Like a Whirlwind - 1894
Wild Train of Freight Cars Sweeps Through the City.
Creating Consternation and Imperiling Many Human Lives.
B&O Train Wrecked on a Bridge Over the Olentangy.
The Bridge Gives Way and Trains Are Precipitated Into the River.
Fireman Killed and an Engineer and One Passenger Injured.
Hundreds View the scene of the Catastrophe.
Traffic on Three Roads Interfered With to-Day.
(Columbus Dispatch 9/5/1894) With the rush of the whirlwind a cut of loaded coal cars ran wild last night from the Columbus, Sandusky & Hocking Yards, near the State Fair grounds, and passing over the multitude of tracks in the Union depot yards, dashed under the High Street viaduct and west to the Big Four bridge over the Olentangy river, north of the Water Works, a distance of over three miles, and colliding with an incoming Baltimore & Ohio passenger train, badly wrecking the bridge and train. The cut and train were precipitated into the river 30 feet below and the fireman, William Herbert of Newark, suffered a horrible death in the debris of his engine. Several others were more or less injured and much valuable railway property destroyed
Flight of the Cut of Cars.
The almost lightning speed the cut of cars rushed through the Union Depot on the sixth track north. Officers and men in the depot heard the noise but upon looking could see nothing but a blurred combination of cars. The speed of the cut was too much for them to make out what it was. No attempt was made to board any of the cars at this point, as it would mean almost certain death.
As near as the switchman stationed at the shanty under the old Park street bridge could ascertain it was 10:57 when the cut passed that point on the Big Four tracks. He was not at the shanty at the time, being a little ways back from the track, but heard the approach of the cut. He glanced hurriedly toward the track and could see nothing but a streak left by the rushing train. No lights or signals were visible as a warning for other trains to avoid the onslaught of the cut, and it crossed Dennison avenue like an avalanche, hardly half a minute having elapsed since it was reported a passing under the Front street viaduct.
The track from the depot to the bridge is all down grade, and the cut gained in speed as it rushed along. When it reached the Pan Handle and Hocking Valley crossings, which are but a short distanced apart, the speed was terrific. The track from the depot to the bridge was clear, and there were no obstacles whatever to interfere with the rushing cars. On it sped until it reached the bridge which crosses the Olentangy river.
The Crash on the Bridge
All the time the cut was bounding along uncurbed in the least in its flight Baltimore & Ohio passenger train No. 106 due in the city over the Midland Division at 11:05pm was making its way toward the Union Depot. At the crossing of the Hocking valley and Pan Handle northwest of the city a stop is always mad and Engineer Smallwood, of Newark was making ready for the crossing, having whistled and put on the air. The train had slowed down to nearly four miles an hour when Engineer Smallwood saw the cut coming. It seemed to be making forty miles an hour and quick as a flash he reversed and whistled. There was not time to jump for the cut of cars struck the engine and all was darkness and confusion.
The crash was a terrific one for it was heard distinctly at the Union Depot yards and at the Hocking valley south yards. Railroad men knew in an instant what the sound meant and the news passed quickly that no. 106 had been wrecked, the fireman killed and the engineer badly injured. Both patrol wagons and numerous carriages were soon on the way to the scene with police, physicians and railway men.
Number of Cars Involved
There is a difference in the reports as to the number of coal cars in the cut. The railroad report which went over the wires last night said there were but five cars in the wild train, all loaded, but later reports from the scene of the wreck give the number as seven. Three loaded cars were shipped back off the remaining span of the bridge, and the appearance of the wreck would indicate that there were at least two or three cars there. The frame of one coal car remained suspended over the middle abutment of the bridge, and, in the absence of any report on authority, it would be safe to put the number at not less than five.
Tramps Have an Experience
A story gained circulation in the vicinity of the wreck that there were two tramps riding on the front end of the baggage car, on the wrecked passenger trains when the crash occurred, that one of them escaped uninjured, but the other one is missing. Other than this no verification of the rumor could be obtained. The Story was evidently not given much credence by the wrecking crew, as no attempt was made early this morning to remove any part of the wreck on the west side of the bridge, where the baggage car remained suspended on the incline formed by the girders of the span which gave way.
Removing the Victims
The Big Four bridge is just north of the old Dublin bridge near the water works and the Dublin pike running along the west side of the Olentangy […..] under the west […….]. The cut of cars reached the middle of the bridge just as the engine was on the span. Down went the engine – No. 723 – to the bed of the stream, falling on its side to the northward. The baggage car fell with the span and keeping the rails was suspended in a diagonal position with the rear end on the abutment and the two coaches and sleeper behind sticking to the rails. Engineer Smallwood was found trying to extricate himself, and when assisted from the debris of the engine presented a fearful sight with blood, coal dust and mud from the bed of the stream. Fireman Herbert was found dead with his head and shoulders warm from the hot steam but the remainder of the body cold. Paul Sentor, the baggage master, went down with the car but a big trunk protected him and a few scratches were the extent of his injuries. The only passenger injured was Burnice Barton, the ten year-old daughter of Mrs. Dora Burton, of Marshall, Kan., en route to visit a brother at Danville, Knox county, her leg being broken.
