A teenage girl commuting by train to Boston had a harrowing experience 85 years ago. Christine Carter was a freshman at Radcliffe College in Cambridge. On the morning of Oct. 24, 1934, she was late for the morning train at the Silver Lake station.
The train, known as the Businessmen’s Express, originated in Nashua, N.H. It would only make one stop, and that was at Silver Lake. From there it was a fast 17-minute non-stop run to North Station.
She ran to the train on the track side and grabbed onto a hand-rail. She was unable to pull herself aboard, though, as the platform was down, blocking the steps. As the train accelerated, she found herself hanging on with one hand, with her pocketbook and briefcase in the other.
She was saved by a signal from a train traveling in the opposite direction. It was a rule that each train crew would carefully watch an oncoming train for any sign of trouble. The wave that a brakeman would always give was not a greeting, but a signal.
From the rear of the inbound train, the rear flagman did not see Christine hanging onto the side, but someone on the other train did. He gave the signal for an emergency stop. The flagman pulled the emergency brake valve and the train screeched to a stop, about a mile from the Silver Lake station.
The crew jumped down looking for the trouble. They found the girl, hanging on for dear life but unhurt.
The story was reported in the evening edition of the Boston Globe, the same day.
That evening, she she settled down for an few hours of homework. She joked with her father, Robert Carter, saying she hadn’t been scared, but might have been if she had realized the train was an express to Boston.
Christine grew up at “The Elms” on Glen Road. Her mother was Dorothea Neilson, one of three daughters of Pop and Stina Neilson, who ran a summer boarding house there. Pop kept a farm there. Her other grandfather, William Henry Carter, had a farm on Shawsheen Avenue at Bridge Lane.
Robert Carter built a house on Shawsheen Avenue, and then built another next to Lubbers Brook on Glen Road, on the Neilson farm.
Dorothea Neilson’s picture appears on the back cover of Paul Chalifour’s book, Wilmington. She is in the back row at left, with a dark bow in her hair. The cover picture was cropped. However, on page 66, the same picture appears, with D. Robert Carter at far left in the back row.
Christine Carter graduated from Radcliffe in 1938 with an unusual degree, a Bachelor of Arts in physics. She taught science at Wilmington High School for two years, and then married Almon Allard in June 1941. They raised three children at Silver Lake, living in the house her father built.
She served as Sunday School teacher in the Congregational Church and as a substitute teacher at the high school. She also did some work for the Town Crier in its early years.
She became a careful student of Wilmington history and served for many years as secretary of the Gowing Family Association. Christine Carter Allard died in 2006.