ACL Havana Special wreck at Bellwood : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

In 1943 the ACL Havana Special was derailed at Bellwood (7 1/2 mile mark A line). One soldier was killed and seven were injured. I am looking for pictures or articles on this wreck.

-- Randall Bass (, June 09, 2000


Doug: The sidings to the Defense Supply Center were used as an alternative route for trains during the cleanup of the accident. There was a POW camp adjacent to the supply center-it is mentioned in a book I have about German/Italian POW camps. Randy Bass has some nice photographs of the area, including the former ACL section house. He has also taken several nice shots of AMTRAK trains-maybe you were in the cab? Let me know if you want copies of the newspaper articles pertaining to the wreck.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, July 10, 2000.

Bellbluff is directly behind today's Defencse General Supply Center. (The small wooden station building, apparently privately owned and well maintained, stands on Meadowdale Road, on the west of the former ACL right of way which skirts the western perimeter of the complex.) The SAL tracks border the southeast edge of the DGSC at the US Rt. 1 overpass. The complex was once covered with tracks, had its own switch engine(s), and a small yard near the SAL main. The Freedom Train was displayed there when it came to town in the mid 1970s. When I came to work for SCL in 1977, there was an [unused] switch from the northbound ACL main to the complex which was removed about 10 years ago when a softball complex and additional warehousing was constructed. By the way, on the opposite side of the ACL tracks was a German POW camp, according to [retired] ACL/SCL engineer P. W. Wright, for whom I used to fire.

-- Doug Riddell (, July 08, 2000.

I got copies of the newspaper articles last night and I will mail them out to those of you who have expressed an interest today. As further background, it appears that the soldier who was killed, a certain Private Frank Capozio, 22, of Newark NJ, was part of a detail returning to New York after escorting a group of wounded to an unidentified Southern hospital. The others who were injured included an Army nurse from Halloran's Hospital of Staten Island NY, along with several other Army personnel. A Pullman porter was also injured. Apparently the Army personnel were injured by a piece of brake rod and chain which entered the side of the ambulance car. The ambulance car appears to be a heavyweight car with a clerestory roof and was not one of the numerous Army hospital cars which were built by ACF in 1944, some of which were purchased as surplus by the ACL and converted into baggage-dormitory cars after the war. The accident photo shows that the rear car was located right next to the ramps of the adjacent Army depot. Apparently the tracks through the depot were used by northbound trains while the track was being repaired.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, June 20, 2000.

Thank you for all of the responses and the report. The historical name Drewry's Bluff and Bellwood were combined and designated Bellbluff by the Army for billing in 1942.

-- Randall Bass (, June 16, 2000.

Never trust a Northern boy to get his Southern papers straight. The Richmond News-Leader had the photograph, while the Times Despatch has the article.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, June 13, 2000.

I was just informed by the Library of Virginia that the smaller Richmond newspaper-I believe it was the Times Leader, had a front page photograph, which was taken by a local staff photographer. There was no article however. I have asked for a copy of the photograph from microfilm and will let evryone know as to its future "copyability".

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, June 13, 2000.

More on Bellbluff! I am making copies of the ICC reports and sending them out today. I heard from the Library of Virginia-the wreck made the front page of the Richmond papers, but since it was a troop train- no photos. Once I get a copy of the articles, I will send out.

The accident occurred on October 17. 1943 at 10:50 pm. The location was 781 feet north of the Bellbluff depot, or 4 miles south of FA Tower-or 9.8 miles north of Dunlop Va.

The train involved, First 76, consisted of engine 1565 (a ACL P5 Pacific) one baggage car, 7 coaches one diner, one tourist sleeper, two Pullmans and an Army Hospital car. At the point of derailment, the engine and the first eight cars remained coupled and stopped 2933 feet north. The remaining cars were derailed at various positions along the ROW. A rail passed through the front bolster of the Army ambulance car, through the floor and entered the right side of the front end of the car, killing a soldier.

The rail was 100 lb Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Co. rolled in 1924. At that time, approximately 31 trains per day used the NB track.

As to the name. ICC used the names of locations as they were reported by the railroads as part of the 1917 Valuation. Thus, even though the name of the area was Bellwood-as far as ICC was concerned, it was Bellbluff. Similarly, the great wreck at Buie is identified in ICC reports as occuring at Rennert.

Maybe the suburban papers had more info-or a picture, but since the wreck occurred at night and was a troop movement, I doubt photos exist.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, June 12, 2000.

W hat was the exact date of the accident in 1943? Did it happen near today's General Defense Center (Bellwood Supply Depot)? I can check with local library here in surburban Richmond...they have both Richmond newspapers on can photocopy pages but quality is not the greatest. A couple of years ago I researched and photcopied stories and photos in these papers about the local Church Hill Tunnel collapse (C&O) in the early twenties. Greg Hodges

-- Greg Hodges (, June 09, 2000.

I have a call in to the Library of Virginia, who will try to research their newspaper records and make me a copy. I have also asked them to look into the Corporation Commissions files for any reports, photos, etc.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, June 09, 2000.

My first response was somewhat short-the day job broke in!

Bellbluff is located right outside of Richmond. The ACL had a series of derailments due to broken rails in the 1940's. The rail usually involved was 100lb rail from Tennessee Iron and Steel. This rail would be prone to fissure cracking and it resulted in several accidents on the ACL-namely Hortense GA (Nov 41) Bellbluff(43) Stockton GA (44) and most famously-Buie NC (Dec 43).

Other railroads also had problems with the Tennessee rail-FEC had some similar broken rail accidents in the same time period-except that they used 90 lb rail. Both railroads started to relay their main tracks during the war, and went on a blitz after the war.

Broken rails were so prevalent on the ACL that in the Bellbluff accident report, the ICC stated that the ACL had experienced an average of 3.5 broken rails per day!

The accidents at Buie NC and Stockton GA were the two worst accidents resulting from broken rails.

I am starting a long term project to research ACL's broken rail accidents and hopefully, will prepare an article for Lines South one day.

I have ICC reports for Hortense, Bell Bluff and Buie. I am still working on the others and essentially, what I need to do is to spend a day or two at the US Archives and see all the ICC reports from say 1920 on. Day job tends to interfere with that so it may be a few years. Or, I may get ambitious one winter's afternoon and take the next few days off. Lets see.

What was sad about Bellbluff was that the only fatality was a soldier in the US Army Ambulance car. I am not sure if he was a casualty of the war, or if he was a rider, but he was speared by a rail which entered the car at a 45 degree angle during the derailment.

I have had some luck with local papers on the wrecks. Usually they will make copies of the articles for you at a nominal cost. Sometimes they will direct you to the local library-who will then make copies for you. The state archives may have photos, but it should be remembered that this was wartime and a lot of negatives were destroyed to aid the war effort. Photos from the newspapers were published by Associated Press, but they want $175 minimum for a copy of a photo. Too much for this pore ole boy.

Monday, I will bring in the ICC report, copy it and then we wil see what is available from Richmond and the Virginia archives.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, June 09, 2000.

The accident you are referring to occurred at Bellbluff Va. The cause of the accident was a broken rail. The soldier was an occupant of the last car-an army ambulance car which was speared by a rail during the wreck. I have a copy of the ICC report. Let me know where to send it to.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, June 09, 2000.

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