90th anniversary of Bryn Athyn train crash

BRYN ATHYN, Pa. - December 5, 2011

On December 5, 1921, David Krewson's father Clarence was heading from Newtown to Philadelphia for business school.

Years ago, David tape-recorded his father's account of the two passenger train crash that claimed the lives of 27 people and injured 70 more.

"They were both doing 35 miles an hour. You can imagine the impact was terrific," David said.

Krewson was among the victims' descendants at today's 90th anniversary commemoration in Bryn Athyn hosted by Southampton Railroad Station Society.

The crash site was narrow and rocky, not far from the old Bryn Athyn station.

Historians say the engineers couldn't see each other until it was too late. Investigators later blamed human error.

"As soon as the northbound train pulled out of the station, the station master knew it was going to happen, he tried to flag it down," Southampton Railroad Station Society President James Day said.

Krewson's father managed to escape through a hole in the roof of a rail-car.

"That's the only reason he would have been saved because that car burned down to its frame," Krewson said.

The flames were ferocious. The disaster led to a national ban on wooden railway passenger cars. Nine people were burned beyond recognition, and now are buried in a single grave including Brad Robinson's great aunt.

"One thing that was always told, you never sit on the first car of the train or the last car of a train, because of what happened to Aunt Lena," Robinson said.

There is an effort underway to restore the old Southampton train station. There's still a lot of fundraising left to do, but the hope is that that a museum will be included with a display about that day in history.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more, click here.

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