Description of the City:
Philadelphia is one of the healthiest places in the Union. The air is pure and fresh—almost like the country. The deaths for the week are 147. It was about 1682 that this city was laid out. The first settlers came over the year previously, in the “Sarah and John,” Capt. Smith. The city now extends from Southwark to Richmond—about five miles—and from the Delaware to the Schuylkill—something over two miles. The streets are wide and straight, and cross each other at right angles, running north and south and east and west. Penn’s original [design ]was to leave Front street free, and allow no buildings to be erected upon it. This would have afforded a beautiful promenade, as well as a fine view of the [Delaware]. But this plan was not carried out. What is now the crooked Dock street was once a beautiful brook, running through the heart of the city. In old times vessels came up this creek as high as third [street.]
I came here from New York by way of the Camden and Amboy railroad—the same on which the collision occurred some time since. I never thought of this till our train stopped, “all of a sudden,” and then began to go backwards like blazes. Then ran back half a mile, and switched off on another track, and stopped; and the next moment a large passenger train came round a bend in the road, and whistled past us like lightning! Ugh! ejaculated I, as I [looked ]to see if Mr. [Clemens’s ]bones were all safe. If we had been three seconds later getting off that [track], the two locomotives would have come together, and we should no doubt have been helped off. The conductors silenced all questions by not answering them.
An explanatory note:
Clemens presumably took the 2:00 p.m. Express Line (cost, three dollars) to Philadelphia. This trip lasted four and a half hours: by steamboat from New York to South Amboy, New Jersey, and from there by rail to Camden, and by ferry across the Delaware River to the wharf at Walnut Street (advertisement, New York Tribune, 6 Oct 53, 3; R. A. Smith, 411). The collision Clemens recalls was one between two passenger trains on the Camden and Amboy line which occurred on 9 August 1853. Four passengers were killed, and several others seriously injured, when the trains collided head on on a curve near Old Bridge, New Jersey (“Another Railroad Tragedy,” New York Times, 10 Aug 53, 1; “The Camden and Amboy Railroad Accident—Verdict of the Jury,” Philadelphia Public Ledger, 13 Aug 53, 1).