It's a festival

It's a festival in Hamilton!

Historic train wreck inspires sweet celebration

By Willie Kiernan

Two carloads of chocolate spilled into Hamilton on Sept. 27, 1955. Fifty-two years later, Hamilton celebrates the train wreck with a festival.

"It was a dark, rainy night," said Patricia von Mechow, festival coordinator.

A N.Y. O. & W. train came to the Lebanon Street crossing in the village of Hamilton, when suddenly one of the engineers hit the brakes. He had noticed that the main switch had been flipped, redirecting the diesel toward the Leland Coal shed. Due to the wet rails, the conductor could not stop the train and it crashed through the back wall of the coal shed.

"The train went off the tracks and was airborne for about 150 feet," von Mechow said. "Since it was a freight train, there were only four men aboard. Luckily, none of the crew was seriously injured."

The train's cargo included two carloads of Nestles' products.

"Delicious chocolate chips, crunch bars candy and cocoa were spilled along the site," von Mechow said. "It must've been an extremely loud crash."

The sheriff, firemen, state police and the FBI were all on the scene to determine the cause of the mishap and who was responsible for flipping the switch. No charges were ever made.

"Local Colgate University students as well as residents did their civic duty to clean up the mess," von Mechow said. "They all rushed to the site to gather up pockets and even wheelbarrows filled with chocolate."

Hamilton continues to celebrate this unique event by taking yearly school trips to the historic site.

The Great Chocolate Wreck A Sweet Celebration of History will be held on the Hamilton Village Green from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday Sept. 29. The festival will feature plenty of family fun, local talent, a commemorative sign unveiling and lots of chocolate.

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