Stratton, CO Train Goes Through Trestle, July 1929
The swirling torrent of water carrying death and destruction in the wake completely submerged Car No. 200 of the crack train throughout the greater part of the day and it was nearly an hour after the wreck, according to survivors in the other coaches before it definitely was established that one car of the train actually was missing.
With the collapse of the bridge -- less than 50 feet in width over the arroya eight cars, seven Pullmans and a chair car left the train and were strewn over the countryside. Two of the Pullmans -- those at eight end of the submerged death car -- were left suspended from the rack banks, partially submerged. Occupants of these two cars, as soon as they realized what had occurred made their way to safety from the free ends of the cars.
Many of the passengers on the train, according to survivors brought here, were awake at the time of the wreck. An ironical feature of the disaster was that many of the survivors had been awakened but a few minutes before by the taking of a siding a few miles east of Stratton to permit of the passing of the companion westbound train. Railroad officials estimated tonight that the east bound train had crossed the weakened structure over the arroya less than 45 minutes prior to the collapse.
The train, according to survivors was traveling about 45 miles an hour at the time of the crash. No warning of impending danger had been received by anyone and railroad officials today announced that the crash was the first warning they had received of a wet roadbed. Residents here and at Goodland, Kans., all said today, however that the region last night was visited by one of the heaviest rainstorms in recent years.
The wall of water forming on the watersheds on the eastern side of the Continental Divide as a result of the heavy downpour swept forward in every dry wash and arroya in the region. The territory where the wreck occurred is as flat as a table top, but is cut and criss crossed at irregular intervals by the arroyas ranging in width from five to fifty feet in width and from small cuts in the terrain to creek beds twenty feet in depth.
Bridge No. 4741, where the wreck occurred today is approximately 50 in width and possibly fifteen feet in depth.
Speeding across the plains oblivious of impending danger, Engineer M. V. RYAN of Colorado Springs, rushed to his destination. Morning was breaking, the first faint rays of the dawn just breaking in the eastern sky. The train approached the bridge. The front of the doubleheader engine crossed and immediately began running on the ties of the roadbed.
"It skittered and bumped along the ties for a fraction of a second and then there was a crash. The train apparently had parted and the two engines and baggage car; a combination car and a day coach had cleared the bridge. Behind us the remainder of the 13 coaches were strewn about the prairie."
RYAN, who has been a pilot on the run for a quarter of a century immediately disconnected his engine from the train and rushed to Vonah, a siding four miles away. There he reported the accident to the dispatcher at Burlington, Colo., eighteen miles east of here.
With assistance asked for, Engineer RYAN returned to the scene of the wreck but was unable to reach the wrecked cars because of the high water which was rushing down the creek bed.
The Havre Daily News Promoter Montana 1929-07-19
Thanks to "Dallas" for donating photos of this wreck which were taken by John Riedesel