REMEMBERING JAMES M. THORNE, Sr.

Mike Russell contacted "Man Failure" author Gordon Bond in a Facebook thread and mentioned his great-great uncle, James M. Thorne, Sr., had been injured in the wreck of The Broker. He is among those listed in the book's Appendix B listing as many of the injured as Bond was able to find record of. Mr. Russell's father was able to provide some information that fleshes Mr. Thorne out as a person, beyond just a name in a list. The following is from Mr. Russell:

His full name was James Mathias Thorne, Sr. but he went by "Jay." He was born on the Thorne farm in the Pleasant Valley section of Holmdel and was the only boy who survived to adulthood. He lived on Elm Place in Fair Haven.  He and his wife Mildred seemed to be very quiet and conservative. His entire property, except for the front yard was a garden, mostly vegetables.

Jay worked for the Stock Exchange and was basically like an early display board. He would get information about the trades while he was standing behind a piece of large glass. Then, when he got those details, he would write them on the glass backwards so the traders in front of the glass could see the numbers/trades properly. They used the same technique on naval ships for years too. Not unlike seeing the word Ambulance written backwards on the vehicle and seeing it properly in your rear view mirror. Once he got injured (his elbow was smashed up in the wreck) he wasn't able to write anymore and therefore couldn't do his job.

Being that the wreck happened after 5:00 p.m. and he worked for the Stock Exchange, I am assuming he was headed home. It is our conclusion that Jay was able to live the rest of his life on the settlement after the wreck though we don't have written proof of it. Jay Thorne was my grandfather's uncle. My grandfather was a lawyer. My father believes that my grandfather was able to get Jay a big settlement which then allowed Jay and Mildred to live out the rest of their lives comfortably. Those details would have to be verified though.

After the train wreck he bought a double lot on Willow St. that a developer used to use as his storage lot. Jay built a very nice house on one lot and had a huge garden on the other. 

They had a "vacation" house on Culvers Lake, up by Blair Academy, where they use to go for summers.  Eventually, after Jim (James, Jr.) went to Yellow Frame Church in Sussex County, James Sr. and Mildred left Fair Haven and moved to the lake house full time. When James, Jr. moved his ministry to Prince Edward Island, James Sr. and Mildred followed a few years later.



REMEMBERING VICTOR VENTURINO and BEVERLY BOHRMAN

Gina (Rescinio) Egidio documents two stories as told by her parents.

Gordon Bond with Margaret Venturino

Margaret Venturino (Red Bank) was 15 years old and her brother Victor Venturino was 19 years old. She recalls:

My brother Victor traveled every day to Newark, to Wilfred Academy. He often rode with Beverly Bohrman, 18, of Spring Lake. Victor met Beverly there, at the school. She was a classmate, they liked each other. She would get on in Spring Lake and he would get on in Red Bank. I believe her parents owned a beauty shop and that was why she was going to beauty culture school, as it was called in those days.
The night of February 6, 1951 was a regular night. The news was on the TV and it was noted there was a train wreck. It was around 6 o’clock, my mother, my father, my grandfather, were watching the TV. I was getting ready to go to a basketball game. I left the house and I left them watching the TV and I didn’t think much about it. When I got home from the basketball game, all the lights were on and that was unusual. There were cars around the house-and some of my aunts and uncles were there. My house was crowded with the relatives. They were phoning people to try to get information- There was a lot of confusion because my brother was not home. They didn’t have any information on him at that time.

Someone called a friend of Victor’s who also went to Wilfred, but he couldn’t give us any information. After Victor’s body was discovered this friend spoke to us about the conversation he had with my brother before he boarded the train. The friend stated that the train was very crowded, and he was going to wait for the next train. He asked Victor to take the next train because that was what he was going to do- and Victor said, we have to take this train because Beverly’s parents meet the train and they will be worried if she does not get off this train.

Another interesting fact - my brother was sick with bad stomach pains throughout the weekend. He spent the weekend and Monday, February 5th in bed. On Tuesday morning my mother told him go to the doctor’s; she didn’t want him to go to school. Victor said, “No I can’t miss any more school - I’ll go on Saturday.”

I don’t remember how my family knew they had to go up to Woodbridge to find out what happened to my brother. It was very confusing. My brother Pete and my Uncle Andy went up to find and identify Victor.

Victor Venturino
(From his student ID)

At the same time my father, Umberto Rescinio, (Long Branch) who had not yet met my mother was attending Upsala College in East Orange. Umberto (Al) would take the 2 Ampere Bus around 5:30 to get down to Market Street by Macy’s in Newark. He states:

I had to go about three blocks to get to the train station. That night at school Murray Forman from Long Branch leaned into my classroom to tell me, ‘let’s go’… and I told him to go ahead. When I got off the bus I ran three blocks to get to the station and as I went up the steps to the platform the train was still in the station. I tried to hop on the train, but it was already moving, and I couldn’t find a place to hop on. I waited for the later train that came in from New York. Our train moved very slowly when we got to Woodbridge and we could see something was wrong, but we couldn’t tell exactly what had happened.



