HAWLEY - The Citizen newspaper, published in Honesdale, credited Ivan Swingle of Hawley for his steadiness at the throttle of a steam locomotive, from preventing a disaster. The incident occurred Monday night December 1, 1913 on the Erie & Wyoming Division tracks just west of Hawley, Pa.
“If Ivan Swingle Had Lost His Nerve, Then What?,” The Citizen’s unnamed Hawley correspondent declared in a headline.
The train wreck occurred at 10:30 p.m. at the west end of the Wangum passing siding, which the writer added came near to resulting in the tragic death of two or three men.
Conductor A.H. Thornton had charge of a coal train, running extra for Charles Pletcher. The westward bound train was very long and was helped along by a “kicker” engine operated by Ivan Swingle. The kicker was pushing a long string of empty cars back towards Lackawanna County and the mines.
As the train passed the siding, a draw-head pulled out of the car in front of the caboose. This disconnected the air pipes and automatically set the brakes on the car that was severed from the caboose, leaving it stationary “as the Rock of Gibraltar.”
The sudden break of the air pipe released all pressure on both caboose and engine.
Just in time
The engine very nearly smashed into the wooden caboose with full strength to move a train, save for Engineer Swingle instantly setting the emergency brakes. This put the engine in reverse, but not before smashing the engine’s head light and pilot, and the platforms on the caboose.
The conductor and two other men made their escape from the caboose, which the overturned stove set on fire, by crawling out of the cupola window. “Fortunately nobody was hurt; but if Swingle had not been on the job this story would have a different and a more sorrowful ending,” The Citizen reported.
RR fireman killed
The incident occurred only three years after another railroad mishap, a train with a broken flange that cost the Erie locomotive fireman his life. Swingle was the engineer on this train, running east-bound, west of Sparrowbush, NY (west of Port Jervis).
The Port Jervis paper, The Tri-States Union, reported that the crash took place at 7:10 p.m., Thursday, December 15, 1910.
William H. Treible, an Erie fireman in service of the Wyoming Division, fell between the engine and the tender of locomotive 1562 and was instantly killed.
Treible, a fireman of three years’ experience, was at work on the engine when the train of 51 cars of coal broke in two.
One of the cars near the engine had de-railed, causing the instantaneous application of air brakes on 25 cars. The engine became disengaged and Treible fell to the tracks.
The train crew took the man’s remains on another train, to the undertaker. The coroner was dispatched. Treible was 38 and lived in Dunmore, Pa. A widower, he lived with his two sons, his mother and sister.
Swingle was living in Scranton at that time.
Ivan Lozell Swingle had a long career on the Erie, serving as an engineer into the 1940’s.
He was born at Cortez, Pa., west of Lake Ariel, on April 5, 1880 to Merritt and Ruey (Kizer) Swingle. His father was working as a railroad conductor during the time of the 1900 census. The family lived in Scranton at that time.
Ivan had finished the eighth grade and was working as a locomotive engineer when he was 20, in 1900. Brother William, who was 16, was a locomotive wiper. Ivan was 5’9”, with dark brown hair.
In 1904 he was married to Mary McDougall, which one source indicates she was from Scotland. They had at least six children, Agnes, Elsie, Elizabeth, Mary, Merrit and Isabel.
Although several listings note he was living in Scranton or Dunmore in the early 20th century, a May 1913 news brief referred to Ivan as the Hawley yard engineer. He and his wife Mary were living in Hawley at that time; she had gone to a hospital in Scranton for a slight operation. The 1920 census, however, placed them as Scranton residents.
Sometime between 1920 and 1925 he and the family had moved to Hawley and made their home at 321 Prospect Street, where Ivan and his wife stayed.
Agnes was a nurse; Elsie worked as a high school teacher- as late as the 1950’s. They lived with their parents.
Local newspapers offered a few news briefs pertaining to Ivan Swingle. The Citizen reported in July 1913 that he had killed “a big rattlesnake” out at Swamp Brook, in Berlin Township, Wayne County. In December 1916 the Port Jervis paper told of Ivan’s success at hunting a buck, on opening day at Glen Eyre, Lackawaxen Township.
He was still running a locomotive in 1941. He appears to have retired by 1953. Ivan Swingle died at Hawley at the age of 75, on August 24, 1955. Mary had died the year prior.
Census data, etc. at Ancestry.com/ Hawley Public Library