Thursday, February 14, 2008

Child Killed By Train - And A Memory

Here's a terribly sad story, and one that relates to the previous entry. Wherever there are train tracks, eventually there are train deaths. At the time, there were four tracks to the New York, New Haven and Hartford line - the two express lines in the middle, and the two local lines on the outside. At each station, fences were put up between the local and express linesto prevent riders from crossing the tracks and coming to grief with the passing express trains. Outside of the stations, there was no such fence, and the embankment would have been a magnet for boys.

So it was when I lived on Spalding street. There, on the north side of Forest Hills, was a widening of the embankment, and spur lines forked off to take parked boxcars. I was 5-6 years old when I wandered the embankment, walking the spur rails and climbing the boxcars. The trains would rush by with a roar and a palpable sense of danger, but I don't recall any deaths during my time in Jamaica Plain, but I did have to be rushed to the hospital. One day, while a group of us climbed the ladder on the end of a boxcar, the lovely little girl in front of me looked back down at me and quite deliberately stepped on my hand. Off I went, falling backwards to the ground. Apparently, my head landed inches from a rail. My father heard my bawling across the Hood's milk lot, and came and got me. Being covered in the black coal dust of the embankment, I was put in the bathtub, cleaned up, and then, presentable to the doctors and nurses, brought to the hospital. With a spleen not quite ruptured, and none the worse for wear and tear, I was sent home to deal with the DO NOT PLAY ON THE TRAINS! speech that would finally sink in. In later years, this became a family joke, along the lines of "Always wear clean underwear in case you have to go to the hospital."

Thus do I relate to the boy killed by the speeding train. A parent's warning never sinks in until after the advice is needed.

The connection to the previous entry? The little swimming hole would have been very close to the storm drain inlet shown in the second pair of pictures. No map of the time shows the pond, but neither do they show Bussey brook. Perhaps they filled it in to prevent boys from crossing the railroad tracks to reach it.

Boston Daily Globe July 23, 1910

Express Hurls Boy To Death

Thomas J. Kevill Hit at Forest Hills.

On Way to Swimming Pool He Tried to Cross Tracks.

Third Fatal Accident in Last Two Days.

The third death by accident in the West Roxbury district in the last two days, was that of Thomas John Kevill, the 9-year-old son of Mr and Mrs Patrick J. Kevill of 3512 Washington st, Jamaica Plain, who was killed by a locomotive on the NY, NH & H RR, near the Forest Hills station.

The little fellow, with three companions, Thomas Shea, 9 years old, of 412 Amory st, Andrew Fraser, 11 years old of Lotus pl, and William Bentley of Rosmore road, Jamaica Plain, started yesterday afternoon to go to the meadow land on the west side of the Dedham branch tracks of the railroad, near Forest Hills, known as "Muddy pond," to have a swim.

The four youths were walking on the railroad tracks just south of Forest Hills station, where the Dedham branch tracks form a junction with the main line tracks of the railroad. The New York express was approaching the junction and Kevill's companions ran across the tracks.

One of them shouted to Kevill, "Look out for the train!" He answered: "I'll get across all right." He evidently misjudged the distance and speed of the express train and was struck by the locomotive and thrown 40 feet.

The train was stopped and employes(sic) of the railroad who were near ran to the child to find him dead. His head was terribly crushed.

Mrs Kevill, when seen by a reporter of the Globe, after the accident said that she had cautioned her son not to go to the pond. He was a pupil in the third grade of the Margaret Fuller school on Glen road.

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