St. Louis, MO Tornado, May 1896 - Train on Bridge


Passengers in C. & A. Coaches Owe Their Lives to the Engineer.

St. Louis, May 28. -- While the storm was at its height No. 7 of the Chicago and Alton road pulled out on the bridge from the Missouri side on its way east. Engineer William Swoncott had only proceeded a short distance when he realized the awful danger which threatened the train. The wind struck the coaches at first, startlingly, causing them to careen ominously. At that time he was half way across. Overhead telegraph poles were snapping and tumbling into the river, while several large stones were shaken loose from their foundations and came toppling down into the water. Fearing that every moment his train would either be blown into the river or else the bridge would be blown away beneath him, Swoncott, with rare presence of mind, put on a full head of steam in an effort to make the Illinois shore.

The train had scarcely proceeded 200 feet when within about the same distance from the shore an entire upper span of the driveway of the bridge was blown away. Tons and tons of hug granite blocks tumbled to the tracks, where the train loaded with passengers had been but a moment before. At about the same time the wind struck the train full on its side, upsetting all the cars like playthings. Luckily no one was killed in the wreck, but several were taken out severely injured.

The wrecked part of the bridge is just east of the big tower, near the Illinois shore, and extends east for about 300 feet. The entire upper portion, traversed by the cars and carriages, is carried away, while the tracks are buried in debris, in some places eight feet high.

Daily Republican, Decatur, IL 28 May 1896