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Blizzard of 1888 stalled train for two days before rescue

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On March 13, the Blizzard of 1888 struck Queens with a fury. The Newtown Register vividly tells the story, below.

“The most severe snowstorm that has ever been seen in this vicinity came last Monday about 12:30 [a.m.] and by 7 A.M. all the roads and highways were blocked and travel suspended. The storm continued until 12 o’clock Tuesday night. The coal was giving out, no milk; nothing to be had but potatoes and pork. Bread could be found in the bakers shops but no one could get there.

“About 7:30 Monday morning a train came to a dead stop between Elmhurst and Corona. The thermometer during Monday registered about 20 degrees and on Tuesday averaged 5 above during which the wind was blowing from 40 to 60 miles an hour. If the snow had fallen level, it would have been 30 inches in depth, but the wind drifted it so badly that while some spots were bare, others were covered with 5 to 25 feet of snow.

“On the stalled train no relief came for two days. By Wednesday morning a relief train of two locomotives came and pulled the blockaded train out.

“Then came a train of five of the most powerful engines on the road with a huge snowplow in front, and after considerable backing and filling of the main line from Long Island City, this train went to tackle the drifts in the cut between Newtown and Corona.

“Some places it was fully 25 feet deep and packed as densely as sand. The engines with the plow backed down as far as Winfield and then went for the drift at full speed. It was a splendid sight when they struck. The snow rose up like an immense cloud to the height of fully 50 feet; the cloud then split in two and snow was thrown over 150 feet on each side of the track.

“This was repeated, and then the five engines, having conquered the obstacle, went on their way towards Flushing. Fully 500 people witnessed this novel sight and a number were knocked over by the force of the snow.

“Farmers and others turned out on Wednesday to open roads. Although a large force of men worked night and day to clear the tracks, the horse cars could not start until Saturday and schools would be closed for the entire week.

“On the main street, a snow lady, a work of boys was standing on a lofty pedestal of snow. She was a very creditable appearance as to both figure and drapery.”

The Greater Astoria Historical Society is open to the public on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Quinn’s Gallery, 4th Floor, 35−20 Broadway in Long Island City.

For more information, call 718−278−0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.

Posted 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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