The victims’ bodies were “strewn along tracks.” It was Labor Day weekend in 1943, and eight cars of a 16-car train derailed at Frankford Junction in Philadelphia — reportedly along the same stretch where Tuesday night’s deadly crash occurred 72 years later.
Nearly 80 people died in the 1943 accident, making it “the most disastrous wreck in recent railroading history,” according to an Associated Press article on the crash. Frankford Junction, a railroad junction, is located in northeast Philadelphia.
“All eight of the derailed cars were sprawled like match sticks across the four tracks of the Pennsylvania’s main line, completely blocking it to all traffic,” a New York Times article at the time of the accident read. “The first day coach rolled over and over until it struck the base of a signal tower, which sheared through it like a giant can opener. It tore a gap through the middle of the car big enough for an automobile to pass through.”
An overheated axle at the front of the seventh car caused the accident. There were more than 500 people on the train. World War II was still ongoing, and many of the riders were soldiers on leave for the holiday weekend.
The Times reported that train was the “celebrated Congressional Limited, long known as Pennsylvania’s fastest train.” It had left D.C. at 4 p.m. and was slated to arrive at Penn Station in New York at 7:35 p.m.
“It slackened speed a trifle below its normal seventy five mile an hour to take a slight curve as it passed the Frankford Junction passenger station,” the article reads. “Suddenly the seventh car was seen to lurch, and then shoot high into the air.”
Tuesday evening’s crash occurred around the same spot along a sharp curve in the railway in a neighborhood about seven miles northeast of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station.