Accident-related Snippets

Items added: November 4, 2002

Ft. Madison Weekly DEMOCRAT 11/23/1910:

Storage Coal Pile At Shopton Burns.
Spontaneous Combustion Does Damage.

Ditcher and steam shovel scattering endangered portions of a 20,000 ton pile. Machines are at work scattering the (one) burning pile. The first indication of trouble appeared several days go when a thin white steam arose from one pile. Thursday night the steam changed to smoke and today several smoldering blazes were discovered. The ditcher was the only available piece of machinery at the shops which could be used to scatter the fuel but this was put to use until a steam shovel could be brought hurriedly in from Cardy, Missouri, began to make telling impressions on the pile in the afternoon. However, the work of the huge shovel seemed almost insignificant when compared with the pile of coal which extends for a block in length in the north end of the Shopton yard. The coal is stored just north of the coal chutes. It is brought in from the east in the summer and piled for emergency purposes, being used in the chutes in this and other nearby points. This pile is over a block long, some fifteen to twenty feet in height, and thirty to forty feet in width. The steam shovel was working incessantly this afternoon, but each time the arm reached down in the smoldering pile, the rushing air would cause the blaze to break out anew.

RAILWAY AGE GAZETTE 11/ 4/1910 p. 889:

Topeka, Ks. Fire in the yards of the AT&SF here, destroyed between 600 and 700 freight cars October 28. The big shops were saved after a hard fight; loss estimated at $500,000 to $800,000.


Albuquerque dateline "Wild Bill" a Piute Indian, has died. A year ago, with a great show of bravado, he tried to outrun the "Sunset Limited". The Indian was known as a 'runner', and for many years gone by, carried messages from one mining camp to another, his fleetness recommending him as a courier. About a year ago, while Wild Bill was under the influence of whiskey, he deliberately leaped upon the right-of-way and sped before the train, shouting defiantly. The engineer made an attempt to check the train, but in vain, and Wild Bill was tossed through the air, landing heavily out in the desert. The badly injured redskin surprised the trainmen by scrambling to his feet and racing toward the Colorado river. He was found two days later by a party of mining men and Indians. His entire body seemed a mass of discolorations, while his back was laid open for several inches, and he was almost scalped; it was not thought he could survive. The miners wanted to carry him to Kingman, and while preparing for the removal, Indians stole the runner, carrying him to a distant camp where he was treated by the squaws. He had recovered sufficiently to walk back to the Enterprise region, but his spirits seemed to be entirely broken by being out-distanced by a locomotive. This, together with several internal injuries from which he never recovered, brought about his death.


"Lost His Trousers--Narrow Escape of a Man in a Railroad Wreck".

Combination car 2408, which came in on train number 72 last night, was a picture, says the Emporia (Ks.) 'Republican'. It went east on train 64 this morning for the Topeka shops. This car was on a mixed run from Wellington, (Ks.) and while we are not in possession of all the facts, we learn the car was struck by a train. The freak part about it was it drove a rail up through the car. Sitting in one of the seats were two men, and it tore one man's pants off, but otherwise he was not much injured. The rail went up through the 'possum belly', or cellar, which is on all combination cars and is for the purpose of storing switch chains and oil cans. It took one side of the oil can clear through on the end of the rail, fastening to the top of the coach. The rail was still sticking in the car and could not be removed, and will go to the shop that way. Otherwise the car was not much damaged, but consider the luck of the man who lost his pants.

(Follow-up, SAME ISSUE & PAGE, perhaps more accurately reported)

Railroad wrecks sometimes produce curious effects in destruction or damage of rolling stock and material generally. One of the most interesting sights seen around the Topeka shops lately was on exhibition Thursday. Combination passenger and baggage car 2408 stood near the coach shop, pierced by an ordinary, 62-lb. steel rail, about 20 feet long. Entering through the tool box underneath the car, it went through an iron bucket, passed upward diagonally through the floor, a seat of the car, and stopping after bursting the ceiling of the coach. The rail lay on one side where it came up through the floor, was slightly sprung. It is supposed that while the car was passing over the rail, one end being loose from the fastenings, was lifted, and the velocity of the train moved it upward to the position it still occupies. A rail that plays this kind of prank is known to railroad men as a "snakehead", the term having come into use years ago when rails were of wood, with an iron strip running along the top. Then such accidents were comparatively frequent, for it was easy for the straps to become lose at one end. Soon after the completion of the Chicago extension, a similar accident to this one occurred and several passengers were hurt. A few years ago a work train, carrying a load of rails near Wakarusa, (Ks.) dropped one and before the train could be stopped the rail was driven up through the way car.



Started at Wellington which illustrates the old child adage. A year or so ago a company traveling in its own car struck Wellington, says the Wellington 'Journal". The car was damaged and set out on the rip track for repairs. The manger of the show gave Adam Winger, the head of the rip track gang, a handfull of complimentary tickets which Winger supposed were in exchange for courtesies. Winger distributed the tickets among his subordinates, and they all went to the show that night and enjoyed it. Afterwards the Santa Fe sent in a bill for the repairs of the car, and the company came back with a bill for the tickets given to Winger, and Winger had to make it good. Yesterday another show traveling in its own car struck Wellington and the car was set out on the rip track for repairs. A man came strolling through the yard distributing show tickets on which were printed advertisements of the meeting. The fellow handed one to Winger and Winger, thinking it was a ticket from the show people, grabbed a jack screw and floored him.


Peabody, Ks. dateline A bad wreck of a freight train was caused here last night by the train becoming uncoupled coming downgrade into the city. The engineer saw the danger and brought his engine to a stop, (but) the rear protion telescoped into the front, wrecking some 20 cars; no one was hurt.

Ft. Madison (Iowa) 'DEMOCRAT' 12/09/1891

Friday night, when the third section of freight number 32 westbound was nearing Macuta, (Illinois, Ellington note), the train broke in two. Head brakeman Lewis ran back on the car tops to see where the break was. He ran off the end, falling to the track, was stunned by the fall, and the following cars passed over him causing his death within a few minutes time.

Ft. Madison, Iowa "DEMOCRAT" 7/15/1891:

An interesting engineer's experience with quicksand. My engine ran off a low bridge near Riverbend, about 100 miles east of Denver, and fell into a small creek with quicksand. A wrecking train came up in a few hours, but the engine had already disappeared. The railroad officials ordered it to be raised, but it could not be found. We sounded with rods to a depth of sixty feet but not a trace could be discovered of the engine. Four years afterward it was found at a depth of 100 feet, and was raised. We then ascertained there was scarcely a bit of rust. The damage was slight, and after a little tinkering, it was placed upon the road again. The sand had kept out the air and prevented the iron from oxidizing.


Santa Fe (passenger train) wreck caused by stationman throwing the wrong switch. He had been asleep, awoke just as the train went by, realizing he was supposed to do something, he threw a switch, the train with locomotive 1031 left the track. Several were killed or injured. This is one on which the American Gibson heater is being tested and locomotive was almost buried in the ground.

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