*The photos in this post are not of the train or bridge that appear in this story, they are a historical train and a recently reconstructed covered road bridge. They just fit the story I happened to find in an old newspaper clipping 🙂
On a Sunday night in July of 1864, Jacob Christopher from Company E of the 10th Regiment Veteran Reserve Corps fell asleep on his train ride. While asleep he stretched out into a more comfortable position; unconsciously and soon alarmingly, he pushed his foot through the open window. All the windows were open letting some air into the hot passenger cars, so it was easy for him to do this without noticing. As the train rode through a covered bridge near Wilmington, Delaware his right foot was torn off and his leg broken above the knee…which certainly woke him up.
The severed foot flew through the next window and sailed across the train car. In all the excitement the startled passenger, who had just been struck in the head by the dismembered foot, picked it up and threw it right back out the window. No matter. In these days it could not be reattached anyway and no one stopped to retrieve it.
Jacob Christopher did not have only bad luck on his side that hot summer night, a surgeon from the 13th New York Cavalry happened to be onboard the train too. Though he had no medical instruments with him, he gathered up a collection of handkerchiefs from other passengers and tied up Jacob’s shattered and bleeding limb.
Apparently the covered railroad bridge had been causing trouble for quite some time. Not long before Jacob’s accident a child being held a little out the window for some air by his mother was killed as the train passed through the covered bridge. A few months before that a man was dragged out and crushed to death for leaning out the window when the train unexpectedly approached the covered bridge. Clearly it was not visible enough for passengers.
The moral of the story was clear the newspaper article proclaimed: Always stay put in your seat.
Source: “The New York Times,” July 13, 1864