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Insurer works at site of 1903 railroad explosion

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Michael Beachy, president of L&M Insurance in Greenwood, doesn’t mind that he can almost reach out the window and touch freight trains when they speed by his office window.

Beachy, who sells personal lines and some commercial, has an eye-catching location on Greenwood’s main street right next to the town’s five-year-old library.

He leases a charming 960-square-foot turn-of-the-century railroad station hard by the tracks . Although they no longer stop, trains still roll by daily.

“I enjoy it,” Beachy said. “It’s a little unnerving for people who have never experienced it before. You can just about reach out and touch them.

When his father Lester Beach first took the space in 1971, it wasn’t highly sought after. “Nobody else seemed to want it,” Michael Beachy said, “but, then, they build the new library next door and it became a good location.”

Long-time residents like Lester Beachy remember when the train station was crowded and trains rolled by more frequently.

Mike Beachy said the historic location hasn’t attracted many additional insurance customers but curious train buffs travelling between Rehoboth Beach and Washington, D.C. do stop in occasionally.

“It isn’t really as old as people think, because it blew up in 1903.” Beachy said. “It almost wiped out half the town.”

The original station was demolished in a dynamite explosion on Dec. 2, 1903 when a train carrying dynamite and naphtha collided with another train in a blinding snowstorm. Two people were killed and dozens were injured.

Stores were blown apart. Homes were upended. Fires were started. The parsonage at the Greenwood Methodist Church was destroyed. Levy Court Commissioner Jabez T. Willey told people he had only six intact pieces of furniture in his home. A Philadelphia Inquirer reporter began his story with “Greenwood
is a wreck.”

The explosions prompted national safety regulations for carrying explosives on trains.Greenwood residents suffered catastrophic losses. Most of them told the reporters that they were uninsured.

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