The eastbound freight train churned through Wyoming County before dawn on Feb. 26, 1950, the engineer and conductor unaware of the impending disaster.
The train, hauling beef, lamb, butter and margarine, was bound for the Coxton Yards near Pittston. But 26 cars at the rear of the line never made it there.
Instead, those cars jumped the tracks about six miles outside of Mehoopany and derailed while passing over a switch near the town’s station around 4:30 a.m. Some of the cars, including one hauling several drums of oleomargarine, barreled straight into the train station, “reducing it to a pile of lumber” and smashing into the side of the Dairyman’s League Creamery building, according to the newspaper.
The wreck also knocked out power to most of Mehoopany for about five hours.
“The wreck, which attracted hundreds of persons and scores of automobiles to the scene, was caused by the broken wheel on the trailing truck of the 70th car in the 106-car train,” The Scranton Times reported. “Several other cars and the caboose which followed the derailed cars, remained on the track.”
Engineer Al Ruff and conductor Harry Woodward, both of Sayre, continued for “several miles before it was noticed the rear cars had come loose,” according to a Scranton Times report published the day after the disaster.
Luckily, no one was injured in the wreck. It happened so early, the train station was deserted, and no one had arrived for work at the creamery.
While crews of railroad workers, about 100 in all, worked to clear the wrecks from the tracks, Lehigh Valley trains were detoured over the Lackawanna Railroad between Waverly, New York, and Pittston Junction until 3 p.m. — nearly 12 hours after the cars derailed.
Clearing the wreckage involved the use of several cranes, The Scranton Times reported. Work was slowed by the sheer damage to the train cars destroyed in the wreck. Railroad employees also replaced about 70 sections of track torn up by the wreck.
“The merchandise was strewn over the tracks for several hundred yards,” according to the newspaper. “Later in the day the foodstuffs were sold by railroad representatives in $5 lots.”
The one upside to the dramatic wreck: It rendered moot a request by township officials to abandon the Mehoopany station.
A hearing before the state’s Public Utility Commission was pending after the township made the request on Feb. 11, 1950. With the station demolished, “a scheduled hearing won’t be necessary now,” The Scranton Times reported.