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Sue Salsburg always knew her great-grandfather, Hiram Auman, was killed in a train wreck but the details came to light in clippings found in an old family bible. Turned out he was the engineer of a 2-6-0 camelback making up a coal train in the yard & was hit head on by a freight coming on the main at high speed.  Sue and her husband are building a small layout as a memorial to him and are having great fun with the modelling.  The two newspaper articles below tell the sad tale:


“The Worst That Ever Happened in the Mauch Chunk Yard” 

         One of the most disastrous wrecks that ever happened in the Central yard at this place, occurred at ten minutes past 11 last Friday night. Freight train No.400, one of the fastest between Mauch Chunk & Jersey City, drawn  by Engine #413, Charles Keck, of East Mauch Chunk, engineer, had just left the siding at Coalport somewhat behind time & was coming down the yard at a rapid rate of speed, when, without a moment’s warning, it crashed into Engine # 390, which, in charge of Engineer Hiram Auman was leaving the roundhouse to cross over the main track so that it could back down to his train – a coal train that 390 was scheduled to pull to E-port. It was considered by railroaders to be a crossing accident: the two huge monsters meeting on the crossing. The result was simply awful. Hiram Auman, of East Mauch Chunk, the engineer on the 390, was pinned under engine & his body was terribly mangled. The engine was turned on it’s side, dismantled & shattered, the life being crushed out of the unfortunate man almost instantly, the body being fairly cooked by the heat from the boiler.

   Charles E. Keck, of Pine Street, East Mauch Chunk, one of the oldest engineers on the Central road, was the engineer of the freight. He is alive & well but how he escaped is one of the great miracles of railroading. His engine, the 413, which was also completely shattered & dismantled, was turned on its side & stripped of its cab. Keck, who was on the side toward the engine with which he collided, clung to the boiler & when the great monster rolled over on its side he climbed down from its top. Robert Stein, of the second ward, his fireman, was hurled from the engine when they first came together & also escaped unhurt. Wm. Zerby, of the second ward, the conductor of the freight, was in the fireman’s cab when the crash came & was hurled many feet & in some way or another was caught in the flying debris. Both his legs were broken & he has an ugly gash in his head. He was taken to the hospital car & made as comfortable as possible by Drs. B.S. Erwin & J.K. Henry. The latter, together with a number of his fellow-railroaders, accompanied the hospital car to St. Luke’s at Bethlehem. What the result to Zerby will be no one can foretell. He is severely injured, but all his many friends hope for the best. The freight was a through merchandise train & one of the fastest scheduled trains on the road.

    Auman’s fireman is a new man who boards at Rehrig’s Hotel on Susquehanna street. He was on the pilot of the engine & saw the oncoming train in time to get out of the way. Harry Schoch, of 5th street, East Mauch Ch8unk, is the conductor. He was not on the engine at the time but was a short distance away. He saw a sight that he will never forget. Five freight cars were wrecked & their contents, pickled hams, cheese, salt etc, were scattered in all directions. The tracks were torn up & big, heavy steel rails & beams were twisted into all sorts of shaped.

   The scene, even at 7 o’clock the next morning, after the wrecking crew had been at work all night with a large force of men, beggared description. The dead engineer was immediately under his locomotive & it was utterly impossible to get at the body until about 10 o’clock this morning, when the engine was raised with jacks & the crushed remains taken out. They were removed to Yeager Bros. Undertaking establishment on Broadway & prepared for the grave.

    There are many theories as to the cause of the accident but all hands agree that no signal was turned against the freight & Engineer Keck knew nothing whatever of the engine being in his road.

****  Sketch of the Dead Engineer  ****

Hiram Auman, the dead engineer, was about 40 years of age & resided in Twining’s Triple block on Centre St. between 6th  & 7th , East Mauch Chunk. His wife died in May last year & he leaves to survive him three small children ranging in ages from two to nine. He was a most exemplary citizen & a sober, industrious & competent engineer. Mr. Auman is a native of Wilkes-Barre & moved to East Mauch Chunk probably about nine years ago. His father, William Auman, is an old man over 80, still in the employ of the Central at the Ashley shops. There is one brother William, Jr. at Philadelphia & one sister who is the widow of Frank O’Donnell, of Wilkes-Barre, an engineer who lost his life on the Central several years ago. The deceased was a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & of the Ashley Lodge of Freemasons.       



