York Town Square

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In Seven Valleys, Pa.: The Great Watermelon Train Wreck


Eighty-nine years later, people still talk about the fruit train wreck on the Northern Central Railroad in Seven Valleys. The accident happened near this station in Seven Valleys, Pa. Also of interest: Ma & Pa Railroad Locomotive No. 2 lost by a landslide in York Township and ‘Rocks in the Glen’ turns into town where things happen and Freight locomotive ‘telescoped’ runaway Stewartstown Railroad car.

It was 8 p.m. on a war-weary July night in 1918.
Seven Valleys was the place. Specifically, at the railroad cut in this south central York County hamlet.
A northbound train laden with fruit – York County’s orchards and gardens and canneries were in full production – stopped near the borough’s station.
Air brake problems.
A second fruit train rolled along at an unsuspecting pace a few minutes later.
The engineer slowed down but didn’t put enough pressure on the brakes. The locomotive plowed into back of the stationary train… .

The impact turned the locomotive around. Part of it ended up on a bank. Three cars were derailed and damaged. The caboose and four cars from the first train were wrecked.
Three men were injured, including a flag man who was buried under coal used to fire one of the engines.
But what people remember today was what happened to the cargo.
The place looked like a disorganized truck garden. Melons and other fruit lay everywhere.
“Everyone in the town and surrounding countryside got all the watermelons they could carry away and thousands of them were salvaged by the people of Seven Valleys and they had watermelon for several weeks following the great ‘watermelon wreck,’ ” according to a York Dispatch report, found in Armand Glatfelter’s “Das Siebenthal.”
A landmark Seven Valleys establishment wants to remember of the event.
Maria DeCarlo of Serenity-Station is contemplating a Watermelon Day at the Seven Valleys business. People who use the rail trail running along the old Northern Central line will readily recognize Serenity-Station as an oasis for refreshment. Readers with additional information on the Great Watermelon Train Wreck should comment below or contact her at maria122878@yahoo.com.
And for another tale about a modern-day runaway locomotive, see the previous York Town Square post: The unsolved mystery of locomotive No. 1689.

Photo from Das Siebenthal