Hamilton Choco Fest

It's time for chocolate festival!

Historic train wreck inspires sweet celebration

By Willie Kiernan

The Great Chocolate Wreck Festival comes to town on the Hamilton Village Green from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday Sept. 29. The event features live music, family activities, games, a walk to and dedication of a new commemorative sign at the historical site, a bake-off contest, a live theatrical skit, a chocolate fountain and the reenactment of the Great Chocolate Wreck with the four-ring circus chocolate spill. The festival is free and open to train lovers, chocolate lovers and the general public.

"Everything will be happening on the Green until we walk over to the Leland site for the dedication of the new sign," von Mechow said.

The story goes that 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.

"We tried to contact Nestles, but they were unavailable," von Mechow said.

The festival will have to settle for Hershey's.

"We had the first festival in 2005 for the 50-year anniversary, and Nestles did participate," von Mechow said. "We're having it again this year because of the historic sign that will go up near the site of the train wreck."

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