Eyewitness recalls the 1939 wreck of the Blue Comet in a drenching rain

A Blue Comet car that sits on a track in Tuckahoe, awaiting restoration. (Photo by Bob Whipple)

 An eyewitness to the Aug. 19, 1939 wreck of the Blue Comet, a once famous luxury train, recalls how the train was surrounded by waist-high water in some areas when it derailed in Chatsworth after a drenching rain storm.

Walter Brower, who was 12 at the time, said today's heavy downpour reminded him of that day.  The U.S. Weather Bureau said that a record 15 inches fell that day in the Pinelands.    

"This weather takes me back to that day," said Brower, now a retired Rider University dean of education. 

Today, South Jersey got a good soaking, with 2 to 12 inches of rain. 

Brower remembered running down the track to see the wreck.    He waded through the deep water and realized when he got to the scene that the track had washed out.

Thirty-two passengers were injured.  A cook who was in the diner car died later in a Mount Holly hospital.


Last week I interviewed Brower at his home in Hamilton, Mercer County.  He and a childhood friend, who were first to arrive, had helped carry the passengers' bags through the water.  He also led passengers to dry land.

The story is scheduled to run in the Inquirer this week.  I'll post a link when it is published.  We also will have lots of pictures of the wreck.