The Centerville Train Wreck
Today, after a period of 75 years, I am reminded of an incident
that happened on this date in 1920. It involved a Pennsylvania Railroad
train numbered 544, Baltimore bound.
This incident remains very vivid to me, when as a 7 year old at
that time, I can recall just where I was when the message was received
in notification of the happening. I was standing at one of my favorite
spots in the Telegraph Operators office, near the semaphor signal
operation levers in the station at Hanover Junction. The operator
on duty this evening, for the middle trick (4:00 P.M. to Midnight)
was Edward C. Henry, receiving the message that train No.544 had
derailed and plowed into the bank just north of Centerville.
The train passed Hanover Jct. at 4:54 P.M. and was due to stop
at Glen Rock at 5:01 P.M. However, it didn't make it to Glen Rock.
Our family had to change their minds as to planned activity for
this GOOD FRIDAY evening. Most Friday evenings usually meant a train
ride to Glen Rock to do some grocery shopping at the local Atlantic
& Pacific Tea Company store. This was accomplished by using
train No. 994, 5:34 P.M. at Hanover Jct. and returned on train No.
995, 8:07 P.M. to Hanover Jct.
Why train usage? No family car as yet. This particular Friday provided
no grocery shopping trip, for 994 made no appearance this evening.
Seems that there was an obstruction preventing 994's passing the
On this fatal date No. 544 was double headed with engineer Walter
DeHuff in charge of the lead engine. He met his death in this wreck.
Engineer Charles Wilson was in charge of the second engine.
A passenger aboard the train that evening, Millard L. Kroh, a personal
acquaintance of mine, told of the two engines lying on their sides,
the Baggage car sideways across both tracks and the passenger cars
blocking both tracks, with the Pullman cars still in an upright
Historic records indicate there was only one passenger on the injured
Lacking specific information as to the cause of the accident, it
is commonly agreed by officials that a piece of the lead locomotive
broke, falling to the rails, causing the derailment of the locomotive.