BRISTOL BITS: Was a 1907 train wreck on Main Street staged?

Published on Tuesday, 13 August 2019 14:09
Written by Bob Montgomery

For a number of decades prior to the mid-1930s, staged train wrecks took place around the country. Promoters of these events would have tracks set up that would be up to a mile long in some cases with two trains heading for one another. People would pay to witness the event, and some in attendance were actually hurt by the flying debris.

One “Bristol Bits” reader asked Tom Dickau and me by email if we thought the train crash on the Main Street bridge in 1907 was staged. I immediately said no, and then researched the accident. What took place was a head-on crash on the bridge by two passenger trains. It was the real thing, not a staged production. Can you imagine being in the area back then and witnessing this frightful scene?

Carlyle Barnes

Carlyle Barnes, former co-editor of The Bristol Press, had a deep interest in railroads. I recall hearing that his family would accompany him often to different depots growing up to watch the trains.

It was Barnes who wrote the railroad piece for the Oct. 12, 1971 edition of The Bristol Press, its 100th year anniversary special. Trains are also found interesting by members of the current Bristol Press office with that same railroad trestle located just a couple hundred feet or so from our Main Street office.

Bristol Bits rewind - 1999 (20 years ago)

A “Good Guy” award goes to Dr. Ronald Burton Herriott, a Bristol High School graduate who has had a dental office on Route 6 for several years. Schooled at Wesleyan University and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, he later completed his residency in oral surgery at Boston City Hospital, his last year as chief resident.

He and his wife, Claire, the former Claire Ann Phillips of Milton, Massachusetts, schooled as a nurse at both Labourne School of Nursing, Boston, and Georgetown, Washington, D.C., are looking at a 25th wedding anniversary this October. The couple has three daughters, Elizabeth, Mary-Margaret and Julie.

Carole and Lou Kapell

Carolyn and Lou, Southington residents, visited the Bristol Historical Society on Saturday, where the three of us enjoyed a fine conversation. The couple was looking for information on Lou’s father, Lou, who was a standout athlete in his day for the West End football team. Lou, the son, was a standout athlete at Bristol Eastern when it first opened its doors in the fall of 1959.

Interesting to note, I found out from Lou that his aunt, Sophie Lis, was the grandmother of Pete Lis, a 1960s basketball player for Bristol Eastern who died a few months ago. Pete, beside basketball, was also known as a “boss” WBIS announcer early in his broadcasting career.

Union Street

The origin of this street’s name comes from the Union Clock Company (1843-1849), which sold its product in New York City. The clock-making company didn’t last for a long time, but the name stuck and remains as the name of the roadway today.

Tom Shopay

I’ve been corrected by three readers, Tom Boisvert, Mark Redman and Peter Kaplenski, that Bristol native Tom Shopay did not earn a World Series ring in 1971. I’ve known Tom most of my life and don’t know where that thought came from.

Firefighter/Police and Honor Guard picnic

According to Dan Slavinsk in Plymouth, this picnic I mentioned recently will be held at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20 at the Bristol American Legion Post 2.

Contact Bob Montgomery at or by calling 860-973-1808.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Tuesday, 13 August 2019 14:09. Updated: Tuesday, 13 August 2019 14:11.