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"A Medal for Heroism"
Local Railroader Saves a Life - 1939

By: Greg Jandura
         "It happened 65 years ago when an Erie Railroad crossing watchman went above and beyond the call of duty saving a young Niagara Falls, New York lad from the certain jaws of death!"

         John L. Kroll, 42 year-old Erie Railroad crossing watchman, yesterday (January 24, 1940) was awarded a bronze medal by the Carnegie Hero Fund commission for his daring rescue last January of a seven year-old Niagara Falls lad from the path of an onrushing freight train.

         His selection for this coveted award was announced in Associated Press dispatches from Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Kroll lives with his wife and four children at 1306 Broadway in Buffalo.

         The dramatic rescue occurred on the afternoon of January 23, 1939, while Mr. Kroll was stopping vehicular and pedestrian traffic for a passing Buffalo-bound passenger train at the Cayuga Drive crossing of the New York Central and Erie railroads in the LaSalle section of Niagara Falls, New York.

         The passenger train had just passed when a pupil from St. John de LaSalle Parochial School darted directly in front of a freight train coming in the opposite direction. Onlookers turned their heads, expecting the locomotive to crush the boy.

         Death would have been instant had not the alert watch-man, without hesitation, flung his railroad stop signal aside to hurl himself against the lad, who was standing, fear-stricken, in the path of the oncoming train, at that moment, according to witnesses, only ten feet away. Together the watchman and youth rolled across the track, drawing their feet to safety just as the locomotive roared across the spot on which they had been a split second earlier.

         Scratched slightly on his arms and legs from the cinders along the track, Mr. Kroll, somewhat unnerved, eventually stood up and was cheered by those who had witnessed the thrilling rescue.

         During the confusion, the rescued lad, disappeared. He was identified three weeks later, through efforts of the Reverend Maurice J. O'Shea of St. John de LaSalle School as Raymond Allen, seven year-old son of Mr. & Mrs. Raymond A. Allen of 620, 93rd Street, Niagara Falls, New York.

         Although he said he had heard the Carnegie Hero fund Commission had been
considering presenting him an award, Mr. Kroll added that he had not been officially notified. The railroad man doesn't deny that the incident made him "shake like a leaf." "My nerves still get jumpy when I think of that locomotive bearing down on me," he said last night. "During the split second I stood in its path, I thought surely the end of the world had come. It all happened so fast."

         "I remember vividly diving through the cold wintery air, expecting any moment that the locomotive would tear into us. I grabbed the youth by his coat belt and gave one big heave. A brief second after I jumped aside, I felt the locomotive brush my shoes."

         "What a sweet feeling" it was to know we were safe and to see the train glide harmlessly by. "But it passed much too close for comfort."

         "The next thing I remember is that a woman ran up to me, grabbed my hand and shouted excitedly, "I congratulate you. You are a hero. You saved that boy's life." "I was shaking so hard I could hardly stand up."

         Although the rescue occurred at 3:35 o'clock in he afternoon, Mr. Kroll remained on duty until 11 o'clock that night. He estimated the speed of the freight train at between 45 and 50 miles an hour.

         Mr. Kroll who tips the scales at 200 pounds, has been employed by various railroads in this area since he was eighteen. During the last six years he has been employed both as a watchman and road crewman by the Erie Railroad. He remained at the LaSalle crossing until last spring, when he was transferred to a road crew. During the last five months he has been watchman at the Central Avenue crossing in Lancaster, New York.

SOURCE: "Medal Is Given
To Railroader For Saving
Boy," Buffalo Courier
Express. January 25. 1940. pp.1&7
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