The Weekly Week

Hours after the disaster, the iceberg still floated serenely in the Charles River Basin.

BOSTON — The T-Tanic, largest subway train in all history, has foundered on its maiden voyage across the Charles River with great loss of life. Little is known for certain at this time, but reports indicate that the great T train sank after a collision with a large iceberg.

The T-Tanic was constructed only a few months ago by the MBTA in an attempt to "give wealthy, 'first-class' commuters a new way to travel in style," according to MBTA spokesman J. B. Ismay. "The T-Tanic featured on-board ballrooms, bars, billiard tables, and smoking rooms. Each car was luxuriously appointed, with oak panelling, gilded fare boxes, and rigorous class distinctions."

The train was launched from South Station with great fanfare just hours before the fatal collision, gliding sedately out of the enormous siding where it had been built.

The T-Tanic was so huge that it required the construction of its own tracks across the Charles, being too wide to fit on the old Red Line tracks. The new 'White Star Line,' as MBTA officials dubbed it, "is better than all the exploited lower-class backs it was built upon," as one passenger said before the voyage.

Warnings Went Unheeded

The greatest tragedy in T history could have been avoided, said John Thompson, 24, a coal-shoveler and chef on the T-Tanic. According to Thompson's statement to the press, the T-Tanic had received dozens of warning messages from other trains, but these were ignored by the T-Tanic's driver, one E. J. Smith, 63, of Brighton.

"Cap'n Smith just didn't care about [the ice]," Thompson said. "He repeatedly told the crew that 'water could not freeze.'"

According to the National Wather Bureau, icy conditions, with gigantic, 50,000-ton icebergs, prevailed in the Charles last night "due to 'El Niņo.'" Other meterologists dissented, claiming that 'El Chico Grande' or even 'The Barber of Seville' were actually to blame. A spokesman for the tempremental and capricious Peruvian boy refused comment.

Despite the warnings, survivors reported that Smith kept the train at full speed for the entire crossing.

"Smith was the best driver we have," said MBTA spokesman Ismay. "He had over thirty years' experience. If he thought the iceberg wasn't a threat, we should trust that decision."

Unfortunately, Smith went down with the train, and his side of the story may never be known.

Crews on River 'Just Kept Going'

Tales of heroism are many. Said one second-class survivor, "The Captain stayed at his post until the end, glaring out at us, as if daring us to use alternative forms of transportation." Others report that as the train slipped beneath the icy water, one could still hear the strains of 'Nearer, My God, to Thee' played by a trackside musician on steel drums.

The tragedy was compounded by the MBTA's strange decision to launch the T-Tanic without enough lifeboats to hold all the passengers.

"It was horrendous," said one Molly Brown, 25, of Allston. "The water was just full of thrashing, screaming people, singing hymns ... and the Harvard crews just kept sculling by in the golden autumn light."

Ismay responded uncomfortably to questions about the lifeboats. "Well, it's a train, and our trains rarely carry lifeboats," said Ismay slowly, with a confused expression.

Yesterday's T-Tanic disaster was not the first, or even the most deadly, of accidents involving mass transportation in Boston. A comprehensive list of the last century's transit disasters reveals a legacy of corruption and moral decay.

January 30, 1899: Horse-drawn subway cars crash when fly bites horse, 27 die of consumption

March 4, 1905: New-fangled coal-fired steam car boiler backfires and then explodes on Tremont St., 14 dead, 2 scalded

August 27, 1911: Triple-decked omnibus develops midflight wind shear problems, plummets to earth in Saugus. 341 move to Revere to avoid debris

June 15, 1953: Cars from Red, Green, and Orange lines form Voltron; Blue Line cars volunteer services as "the head"

April 2, 1989: Red Line train carrying 361 passengers causes kinetic sculpture in Kendall Station to make pleasant chiming noises