   A frightful wreck occurred in the Central Railroad yard, about one hundred yards above the East Mauch Chunk bridge shortly after eleven o'clock Friday night. Hiram Auman, engineer, of East Mauch Chunk, was killed & William Zerby, conductor, of Mauch Chunk, had his legs broken & was otherwise injured.

    The crash was occasioned by the collision of fast freight "400", Scranton to Jersey City, with engine # 390.
The fast freight reached Coalport from Scranton a little late. At Coalport, Engineer Charles Keck at the throttle of engine #413 took charge of the train & without unnecessary delay started out for final destination Jersey City.

    Hiram Auman of East Mauch Chunk was the engineer of the coal train & at the throttle of #390 was about to pass out from a roundhouse siding to the main track to get his caboose a short distance down the line. Just as his engine was on the cross-over frog, the freight train, traveling from 35 to 40 miles an hour, crashing into it.

In an instance, the scene was changed. In place of the splendid, solid, rapidly moving train of freight cars with its ponderous, powerful engine, that seemed almost a thing of life, now appeared as if by magic, masses of twisted iron & steel, crushed woodwork & damages merchandise. Engine # 390 lay on her side-a scrap heap- and saddest of all under her lay her former master, his hand on the reverse lever, asleep in death. Engine #413 struck engine #390 with such terrible force that she was thrown athwart the tracks & then fell over on her side. Engineer Charles Keck also went down with his machine & was assisted from the debris practically uninjured. Conductor William Zerby was thrown violently from a box car to the tracks & suffered a compound fracture of his right leg. His left leg was also injured & his body badly bruised & lacerated. His injuries were dressed at the hospital car after which he was taken to St. Luke's Hospital. Fireman Stein of 413 & Fireman Kitchen of 390 were practically uninjured. How either escaped with their life is truly a mystery.

    Engineer Auman was taken from his cab on the under side of his engine shortly before 10 0'clock. His body was terribly crushed, the face not much disfigured. The remains were taken in charge by Undertaker Yaeger. The dead man's hand was on the reverse lever & this means that he saw his danger & pluckily stuck to his post in the hope of averting inevitable disaster. He failed & the name of another hero is added to the scroll of the army of faithful railroad men who have given their lives in sacrifice to duty. The victim was a member of Lodge 257 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Mauch Chunk., He leaves three children, two boys & one girl, the oldest 10 to mourn his death. Mrs. Auman died a year ago.

    The scene of the wreck was visited by hundreds of people next morning. Four or five tracks were torn up & about 20 cars were wrecked, many being reduced to splinters. The sight was one of ruin. Grusome indeed was the sight of the hand, arm & shoulder of dead Engineer Auman under Engine # 390. For about twelve hours the body lay there without any attempt being made to release it. This sightseers & fellow railroadmen characterized as a downright shame. The argument that the huge steam wrecking crane, used to clear the debris, could not be gotten within working range, was met by propositions to " jack" up the ponderous machine. But the prime object seemed to be to " gather up the strewn merchandise & get the road in operation". 

    The wreck crew made rapid headway & got things generally pretty well straightened out by noon.  Responsibility for the wreck can only be placed by an official inquiry, The investigation will be made in due season. Railroad engineers are not accustomed to switching onto the main line without first protecting themselves. Just who is responsible, therefore, will not be known until all the men interested have spoken.

**** Engineer Auman Buried*****

All that was mortal of Hiram Auman, the unfortunate engineer who was killed Friday night in the Central yard wreck, was laid to rest Sunday afternoon in Hollenbach cemetery, W-B. The funeral took place from his late home on Fairview Hill at 9 o'clock. Services were held at the house by Rev. Bachman. His remains were taken to W-B on the 9:45 train & Lodge 257 B. of L.E had charge of the obsequies. There was a large number of friends & relatives in attendance There were several beautiful floral offerings sent in by relatives. The pallbearers were Luther LaBarre, George Riley, John C. Rehrig. Lewis Muschlitz, D.E. Bailey & Lewis Provost.

***** Later Note*********

Engines #413 & #390, which were wrecked in the yard last week, are being repaired at the Ashley shops.

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Last modified: January 2018