How the Cut Started
As near as can be learned the cut of ten loaded coal cars had come up from Shawnee, destined for Sandusky. They had been left on the main line just east of St. Clair avenue, and car repairers were making a few slight repairs, and had the blue light on the cut. It is hard to account for the cars starting, as the brakemen claim that four sets of brakes were set. One set of brakes would have been sufficient to hold the cut. The only theory advanced for the brakes being off is that some unknown person released them when the cars were standing on the main line near St. Clair avenue.
The tracks at St. Clair avenue are about forty-five feet higher than those in the Union Station and the speed which the cars soon attained was something frightful. The target man at the Fifth avenue station of the Big Four was awaiting the arrival of a passenger train which was overdue. The C., S. & H. use the Big Four tracks from this point into the Union Station, and the target man hearing what he supposed was the whistle of the C., S. & H. passenger engine, adjusted the switches so the at the train could run down into the Union Station.
Hearing the rumbling of the approaching cut of cars he looked to the north and was horrified to see instead of an engine headlight, the small blue light on the cars. It then flashed through his mind that the wild cut of cars was tearing down the main track, and realizing the damage which might be done, he rushed toward the derailing device, about, one hundred feet distant, intending to ditch the cut. He was about ten feet from the derailer when the cars passed him going toward the Union Station like a whirlwind. It is estimated that the cars were running at least thirty miles an hour when they passed the Fifth Avenue Block signal, and were gaining momentum each second they sped towards the city. The cut passed through the Union Depot on the sixth track from the south.
Disposal of Dead and Injured
The remains of the dead firemen were removed to the morgue and Corner Herust notified. He was a single man, resided in Newark and was well liked on the road. The injured engineer was removed to the Union Station and placed on the Pan Handle train, preferring to go direct to his home in Newark than to the hospital here. His injuries consisted of sprains about the knees and numerous scratches, the most serious injury being a scalp wound from which the blood flowed freely. Drs. Tayler and Rarey attended him. The little girl passenger whose right thigh was broken was at first taken to the Park Hotel in a carriage, but the hotel was full and she was taken to the Protestant Hospital. Her condition was favorable this morning and she was bearing up bravely without complaint.
Leonard Rose, the United States Express messenger, was in the car with Sutor, the baggage master, and was shaken up, but aside from scratches was practically uninjured. Sutor had his left ankle sprained by being thrown from one end of the car to the other. Joseph Sully, news agent had a cut on his right leg while William Millbaugh, brakeman, had an arm cut and sprained. Conductor W.C. Smith was uninjured.
Scene at the Wreck
The wrecked bridge was visited by hundreds of people on foot and wheel or in carriages this morning, and so numerous did they become at 10 o’clock that patrol No. 2 and a squad of police went out to keep the crowd away from the wreck crews at work. A Big Four bridge gang worked from the west end in pulling up the baggage car, which was still on the rails but badly scraped on the sides and the rear end telescoped. One of the coal cars was hanging on the pier and a wrecking crane was pulling it loose, while trucks of the coal cars were being hauled away from the front of the engine by tackle run across the river. The bodies of two coal cars floated in the river, while four car loads of lump coal were scattered all over the wrecked engine in the bed of the stream. The money loss to bridge and rolling stock will reach $15,000.
The point where the body of the fireman was found was visited by scores of people. The boiler had pinioned him and human life was burned out of him, his head having also been badly crushed. The remains were taken to Newark at 4:10 this afternoon.
Traffic Interfered With
The wrecked bridge was used by the Big Four, Baltimore & Ohio and Toledo & Ohio Central roads and traffic on all these roads was interfered with seriously to-day, until timbers could be put in and a temporary bridge constructed. The B. & O. trains to and from Cincinnati used the West Broad street station and passengers were transferred across the city. The Toledo & Ohio Central trains for Toledo over the new line, used the new freight depot on the West Side. The Big Four had to send trains from Springfield to Delaware via Marysville, instead of through Columbus. The wreck was in many respects a fortunate one as the smoker might have been completely telescoped had the baggage car not fallen while the coaches and sleeper might have gone down a fifteen-foot embankment. The incessant whistling of engines in the yards betokened a catastrophe and a special engine started after the cut of car but there was no chance of overtaking such a catapult.