Naperville, IL Disastrous Train Wreck, Apr 1946

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Naperville, Ill., (AP) -- Weary rescue workers Friday counted at least 43 dead in a terrific rear-end collision of the Burlington railroad's westbound fast Exposition Flyer and Advance Flyer Thursday.
Of 125 persons injured when the Exposition Flyer, speeding at more than 60 miles an hour toward San Francisco, rammed the stopped Advance Flyer, 31 remained in hospitals, some in critical condition. All but 5 of the dead had been identified.
The engineer of the Exposition Flyer, who Burlington railroad officials said had adequate warning that the preceding train had stopped, was charged with manslaughter. DuPage county officials said, however, this was a technicality to make certain the engineer would appear at an inquest and that no evidence of laxity had been uncovered.
The crash of the 2 steel car, diesel-powered trains occurred just 31 minutes after they left Chicago's Union station simultaneously at 12:35 p. m. CST on separate tracks, with the Advance Flyer, which ran on a faster schedule, in the lead.
The Advance Flyer, carrying 150 to 200 passengers in 9 coaches, was bound for Omaha and Lincoln, Nebr. The Exposition Flyer, made up of 11 coaches and carrying 175 to 200 persons, was headed for San Francisco.
Two minutes after the Advance Flyer made an unscheduled stop in this village of 5,287, a terrific crash roared through the countryside as the Exposition Flyer plowed into the rear of the stalled train.
A moment of tragic silence was broken by screams and cries for help from they dying and injured.
At first there was complete confusion. Huge, shining passenger coaches were strewn across torn tracks, some in tangled wreckage.
The cries of the dying came mostly from the rear coach of the Advance Flyer, where passengers were trapped. Others groped in bewilderment for escape from the mass of steel wreckage.
Eleven coaches were overturned or left the rails, 6 on the Advance Flyer and 5 on the Exposition Flyer.
Through the night, hours after the accident at 1:06 p.m. (CST), search continued for additional bodies. This was discontinued at dawn, however, when searchers were convinced all casualties had been accounted for.
Workers attempted to remove the debris and restore travel on the main line. An emergency line, however, was set up to allow through traffic.
As Burlington officials pursued their investigation of the worst accident in its history and also the most tragic in the Chicago area, State's Attorney LEE DANIELS of Du Page county said a warrant charging manslaughter had been issued for W. W. BLAINE, 68, Galesburg, Ill., engineer of the Exposition flyer.
DANIELS said the action was taken to insure BLAINE'S appearance at an inquest later into the deaths. DANIELS said he had interviewed members of the train crews and found no evidence of laxity.
The engineer suffered a skull fracture, the prosecutor said, and will not be arraigned on the manslaughter warrant for at least 2 weeks or until he is released from a hospital where he is under guard. His bond was fixed at $5,000.
DANIELS said that BLAINE, for more than 43 years a railroad man, told him that just before the collision Fireman E. H. CRAYTON warned him he was going to strike the Advance flyer. He said CRAYTON apparently jumped before the crash and was killed.
BLAINE, however, stayed at his throttle as his train sped toward the stalled Advance flyer. The Exposition flyer's silver nose plowed into the rear coach and for a fleeting moment appeared to stagger in the air, tear through the roof, then plunge with terrific force upon the floor and trucks of the car.



Great Grand Parents

So, Craig...you already checked this site. Being my older brother ...I should have expected that.

Harry Long

Hi, Thanks for your interest in the history of the Naperville Train wreck. Harry Long was a waist gunner with the Seventh Service Command from September 13, 1943 to September 30th, 1945. His planes were shot down a total of four times during the war. Long earned an air medal and three oak leaf clusters. Also, survivor of the crash, Wesley Blaine Overman was a paratrooper in the war. Check out my book, The Tragedy at the Loomis Street Crossing for many more details on the crash and the military service men and women involved. Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. Sincerely, Chuck Spinner

Eleanor and Russell Whitehead

Hi, Again, I am so sorry that I haven't checked this website as often as I should. My name is Chuck Spinner, the author of The Tragedy at the Loomis Street Crossing. Both Eleanor and Russell Whitehead have, to my knowledge, always been recorded on the list of the deceased from the train wreck. Russell had one son, Charles Homer Whitehead,from a previous marriage. Check my book for further details on the Whiteheads. I'd certainly be interested in a clear copy of the picture of Eleanor. My email address is spinlake@yahoo.com. The book can be ordered from any bookstore. Take care, Chuck

Alger Family - Sleight Street/Loomis Street/Kroehler Co.

