MOUNTAIN LAKE NEW YORK
I am attempting to create a history page concerning the Mountain Lake Resort and Mountain Lake Electric Railroad that once was located in the Bleecker area. I am finding it difficult to obtain information on these lost pieces of history, but will be updating the page frequently when I have new information to share with you.
We first began searching our old postcards that depicted the Mountain Lake Resort and Mountain Lake Electric Railroad. The resort postcards were a lot easier to get, the railroad however is a different story.
The first postcard we obtained was a black & white that read "Boat Landing and Mountain Lake Hotel, Mountain Lake near Gloversville, N.Y."
The front of this postcard simple read "Mountain Lake - Gloversville, N.Y." The back however was used and mailed to Mrs. A. M. Thornton #439 - 8th Avenue - Upper Troy NY - on July 30, 1907. "Not much of a curve here but old man Orvil does hang on when there is one. It is signed Orvil, Etta, & Mamma.
The front of this card read "Mountain Lake, near Gloversville, N.Y.. This card was unused, but was done in soft colors.
This card was done in a wonderful color array. It was addressed to what appears to be Mrs. Jessie Lingtenfelter in Akin NY. The caption on this card was placed on the front and reads "Dear Jessie - we arrived home all safe and sound - A special limited came along a little earlier then scheduled time and we did not get it in time as we had eaten too much."
This card again showed the small path in front of the resort and depicted two gentleman at the shoreline. This card was unused.
This was another beauty black and white done in 1905 by the Rotograph.
This was Mountain Lake as seen from the Boat Landing. This card was done in black & white and was used. It was postmarked May 18, 1915 in Saint Johnsville and addressed to Miss Ida Heisen - Fort Plain, NY. The card read as follows "Dear Ida, I will be down Thursday morning for sure. Today we have to go to Halses and tomorrow I want to help mapaher so she can finish as far as the out kitchen. While I am gone I will be to the post office - With Love ?
A black & white postmarked 1907 (unable to read the date) to what appears Georgia and Anna Lbrulhamm? in Fultonville, NY.
The same view only done in color by the Rotograhy Co in 1905. This card was unused.
An unused postcard of the benches along the shoreline at the hotel.
This nightview postcard depicts the moonlight on Mountain Lake. This card was used and addressed to Mrs. Pauline Noble of 68 Hulwig - Gloversville, NY. The caption only read " Oh you Kiddo - Uncle Wells.
A used postcard also from the Bleecker area, that depicted Lily Pond. This card was addressed to one James Burns - Market Street - Johnstown N.Y. The caption read Tis not because your hair is curly. Signed W.B.
One of my favorites that depicts the grand hotel in black & white. This card was addressed to Mrs. Albert Taylor, but never mailed.
This card depicts some canoes off the shoreline.
A used postcard that depicted the Mountain Lake Showing Hotel. This card was done in black & white and postmarked October 1906. It was addressed to one Miss Rosa Welch of Bleecker New York. The caption was placed on the front of the postcard and read "My Dear Sister Rosa, your goods have arrived your chair is OK came last Saturday night - Carrie.
This card was handcolored and depicted the hotel, but was never mailed. It did however contain small ink military stamps on the back that were of soldiers and cannons.
This colorful postcard was used and postmarked July 9, 1909. It was addressed to Mrs. Jane Williams - Wilmurt NY. The caption reads as follows "Dear Mother, you will be surprised to see in the paper about Dr. Beach's death. We all know it was very sudden. We are all well. This is a dandy day and Jerry and I are going to Mountain Lake to the picnic. I would like to see you - Jess Jones.
Many Killed on Mountain Lake R.R.
July 5, 1902
More Than a Score Injured, Some of Them Fatally, In Rear-End Collision on a Steep Mountain Grade.
BODIES HORRIBLY MANGLED
Story of the Catastrophe
The most frightful railroad wreck that has ever occurred in this vicinity happened about 9:20 last night on the Mountain Lake railroad near the sharp curve just west of the storage reservoir, at the point where the track turns to make the climb up the steep mountain side. Ten persons lost their lives in the accident and the number of injured reported numbers over thirty.
