On the drizzly evening of February 6, 1951, the Pennsylvania Railroad commuter train known as “The Broker” derailed in Woodbridge, New Jersey, killing 85 and injuring hundreds in what remains the deadliest railroad accident in the state’s history and among the top five in the United States.
What happened is reasonably well-understood. The Broker hit a temporary track around a New Jersey Turnpike construction site going between 50- and 65-miles-per-hour, though the speed limit was set at 25.
Why it happened, however, is an area of controversy that few (if any) histories have fully explored. While the role of speed is generally accepted, why the otherwise experienced and skilled engineer failed to properly observe the speed restriction drew attention at the time to systemic issues within the Pennsylvania Railroad itself and seemed to reflect what many had come to believe about the industry as a whole.
Author Gordon Bond has written an in-depth book titled “MAN FAILURE: The Story of New Jersey’s Deadliest Train Wreck.” Bond will be giving a summary of his research in his presentation, “Wreck of The Broker: The story of New Jersey’s deadliest train wreck.” Copies of “MAN FAILURE” will be available for purchase and autographing ($30+tax).