Accident Accounts

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Introduction to Steam Railroad Accidents
in the Columbus, Ohio Area

"There's Gold in Them There Hills!"

         I have never been much interested in train wrecks. I don't want to think about the killed and injured and I don't get a kick out of crumpled rolling stock. I'm sure there are professional railroaders out there who view train wrecks with more dread than interest as well. They have seen what a 12,000 ton coal train can do to an SUV.
         After collecting the articles, newspaper clippings and ICC reports for the Steam Railroad Accidents section of columbusrailroads.com I have a different view. Those newspaper clippings and ICC reports provide a window into a bygone era. They are full of interesting little tidbits of information. The newspaper articles give you a view of the human implications and the ICC reports a more technical description of exactly what happened.
         For example in the 19th Century there was no easy way to get the injured to a hospital. The best they could do was command a carriage or take the injured back to the nearest town in a rescue train. Later funeral homes provided some ambulance service. Still later improved ambulance service was provided by the communities with trained rescue staff. During the 1967 accident north of Worthington, Ryan Hoover was working at the Worthington Public Library and remembers ambulances streaming through Worthington on the way to the accident.
         The ICC reports for both Miami Crossing accidents give detail on the workings of an interlocking tower. The 1948 wreck east of Union Station describes the switch tender's job and just how complex puzzle switches can be. You wouldn't want to try doing a switch tender's job with a hangover.
         The ICC reports summarize the investigation into the accident. While not always naming the culprit invariably a union man is in for trouble. A few reports leave the reader wondering about management's role in letting conditions exist that contribute to the accident. For example the excursion train that was hit from behind at Orient in 1915 was made up of wooden coaches. All steel cars had been around for 20 years by 1915. It seems irresponsible to be transporting passengers in wooden coaches in 1915.
         There are 55 wrecks on the list not counting the three accidents listed under "Ohio Accidents". They date from 1867 to 1967. In those 55 wrecks, 59 people were killed and 358 injured. You will find Interstate Commerce Commission Reports, newspaper accounts and in a few cases an article on the accident. Photos are included when possible.
         There may well be additional wrecks in the Columbus area not listed. I know of a late 1940s incident where a PRR T1 clipped the rear of a stopped PRR passenger train at Columbus Union Station, but have yet to find a newspaper clipping. You can also assume there were wrecks before 1867 that have yet to be discovered.
         Enjoy your hunt for those golden nuggets embedded in the Steam Road Accidents section.

Alex Campbell
columbusrailroads.com