The wreck occurred at the end of a day of pleasure at the resort at the top of the mountain and the cars which were in the wreck were loaded with excursionists who had been enjoying the sports and the fireworks in the evening and were desirous of hastening home to rest. The car on which the dead and injured persons were riding was an open one in charge of Motorman Arthur Perkins and Conductor James Cameron and the car which was responsible for the wreck was in charge of Motorman William Dodge. Cars were dispatched from the mountain top by an official of the road and about five minutes after the open car started on the fatal trip the closed car was sent out from the station at the lake. All went well until the cars reached the curve at the top of the steep grade above the storage reservoir. According to the conductor of the open car, James Cameron, the closed car ran away while coming down the grade above the curve and as the open car was going around the curve the closed car struck it and then both cars went down the grade at lightning speed. The trolley of the open car jumped off and left it dark and it is asserted that as the cars went around the curve at the foot of the hill the closed car again struck the open car and as it left the track, tipped it forward. By this time the passengers on the open car were in a wildly excited condition and some of the passengers made desperate leaps for safety.
After the cars struck the curve it was but a matter of a very few seconds before the open car left the track and pitched forward on its side, hurling some passengers to their death by crushing them under the side of the car, maiming others for life and causing scenes of agony which were terrible in the extreme.
New York State Conservationist
By Thom Engel & Ben Kroup
MANY KILLED ON MOUNTAIN LAKE R.R.
More Than a Score Injured, Some of Them Fatally,
In Rear-End Collision on a Steep Mountain Grade.
BODIES HORRIBLY MANGLED
On the Fourth of July, 1902, two trolleys collided halfway down Bleecker Mountain north of Gloversville, New York, killing more than a dozen people and maiming and injuring scores of others. Few people who swim, boat or fish on nearby Mountain Lake today are aware of the tragic events that occurred there a century ago, in what was perhaps the deadliest railroad accident ever to occur in the Adirondacks.
At the turn of the twentieth century, trolley cars ran everywhere, even tooling into the Adirondack foothills, where trolley companies built amusement parks to generate weekend fares. It was possible to board an electric trolley in Albany and by transferring in Schenectady and again in Gloversville, travel to Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville (FJ&G) Railroad's Sacandaga Park near Northville. The final nineteen-mile leg from Gloversville was by a steam train run by the FJ&G. The picturesque resort's gingerbread cottages overlooked the scenic Sacandaga River. A group of investors from Gloversville and Johnstown envisioned a similar moneymaker closer to home and chartered the Mountain Lake Electric Railroad Company on March 11, 1896, to create a competing resort on a forty-acre lake on the south rim of Bleecker Mountain, less than five miles from downtown Gloversville.
After five years of daunting construction work, the electric railroad made its inaugural run from Gloversville to Mountain Lake on August 23, 1901. The line started near the corner of North Main and State streets and climbed 767 feet over a mere 4.76 miles.
At the summit, the company had built a hotel, rental cottages, a shooting gallery, a casino, an outdoor theater, picnic areas, and a dance pavilion on a 140-acre wooded park surrounding the lake. Visitors could swim, boat and fish on the spring-fed waters, and the shore was served by foot trails and a small steam launch.
In 1901 few people in Johnstown or Gloversville had cars, and the grueling bicycle ride up the primitive mountain roads prevented all but the most adventurous from reaching the lake. So the idea that one could effortlessly be transported up the mountain to a cool lake and return for a mere twenty-five cents was attractive on steamy summer day in the reeking tannery towns.
From the open vistas near the summit, passengers could see clear across the Mohawk Valley to the Schoharie Hills. In its first season, the Mountain Lake Electric Railroad was a financial success.
In 1902, July Fourth fell on a sweltering Friday.
During the week before, the railroad had run ads in the Gloversville newspaper for Mountain Lake Park's patriotic festivities, which included a professional vaudeville act, a band concert, races, a baseball game, and Pain's Fireworks. Thousands of revelers traveled up the mountain that sultry day. Most waited until after the fireworks display to take the trolley home again.
Around 10:00 PM, Car No. 1 started down the mountain with about 75 passengers filling the aisles and seats, a full load for the light, open-sided coach. An experienced motorman named Arthur Perkins was at the controls. He had left another line to work for the Mountain Lake Electric Railroad when it first opened; and he was one of the few to remain on the job after the company cut its motormen's salaries - from $2.00 to $1.75 for a ten-hour shift - after one year in business.