I'm doing some research for a family member who was adopted in 1952. We believe his birthmom was Mary Alger. Her patents were Alexander and Mary Alger. They lived on Loomis a Street in 1930 and S. Sleigh St. in 1940. Alexander worked for Kroehler. Mary would have been about 10-11 at this time. Any information about the Alger family would be much appreciated.

I didn't know about this train wreck until I was doing the research -- what a horrifying accident. Thank you all for putting this information out there.

Russell Whitehead and Eleanor Burke

My grandmother, Winifred Burke DeRusha was the sister of Eleanor. My Mom Marie DeRusha Guerini is Eleanor's niece. My mom has wondered as well why Eleanor is not on the list of deceased. I have a picture of Eleanor, given to me by my mom displayed on my bureau next to a porcelain trinket box that belonged to Eleanor, which she gave to my Mom before she left on her trip/honeymoon - so sad. My Mom always looked up to Eleanor, for she was a beautiful woman inside and out. I am assuming that Russell and Eleanor did not have any children for they died very soon after they were married - so sad. So, our connection is not familial, but we are connected nonethless.

Naperville train crash Eleanor Burke Whtehead

Eleanor Burke Whitehead is my grandmother's sister. My grandmother's name was Winifred Burke DeRusha, my mom is Marie Francis DeRusha Guerini. My mom was also wondering why her aunt's name is not on the list of deceased. My mom gave me a picture of Eleanor and a beautiful covered porcelain trinket box that belonged to Eleanor which she gave to my mom, Marie. My Mom told me that Eleanor and Russell where just married at the time of their deaths - so sad. My Mom really admired Eleanor as such a beautiful woman inside and out. She also recalls the happiness Russell and Eleanor exuded when they were together.

Train wreck memorial

Hi, It's obviously been a long time since I've returned to the comments section of this website. I want to update the readers about two things. One is that in 2012 I published a book on the train wreck. It's called The Tragedy at the Loomis Street Crossing. There were a good number of the crash victims that were in the military. Consult the book for their branch of service. Because of the publication of the book there is finally a memorial to both the victims of the wreck as well as to the heroic efforts of the rescue workers who assisted at the crash site. The dedication ceremonies will be held at 1pm on Saturday, April 26th, 2014 at the Naperville train station. I think there will be a large crowd and I especially hope that those people who indicated that they were relatives of the victims will email me (spinlake@yahoo.com) for more details and will let me know if they intent to attend the dedication ceremonies.
Take care, Chuck Spinner

Any a pilot


Question-You mention you have researched people that died in this accident. Do you know if any one of them was a WWII pilot?

Naperville Train Disaster

My great grand parents, Mathew and Margaret Lawrence died in this wreck 6 years before I was born. I know they had two children, Craig Lawrence (my grandfather) and Sam Lawrence. I don't know much about my great grandparents or great uncle Sam. I am very greatful to all who put this site together. It will hopefully help me find more information concerning my family.

Another eye witness story told to me by my father Harold Schrade

My Dad on the afternoon of April 25th 1946 had just started back to work after lunch hour at Kroehler's in Naperville. He noticed the Advanced Flyer was stopping outside his yard of Kroehler's office. He went outside to see what was up? (Usually th Flyer came through Naperville at 85 mph) He notice train personel were looking under the carriage of one of the cars. Then he looked up the tracks toward the East and saw the Exposition Flyer coming. He yelled to the men "Get the Hell out of there" and he saw fireman Clayton jump and assumed he died. So he headed in to his office area to call the operator (in those days you had to call the operator at Kroehler's and they called out to fire and police.) He then returned to the wreck and the first thing that happened someone handed him a baby girl. the mother was nowhere to be found? the warehouse where my Dad was yard foreman became the temporary morgue and "hospital" many of the injured where layed on the grass along Fourth Avenue. The accident happened right at the Loomis Street crossing of the then Burlington Railroad and the observation car was East of the crossing about one car length. The impact of the crash moved the entire train forward to the crossing. Many of the deceased were laying right at the crossing on mattresses brought from dorms at North Central College. The good news among so much havoc was the mother and the little girl were reunited and both were not injured. Chuck Spinner tried his best to reconnect that girl with my Dad but he couldn't find her and now my Dad passed on in March 2011. Just short of his 100th birthday. Chuck Spinner interviewed my Dad in 2010 and was awed by my Dad's memory of the wreck.