The trolley had left Barton Heights, and was moving up Westbrook Hill, rapidly approaching a sharp curve in the tracks.  According to Leonora, "I was thinking what an awful rate of speed the car was travelling and the thought had hardly flashed through my mind, when the thing happened."
With the combination of the weather and high speed, the trolley's conductor and motorman were unable to negotiate the curve.  The car jumped the tracks, crashing into a nearby iron pole.  Leonora was thrown forward against the seat, and received a deep, 4-inch-long cut across her forehead and over her eye.  The conductor's wrist was sprained and leg wounded, and the motorman's hand was "mashed."  Fortunately, none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Leonora's family was summoned, including her son, Dr. Charles Siegel, who stitched up her head wound.  Another doctor from the Passenger & Power Company also came, but the family declined, saying that "it was unnecessary."

After her injury had been treated, and the storm had passed, the Siegel family were able to move Leonora from the trolley car and take her home in a carriage.  Per newspaper accounts, she spent the evening resting quietly, though still suffering from shock.  It was feared, however, that she might lose sight in her wounded eye.

The front of the trolley was completely smashed in, and the iron pole had been knocked down.  It wasn't until after 5 p.m. that the damage had been cleared, and the trolley line could reopen.

Leonora later sued the Passenger & Power Company for $5,000, alleging that "the curve [was] a very dangerous one at that point, and that the accident was the result of carelessness on the part of the motorman."  I do not know the outcome of the case.