For safety's sake, the cars were suppose to run five minutes apart, but the railroad had no dispatcher to prevent Car 5 from following Car 1 by a mere 500 feet. Car 5, a large closed trolley, was also crammed full, carrying 55 passengers and their baggage. The motorman was William Dodge, who normally worked in the car barn, where the trolleys were housed and maintained. He had been "drafted" for duty as a motorman for the unusually busy holiday weekend. When tapped for duty, Dodge reportedly told his wife that he would rather die than motor down the mountain at night. He knew Car 5's reputation of being hard to brake, but he accepted the assignment for fear of losing his job if he refused.
On that hectic night, the runs were growing chaotic. Car 4 had left the lake before ten o'clock and was returning up the mountain, where it entered a siding to allow Car 1 to pass on the way down. When Car 4 resumed its climb, however, it met Car 5 only about 500 feet further up the track, so it backed into the siding to let Car 5 pass by. In the meantime, Car 1 had reached the first sharp curve on its descent and, as a precaution, stopped to survey the track ahead; but just as Car 1 got underway again, Car 5 suddenly loomed on the track above, closing dangerously fast.
What followed may be best described in Motorman Dodge's own words. "When the car left the first switch, I tried to hold the car back with the brakes and found that they would not work. I then tried the reverse lever and could not control the car; and when I started down the grade, I tried the brakes and could not make them respond. Next I again reversed the car and continued to do so, but the car soon got away from me; and when I saw that a collision was going to happen, I again reversed the car and the collision happened. The brakes would not work, and I could not control the car. Just as I reached the curve, the trolley went off."
Knowledgeable witnesses at the coroner's inquest testified that the brakes on Car 5 had always been hard to set.
What Dodge didn't know was that by reversing the motors, he had tripped the circuit breaker in the powerhouse. With no electricity to keep the car in reverse, the weightier Car 5 soon overtook and plowed into the rear of Car 1, lifting the latter momentarily from the tracks. Dodge could have jumped off before impact - a number of panicked people on both cars did - but he dutifully stood in the control vestibule and was mortally crushed from the waist down. The last person to die from the accident, Dodge succumbed two days later at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville, shortly after making his statement.
After the rear-end collision, the trolleys slid together down the dizzy grade at 60 to 70 miles per hour with 130 terrified excursionists aboard. In Car 1, Perkins and a passenger desperately pulled at the hand brakes, but the shoes were not designed to handle the weight of two cars. At the coroner's inquest, and expert witness testified that he had found the brakes set and the steel wheels sheared flat. Red-hot friction had scoured the locked wheels of Car 1 as the train careened down the mountain. At a hairpin curve to the left, Car 1 derailed and rolled onto its right side. Car 5 also left the tracks, but remained upright on the roadbed.
Ten passengers died beneath the overturned car. According to the newspaper account, "some of the bodies were terribly torn and partially denuded of clothing. Limbs were severed and on the faces of many of the dead were indications that they underwent frightful sufferings before death released them from their agony." Most of the victims were pitched through the right side of the open car. As the train sped down the mountain, Mrs. Ornan Eastman pleaded with her husband to jump. He would not, vowing they would die together. Mr. Eastman survived the wreak; his wife died in his arms. Three teenagers - Charles Brown, Isadore Rothberg, and Fred Cronin - had been allowed to ride up front with Dodge in the control vestibule of Car 5. Brown, whose father was killed in the accident, lost a leg. Rothberg and Cronin died, but not instantly. Witnesses stated that despite having his leg crushed and losing a great amount of blood, Rothberg never made a sound, but "bore his sufferings like a hero." The immigrant leatherworker Joseph Sally and his wife, Sarah, also died at the scene, leaving three young children. After surviving the wreck, one of the orphans, Edward, was fated to die at the lake in a drowning accident eleven years later.
The number of casualties might have been higher than 14, but many people braved the jump into the black night. When the cars derailed, they lost their source of electricity and the accident scene was plunged into total darkness, hampering rescue efforts until someone found the wits to light a bon-fire.
