Yesterday's tragic Metro-North derailment is reminiscent of a deadly train crash in 1882, which occurred near the same curve near Spuyten Duyvil. The crash left 10 to 12 people dead, including then-State Senator Webster Wagner.
The 1882 incident happened on January 13th; an Atlantic Express train bound for the city from Albany was a little over half-an-hour late in leaving the state capital and was reportedly picking up speed to make up for the delay. Upon reaching the curve just past the Spuyten Duyvil station, though, an air brake blew and the train stalled. It was struck in the rear by a Tarrytown Special train that did not see the Express stopped on the track, and the impact crushed the two rear cars and started a fire; locals from the nearby town rushed to the scene and attempted to stem the flames using snow and snowballs. As illustrated per a January 14th, 1882 New York Times article, which reports:
A heavy head of steam was on, a red-hot fire was blazing in the fire-box, and there were grave doubts expressed by the engineer and fireman about the boiler resisting the tremendous pressure brought to bear upon it. Water to quench the fire was called for. Then great shovelfuls of snow were piled into the furnace...The dying persons in the ruins had to be abandoned to grapple with this danger, which promised death to so many of the living. The furnace flames were finally quenched, and attention was once more turned to the two burning cars, whose more solid timbers had by this time been eaten away by the fierce flames.
Ten minutes had elapsed since the accident. The last sound from the entombed passengers had died away. Nothing was heard but the crackle of the fire and the shouts from the villagers, half mad with excitement and the thoughts of human beings dying before their eyes and they unable to afford them succor...Hundreds of hands began to roll up big balls. They were passed over the fence to those who, braving the heat, ran alongside the fiery piles and and tossed them through the windows to be licked up by the flames.
The train was carrying a number of state legislators on their way into the city from Albany; Wagner, who according to Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper was last seen entering one of the rear cars right before the the crash, was himself something of a railroad magnate, having run Wagner Palace Car Company prior to entering politics.
According to another NY Times account of the accident, other victims included newlyweds Park and Louise Valentine, Brooklyn resident J.A. Richards, and Oliver Keeley, a stove manufacturer from Pennsylvania. Later witness accounts noted alcohol may have played a role in the crash; many of the passengers were reportedly drinking, and it has been suggested that one of the passengers may have pulled the air-brake cord that caused the train to stall.