I first found out about the Malbone Street Wreck when I got lost coming home from the post office closest to my house. It wasn't exactly that I was lost, but that I got confused when I turned the corner. I was supposed to be on Empire Boulevard, a huge (in some places five-lane) street running through my Prospect Gardens neighborhood. Instead, on one little tiny spot, with one little tiny sign, Empire Boulevard was Malbone Street.I got home, looked it up, and found out about the Malbone Street Wreck, a big huge disaster of a subway derailment into a side of a tunnel. Malbone Street, you see, was the first name of the street now called Empire Boulevard. City officials changed it in 1918 after the street came synonymous with public transit disasters. Whether they were trying to improve the image of public transit or improve the image of Malbone Street isn't clear. What is clear is how it made the wreck become more easily forgotten; I surveyed a dozen people who had lived in my neighborhood for decades, a neighborhood at the epicenter of both the wreck and the recovery, yet no one knew about it.
I was so pleased (if one can say one is pleased about anything concerning a disaster) to find this book which, while not without its controversies, was certainly illuminating. The Malbone Street wreck killed at least 93 people and may have killed as many as 101, the number is not clear because not all the bodies, well bits of bodies could be recovered from the wreckage.