The first hero of the evening was William Berghoff, 17, a passenger on Car 5. Risking his life, he ran up the tracks to flag down the next car before it piled into the unlit wreck. Another youth ran further up the dark mountain to get help, and the Patten and Perry vaudeville troop dashed to the scene to tend to the injured. With great difficulty, a group of local men manually lifted Car 1 of the dead or dying victims lying crushed beneath it. It took more than two hours for a relief trolley to arrive carrying doctors and nurses from Nathan Littauer Hospital. The injured were quickly loaded onto the rescue car and transported to the hospital, but many local physicians were out of town for the long holiday weekend. Available doctors and nurses worked through the night and all the next day to attend the scores of wounded.
As in all disasters, some people were less than heroic. Many unscathed passengers immediately abandoned the gory scene and fled to the city. Some roamed the wreckage in the dark to rob the dead and injured. One man was even caught picking the pockets of the rescue workers as they tended to the victims. Hundreds of sightseers climbed the mountain the next day to view the wreck and collect souvenirs.
Why did the accident happen? There were many factors, but cost-cutting by the Mountain Lake Electric Railroad was likely the chief one. By lowering salaries in the second year of operation, the railroad lost many of its experienced motormen. The NYS Commissioner of Railroads, Frank M. Baker, later testified that the Mountain Lake run was unusually challenging and required the best railroaders, but some of the replacement motormen were younger than twenty-one years old. Without a dispatcher, there was no one to prevent the inexperienced Dodge from following Car 1 too closely. Each car was equipped with only one brake, and none had emergency or auxiliary brakes. The cars carried no signal lights.
In the aftermath, claims for damages against the Mountain Lake Electric Railroad were so high that the company went bankrupt. In 1903, investors reorganized as the Adirondack Lakes Traction Company. Many safety improvements were made to the line, such as switchbacks, derail switches and regular inspections, but the public had lost confidence in the operation. In 1904, the line was purchased by the FJ&G Railroad, which further improved the line and assigned a master mechanic to oversee its maintenance. After thirteen years of unprofitable operation, however, the line to Mountain Lake was finally abandoned in 1917. Its brief existence is memorialized today in campfire tales and a number of historic resort cottages that still line the lake.
Thom Engle has written articles for the Conservationist on caves, bats, and reading maps. Both his parents were born in Gloversville.
Ben Kroup is an anthropologist and folklorist who has worked with Iroquois elders, Irish storytellers, and Lithuanian immigrants.
I have been looking into the Mountain Lake Electric Railroad and am not able to locate a lot of its history. We even drove to Mountain Lake (but no history remains at the location).
If any one can provide any information regarding the resorts or railroads history, we would greatly appreciate it. Even if you had a family vacation or wonderful trip to the Mountain Lake resort or your love one did, please email us the memories, we would love to add them to the website (pictures will graciously be accepted).
I was able to locate only eight who perished in this catastrophe
(8 out of 14)
Possibly the Edward Trevett chairmaker listed in the 1892 census. He was the fourth son of Henry Tillitson Trevett. Died in a train wreck (Mountain Lake Train Wreck) in 1902. He and his brother were at the Mountain Lake station. The trolley was extremely crowded and there was only room for one to board so Edward boarded and his brother stayed. On the trip into the valley the trolley jumped the tracks and many were killed including Edward. The question of birth year. The gravestone gives 1853 but family history reports 1857. The 1871 Saratoga County business report lists Edward F. (?) Trivett of West Providence as farmer of 86 acres.
The motorman for Car 5, who normally worked in the car barn, where the trolleys were housed and maintained. Mr. Dodge had been drafted for duty as a motorman because of the busy holiday weekend. Mr. Dodge was the last person to die from the accident.
Mrs. Ornan Eastman
Mrs. Eastman had pleaded with her husband to jump, but he vowed they would die together. Mr. Eastman survived the accident, but Mrs. Eastman died in his arms.
Mr. Brown (no first name known), father of Charles Brown. Charles Brown did lose his leg in the accident.
Miss Rothberg, a teenager, who was allowed to ride up front with Mr. Dodge.
Master Cronin, another teenager, who was allowed to ride with Mr. Dodge.
Mr & Mrs Joseph Sally
Mr. Joseph an immigrant leatherworker and his wife perished in the accident, leaving behind three young children. Their orphaned son, Edward, died eleven years later in a drowning accident at the lake.
© Back To Basics Adirondack Wilderness Adventures 2004