"THE JERSEY BROKER" POEM INSPIRED BY A WRECK SURVIVOR'S EXPERIENCES

The wreck of The Broker influenced people's lives in all kinds of ways. Lawrence Young, of Belmar, NJ, had survived the wreck, though he suffered back injuries. Once recovered, he evidently dealt with the experience through poetry. His handwritten verse was found by his grandson, Stephen Young, after he had passed away. "Man Failure" author Gordon Bond includes an appendix of the injured and survivors in his book, gleaned from contemporary newspaper accounts. A William Young from Belmar was found in these lists. Stephen Young says his grandfather had a brother William, but he was living in North Carolina at the time. It is possible the William Young listed is someone else or the newspaper somehow got the wrong name. Stephen Young's grandfather was Lawrence and often went by "Lawry." In any case, he was kind enough to share a transcription of the poem and it is reproduced below with his permission.

-----

The Jersey Broker
We're ready to leave J.C I sum
Cars noted and counted and checked for our run
Thus spoke Mr Bishop to Fitzsimmons and Dunn


Cold gray I've with the day to rest
Began this journey in peacefulness
Of the Jersey Broker, the Hot Rod Express

With a hissing of steam, slow clicking and wheeze
With a few scattered passengers riding with ease.
She left Jersey City as nice as you please

A stop at Newark, a Jamming crowd,
The Central's not running we'll double the allowed
She's filled to the doors some silent some loud.

Ease out of Newark with a hardly a jerk,
Puffing and straining to moves takes work,
We'll soon gain speed and bore thru the murk.

Puh chug, Ka Chu, a click, a clack
We're slowly moving down the track,
Smoke and ciders pour from the stack.

We pick up speed and move along,
Wheels on plates click out a song,
Droning engine, eleven cars strong.

We slow at Rahway, curve out of line,
Follow the shore branch, main tracks behind,
Then pick up speed with schedule in mind.

A mile a minute our routine speed;
But, remember Joe the warning heed,
Slow at Woodbridge, that's our need!

"OK AL," check me clear,
"When yellow lights gleam let me hear,
I'll know then the turnouts near."

Keep her moving, pile on coal,
The schedule short, let her roll,
Down the straight stretch thru the hole.

Let her out Joe! Give her a head!
We've got a clear board, nothing to dread.
Pick up a minute on the straight road bed.

What's that Joe, Woodbridge in sight?
Ease off the Johnson bar ride her light!
Keep your eye peeled for the yellow light!

Five seconds pass and here's the turn.
God, Joe! We've speed to burn,
We'll never make the Woodbridge turn.

Rolling, weaving, bumping, crash!
Screeching brakes, and thundering smash!
An eleven car special Broker's hash!

Car one slid on the tender ahead.
Car two on side a sight to dread.
Car three a tomb with nearly all dead.

Car four on embankment above number three.
Car five a crescent like bended knee.
Car six thru the trestle, a ship sunk at sea.

Car one is silent except for the role
of the hissing steam and rattling coal,
Clattering glass in piece and whole.

Car two a ominous silence: but hear
a desperate moan or groan is clear
To appraise of broken humanity near.

Car three, four, five in kneeling swell
of souls near heaven in man made hell;
Not long for life those therein dwell.

There is in casualty all such stuff
of queries and questions, that's enough!
Action's required not words and guff.

"Hey Joe!" says Al from heaven this night,
"Look there Joe---- your yellow light"
Too bad! Last night no similar sight.

All you survivors who shudder and weep
When the trains lurch and you're tossed in the seat,
Take heed; count your blessings; salve your hurt.

Thank God!
You again ride the Broker
Not six feet of Earth.

February 14, 1951
Lawrence D Young
Survivor Penn RR wreck at Woodbridge
Tuesday 6:05pm Feb 6th 1951

55 Briarwood Rd
Belmar, NJ



THE STORY BEHIND WELDER RAY RHULAND

Welders were needed to cut through the wreckage in order to free victims and volunteered from far and wide. Among them was Ray Rhuland, a welder from Metuchen, NJ. Author Gordon Bond had obtained a press photograph that showed Rhuland working at the wreck scene, which he shared on the book project's Facebook page. Ray Rhuland was identified by his daughter, Murielle Rhuland Ferino. She knew he had been there, but had never seen the photos before. She and her brother Dan were able to attend the book release party on June 17, 2017. Shortly after, Dan sent this account of their father.



