Swannanoa, NC Train Wreck, Aug 1902

Train No. 11 leaves Salisbury at 8:25 a. m., and is due to arrive at Asheville at 1:30 p. m. The time of arrival at Swannanoa station is 1:01. The station was reached about three minutes late yesterday afternoon. The train was composed of six cars – mail and express, baggage, two day coaches and two Pullman sleepers, and was crowded with passengers. About a mile west of the station there is a deep cut, with a curve at the western end, and about 75 yards farther on is the center of an embankment about 15 feet high, which crosses a small ravine. It was at the end of this curve that the engine left the track and it landed with its steam dome exactly in the center of the ravine. Only the forward one of the passenger cars left the track, and it did not suffer severely, the running gear only being somewhat demolished. The trucks were torn from beneath the other cars and scattered about the embankment. Pieces of the engine were found 75 feet from the track. Neither of the cars was overturned, although the forward car reached the bottom of the ravine, its end driven against the bank by the momentum.

In the forward compartment was Mail Clerk J. S. PACO. In the rear end of the car was Express Messenger W. S. STALEY, while Baggage-master JONES was in the baggage car. Conductor J. F. LOWE, who was in charge of the train, although shaken up, was not badly injured.

A messenger ran at once to Swannanoa station and telegraphed news of the disaster. In a short time a train was sent out from Asheville to bring the passengers and mail, and soon three engines with wrecking apparatus and a crew of about 100 men were on the ground at work. The track was opened in about five hours after the occurrence.

What caused the disaster can not be stated with certainty. It does not appear to have been the fault of the engine, which was moving along smoothly at a moderate rate of speed. The rails did not spread. The exact point at which the engine left the track can be plainly seen, and the track, up to where the drivers began to eat the cross-ties, is just as it was before the wreck.

At this point, exactly, a sear was found upon the rail, which had the appearance of having been made by the wheels passing over a spike, the point being turned in the direction from which the train was coming. Railroad men say that a spike so placed will derail an engine more certainly than most anything else. A short distance farther east were two more prints on the track, and a smashed up nut or tap was found nearby. Naturally, the theory of the officials is that the train was wrecked by those obstructions, placed there by accident or design.

Engineer PETER ROUECHE is at the present the oldest engineer on the road. He was driving No. 306 and the engine was just out of the shop. She was on her first regular run, having been brought up a few days ago on a freight to break her in and wear off the stiffness of her unused joints. She was a large, handsome engine, and will be a big loss to the Southern. Altogether, the wreck will probably cost the company some $15,000 or $20,000.

The Landmark Statesville North Carolina 1902-08-26