book review

The Malbone Street Wreck  
by Brian Cudahy

Reviewed by Paul Matus  Page 3

The Photos and Maps
Cudahy includes eight pages of photos in the center of the book, a couple of which appeared in his earlier Under the Sidewalks of New York.
     The photo set is sufficient--there is nothing startling or new for those who have seen Malbone Street photos. Happily, there is no gore in any of the photos, nor have I seen such photos, though such may exist in police records.
     Of the wreck itself, Cudahy chose the following views in the tunnel at the wreck site: a view of car 80 (the unwrecked side), car 100, the most heavily damaged car, after the entire body shell had been dismantled, and the rear of the completely undamaged car 1064, sitting placidly on the tunnel track, as though nothing had occurred.
     He also has 36th Street Yard photos of the lead car, with the remains of 80 and the rest of the train behind, and a separate photo of car 80. Cudahy eschewed any description at all of the physical horror of the accident, noting simply that the "overwhelming majority of deaths [...] were caused by massive skull injuries." I have read some physical descriptions of the human misery of the wreck and this rather bland medical description seems oddly understated. One need only look at the picture of car 80, and know that it was worse for car 100, to imagine the full extent of the human toll. It helps very little to realize that even a few in car 100 appear to have survived, a point which I did not find in the narrative.
     Other photos include two contemporary views of Prospect Park station before the reconstruction work began, a recent photo of Prospect Park station, a photo of the tower at Fulton and Franklin and a recent photo looking toward the wreck scene.
     There is also a photo of a current street sign at the corner of Malbone Street and New York Avenue. Current? It is well known that there is a short section of Malbone Street several blocks east of the wreck site and one short block north of Empire Boulevard--the renamed Malbone Street. I've heard various explanations of the reason for this odd survival, but Cudahy offers an explanation I've never heard before: It is the vestige of an earlier Malbone Street, one that was left high and dry before the straightening that resulted in what is now Empire Boulevard.
     There are a few spare maps, just enough to illustrate some key points in the story.

The Appendices
In addition to notes accompanying each chapter, Cudahy has provided us with several appendices containing additional information of varying interest.
     There are tables of the worst disasters in Brooklyn history and in U.S. railway history and in Metrpoolitan New York.
     There is a reconstruction of the schedule of the fatal trip station-by-station from Kings Highway Yard on the Culver Line to Park Row, and then to the crash site, with times to the minute--a timetable of disaster.
     Notable is "Appendix C," a list of the names, ages, and addresses of each and every one of the 93 passengers Cudahy has identified as fatally injured in the wreck. This answers rumors that there were people who were never identified. The number "93" in itself is worthy of comment. The number killed is usually presented as being between 97 and 102. The former number was published by, among others, The Brooklyn Eagle the day after the wreck. The latter number is taken to include those who died later of their injuries. In fact, Cudahy cites these numbers in his earlier work. Ninety-three is the number Cudahy has come up with from study of available records, though he allows that more might have died, but the causes of death inaccurately recorded.
     Finally, we have a chart of the dollar amounts a selected number of interested parties (injured, relatives of survivors) eventually received in civil suits.







Continued on page 4

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