I’m Dan Ruhland, Murielle’s brother…I want to thank you for mentioning my father in your book [Ray Ruhland, page 81]…He was never given credit for his night with the “Death Train” before, but then again, he never sought any, even avoided it. He refused interviews afterwards. What I can tell you is a little history about my father but nothing much to add to your exhausted effort.

A slight correction to your book, Murielle was just three years old at the time, and I was just five months. I am the younger one. Of course we were too young to remember that night, and my father never spoke to us directly about it while we were young and even our mother didn’t know much about it in any detail. My earliest recollection was when I was a young teenager and overheard my mother telling someone that her husband was one of the rescuers. I believe the woman she was speaking with was either on the train or lost someone who was. Later on I would overhear conversations my father had with other welders and rescue workers he knew who were also there that horrible night.

He was born in Minnesota and quit school after the eighth grade to help support his family. He joined the “CCC” the Civilian Conservation Corp’s program when he was about seventeen where he learned arc welding which was state of the art technology at the time. Previously he had worked for local blacksmiths making horseshoes and other farm implements. He then joined the Army Corps of Engineers and was sent to Normandy, France just a few weeks after D-Day. He was the lead welder in an outfit that would rebuild the pipelines running through the Normandy town of Nougent le Rotrou. It was there where he met Robert Fere who was the chief of the fire department and had blueprints of where the pipeline ran. So with a little French my father learned and a bit of English on Robert’s part and probably the help of an interpreter, they worked together and developed a rapport. My father found out that Robert had a plumbing business and asked him how his business was doing. Robert replied that he had plenty of work, but no supplies. No pipe, no gas, no lead for solder, and no flux. The war had eaten all of those. The next day my father gave Robert an eighty pound box of lead solder bars, some bottles of gas, and some pipe and flux. The Army Corps of Engineers had plenty of supplies and wouldn’t miss what he had taken. Robert was so grateful he broke down and cried. Although he had no supplies he and his family did have food since they raised rabbits and had a garden with fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs. And his wife and daughters could cook up a storm. Robert invited Ray and his troop for a feast on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. After eating C-Rations (canned army food) for weeks a home cooked meal by French women was a real treat. The men were overjoyed and gorged on rabbit, salad , pate, cheeses, and homemade pastries and wine. The youngest of Robert’s daughters caught my father’s eye, her name was Eliane and she would become our mother.

One day Ray and some of his troop had some time off and decided to go to Paris. On the way, they passed through a forest, I think it was Verdun. There were still bodies and body parts of Germans in the ditches and in the brush and even hanging from the trees. The French left them there to rot.

So, our father was no stranger to human carnage when he was called and asked to volunteer his equipment and skills that horrible night in Woodbridge. Still, I overheard him tell a friend that what he witnessed was worse than what he saw in the forests of France. In France it was dead bodies, but here there were people still alive, moaning and screaming in fear and pain. It was hard to concentrate on working to free the wreckage, but he did all night long and into the next day. This was after a hard day’s work and no sleep between.

I’m pretty sure it was the Metuchen Police department who called the house that evening, I know he had just come home for dinner when the call came in (this is from recollections of my mother). He usually went back to work for a few fours more after dinner, so the timing was right for the police department to contact him. At work it would have been difficult if he was out with his portable rig which was a panel truck with a Hobart portable arc Welder, oxygen and acetylene cylinders, and his pride and joy, his four foot long Victor Rosebud torches that could cut through plate steel two inches thick. I think he brought them home from the Amy. He knew all of the police, he often did work for them and they knew of his capabilities and his amazing torches. I remember him telling a friend it was also difficult cutting away the wreckage because Rosebud cutting torches can spew sparks and molten steel for at least twenty feet and more, so he had to position himself in awkward positions so as not to aim the sparks on victims or debris that could burn.

He came home the next afternoon, took a shower, ate some food and went to bed, didn’t wake up until the next day which would be the 8th of February. He didn’t go to work that day, and for him to miss a day of work was very unusual.

I heard him tell a friend that a reporter wanted to interview him, but he didn’t want anything to do with it. He didn’t like the idea that the reporter would make money off of people’s misery, nor did he like being the center of attention.

So Gordon, no one ever knew who the man in the plaid coat with his welders cap on backwards working his trusty Rosebud was except for a few friends I imagine, if they ever saw the pictures. If it wasn’t for Murielle seeing the pictures on Facebook we wouldn’t even know they existed. When she sent them to me I recognized the coat, he had that for many years, but the pictures were grainy and I couldn’t distinguish his face, the angles didn’t help either. The pictures in your book are better. I have a large magnifying glass and I can tell you that the man in the pictures is no one else. Unless my father had an identical double with the same flaring nostrils, short dark hair, plaid coat and backwards cap, and a four foot long Rosebud torch, and was also there that infamous night it was definitely Ray Ruhland. 

Thank you for the huge effort in writing this book and I wish you great success in your future endeavors.

Murielle Rhuland Ferino