City officials unveiled the plaque and a street sign at the Prospect Park subway station to memorialize the city's deadliest train crash, our sister pub amNY reports.
In the aftermath of great disasters, there is always the need for assigning blame, and seeking justice. In the case of the Malbone Street Wreck, which killed at least 93 people, and seriously injured over 200 more, that need was great. The people demanded answers, and a newly elected and ambitious mayor had his own agenda.
In Parts One and Two of our story, we learned how Edward Luciano, a young train dispatcher with the Brooklyn Rapid Transit line, was pressed into service as a train motorman, when the motormen’s union called a strike, on November 1, 1918. With hurried training, and only a few hours practice, he was given a double shift driving the train, and by the time he started his second shift, here on the Brighton Line, it was dark, late in the day, and he was still inexperienced.
As any experienced train motorman will tell you, it’s not driving the train that’s hard, it’s making the stops. Brake too early, and the train stops before reaching the platform, and you have to lurch into the station. Brake too late, and you overshoot the platform and have to back up. Go too fast, and brake too late, and you are in the perfect position for disaster. This was exactly what happened to an inexperienced motorman named Edward Luciano, as he approached the Malbone Street tunnel on the Brooklyn Rapid Transit line, at 6:42 pm, on November 1, 1918. What followed was the worst transit disaster in the history of the New York City subway system, a disaster so horrific that the name “Malbone Street” became too painful a reminder of the tragedy, and the street itself was re-named Empire Boulevard. We began the story in the last Walkabout. Here’s what happened that fateful day:
When I first came to New York, in 1977, I was fascinated by the subway. It is, after all, the lifeblood of the city, coursing along its arteries, from the head of the Bronx, through the body of Manhattan, to the limbs of Brooklyn, and Queens. Even though I was introduced to the trains at probably the worst time in their history, it was still a magical conveyance that could take you anywhere. Every car was covered in graffiti, and the heat, or the fans never worked, in the days before air conditioning, but still…New York! I was very taken by the different lines, the names and numbers, and the beauty that you could still see in the older stations, so I bought a book on the history of the subway system, and that was my first introduction to the story about the worst subway disaster in New York’s history; the Malbone Wreck. I didn’t live in Brooklyn at the time, so I had no idea where Malbone Street was. When Brooklyn became my home, and its streets became very familiar to me, the story resonated even more. If you aren’t familiar with what happened, and don’t know where Malbone Street is, don’t worry. You aren’t clueless. Malbone Street itself died with the nearly one hundred people who perished in the trains that horrible day, long ago in 1918. Today it is known as Empire Boulevard.