The early morning mist hung like a gray curtain over the hollow near the John Lindsay farm about four miles east of Carlisle.
Willis Enck of Mechanicsburg was sweeping the interior of the trolley Car No. 21 when he noticed the rapid approach of Car No. 20 on the same stretch of track of the Cumberland Valley Traction Company.
Newspapers in Carlisle reported how Enck tried to warn Benjamin Bricker of the impending head-on collision, but the man at the controls must not have heard him.
It was about 7:12 a.m. on Oct. 19, 1902, and Bricker was about to suffer a crippling injury from an accident later blamed on a misunderstanding over the orders of the day.
“The two cars came together with a great crash, and a moment after there were only broken fragments of them lying all about, and the injured and apparently dying passengers among the wreck,” The Carlisle Daily Herald said in an Oct. 20 front-page story.
The Evening Sentinel mentioned how the ends of both trolley cars were completely demolished and both were cracked badly at the top of the windows.
Upon impact, a fire broke out in Car 21, and Enck was “pinioned fast by his foot and was in imminent danger of a dreadful death,” The Herald reported.
The Sentinel version of the trolley accident had Enck free from the wreckage to pull an unconscious Bricker out of the debris. Both newspapers described how a hired hand from a nearby farm had arrived on the scene and used a bucket of water to help extinguish the fire.
While The Sentinel claimed the farm hand acted alone, The Herald reported he was part of a bucket brigade of citizen first-responders. A third newspaper, The Daily Journal of Mechanicsburg, began its coverage with a paragraph dismissing an early rumor that Enck, “a resident of the burg.” was near death from his injuries. The speculation was the talk of the town.
Bricker near death?
“Telephone wires between here and Churchtown, Boiling Springs and Carlisle were kept busy by those anxious to ascertain the truth of the unfortunate affair,” the Mechanicsburg newspaper reported. The Journal had a totally different take on Enck’s role in the lead-up to the accident and the rescue of Bricker.
According to The Journal, Enck first noticed Car 20 through the dense fog at a distance of about 50 yards coming down a hill at a good rate of speed. “He quickly caught hold of the brake and controller and succeeded in stopping his car.”
The Journal reported that Bricker was struck in the face by the controller. The impact knocked Bricker down, and one of his feet got caught and jammed tightly in the step leading from the trolley car to the platform.
Enck worked hard to release Bricker and move him to safety. Bricker was then transported to Todd Hospital in Carlisle where his crushed left leg was amputated below the knee. A rumor had circulated that Bricker had died.
“He’s still living, although his condition is very precarious,” The Herald reported. “One side of the face was almost severed and after the amputation of his limb, he (Bricker) had to be tied down on his bed.”
A century ago, newspapers were far more graphic on the gory details of injuries and deaths suffered in accidents. Armon Ohrum, the motorman in Car No. 20, was badly injured. “The lobe of his ear was almost severed and he received an ugly cut on the neck,” The Sentinel reported. “His back is also injured and a rib is cracked.”
While Ohrum was a crewman with the trolley company, Nannie Park was a passenger on an early morning commute. “Her jaw was fractured and her arm was broken near the wrist,” The Sentinel reported.
Historians C.L. Siebert Jr. and Richard H. Steinmetz included a chapter on accidents in their book “Valley Railways: Trolleys on Harrisburg’s West Shore.” The chapter included a summary of their findings based on research into the Oct. 19, 1902 head-on collision.
A conductor with the traction company, Enck started his day around 7 a.m. when he left Mechanicsburg in trolley Car No. 21. “It was customary for the conductor alone to bring the first car to Boiling Springs, where he picked up his motorman,” the chapter reads. “This day track boss Benjamin Bricker was aboard and ran the car for him (Enck).”
Meanwhile Parker Ohrum, Armon’s brother, started his day in Carlisle at 7 a.m. and was riding Car No. 20 to Boiling Springs where he was supposed to transfer to Car No. 21 and work the day as its motorman.
“When Enck reached Boiling Springs, the opposing car was not in sight,” the chapter reads. “Having no orders to the contrary, he (Enck) left Boiling Springs expecting to meet the eastbound car at the next passing track, midway between Boiling Springs and Carlisle. Meanwhile that car, No. 20, not having orders to pass at any particular point, advanced beyond this turnout.”
The Sentinel, in its coverage, reported that William Fisher was the conductor of Car No. 20 and that Parker Ohrum was a passenger, along with Nannie Park and her brother Bert Park. Soon after the accident, Parker Ohrum found a horse and rode to Carlisle to summon help from local physicians. Four doctors responded to the scene.
According to The Sentinel, Bert Park was badly shaken up in the collision while Enck, Parker Ohrum and Fisher suffered cuts to the head. The chapter of Valley Railways described several collisions and derailments involving trolleys.
The only fatal West Shore accident involving a trolley car passenger took place on March 16, 1914 where 32nd Street intersects with Simpson Ferry Road and the old Gettysburg Pike. The 7:30 p.m. trolley from Harrisburg was on its way to Mechanicsburg when a stone lodged against the right-hand rail, causing the front truck of the trolley car to derail and roll over onto its left side. Below is an excerpt from the book:
“Everyone aboard the car was injured to some extent except for (William Sherman, the motorman) who held on to the controls as the car turned over. Mrs. Isabelle Jones of Camp Hill was sitting beside her husband on the right side of the car, but as it rolled over she was thrown to the other side and through the window. The window frame caught her head under it as the car came to rest, killing her instantly. Eight others were injured. Two of the worse injured were taken to the hospital in Harrisburg.”