Birmingham, MI Trolley Car Collision, Dec 1897



By Northern Associated Press:
Detroit, Mich., Dec. 4. -- Ice covered rails, a forgetful motorman and a pair of steep hills converging into a small but deep valley, on the Oakland trolley railway, were the causes of a collision between two motor cars shortly after 2 o'clock this afternoon. The result was the death of three men, the fatal injury of one and the more or less serious injury of nearly a dozen other passengers on the two cars, which were smashed into kindling wood. The dead are:
JOHN SAVAGE, superintendent of the road.
CARL WHITEHEAD, a motorman.
JOHN KELLEY, a passenger.
FRANK McCUE, a motorman, was fatally injured.
One car bound for Detroit, it is understood, should have waited at the switch situated at the top of the hill on the north side of the valley to let the car bound for Pontiac pass it. But, whether or not the motorman of the southbound car was running too fast to stop when he came to the switch or whether there was a misunderstanding in regard to orders is not known.
JOHN SAVAGE, the superintendent, was acting as motorman for the south bound car, which was a special and was the man who had given whatever orders the north bound motorman had. SAVAGE was instantly killed when the cars came together. THe cars met squarely at the point of the V formed by the deep valley into which they were both running when they must have discovered each other.
There is no reason to believe that they did not apply their brakes. In fact passengers on either car assert that they did either at the top of the hill or soon after the turndown was made, but the rails were covered with ice and the brakes failed to check the speed of either to any noticeable extent.
The cars met at a speed of 20 miles an hour and the shock was terrific. Every seat was broken squarely from its floor fastenings and all the passengers were thrown forward into the debris of the coaches. KELLEY was killed instantly, SAVAGE died within a few minutes, both legs having been cut off and the body terribly mangled about the chest.
WHITEHEAD also lived but a few minutes. The injured were at once taken from the wreck by their uninjured companions and carried to near by farm houses. As the accident occurred but three miles north of Birmingham and about the same distance from Pontiac, relief trains from both places, were quickly on the scene and the dead and the injured removed to Birmingham.

Syracuse Standard New York 1897-12-05