Lynchburg, VA Train Wreck, Jul 1889

The Virginia Wreck.

Lynchburg, Va., July 2. – A fearful accident by which several lives were lost and a large number of people injured, occurred on the Norfolk & Western railroad this morning, one mile above Flaxton switch and 31 miles above this city. Rain has been falling almost continuously for 24 hours, swelling the mountain streams greatly beyond their normal state. Several trains had passed over the road during the night and it was thought the line was safe for traffic, notwithstanding the rains and that no danger need be apprehended.

At the place of the accident, however, the water had undermined the road-bed and caused a washout 80 feet long and 50 feet wide. The water at this point was 10 feet deep. Into this water the engine made a frightful leap while running at a rate of 30 miles an hour, carrying with it the tender and eight cars. As the engine struck the bottom, the rushing of the water into the locomotive exploded the boiler. This fact greatly augmented the catastrophe. Debris was thrown in every direction by the force of the explosion, injuring some of those on the train by flying fragments, and scattering fire brands which ignited the woodwork of the coaches. The flames spread and destroyed a large amount of mail and express matter, besides spreading panic among the already terror stricken passengers.

It is supposed some of the passengers were unable to extricate themselves from the wreck and were consumed in the flames. It is impossible to state the number of persons killed. The most reliable estimates place it between twenty-five and thirty. The number wounded will be far in excess of the number killed. Thirty of the wounded have been taken to Roanoke, thirteen to Burordsville and fifty to Liberty. An adopted daughter of Mrs. Judge Thompson of Augusta county, was killed, and Mrs. Thompson herself is DONOVAN, the engineer, with his fireman, was scalded and burned to death by escaping steam. Train Dispatcher LIPSEY was also burned to death. Among others who lost their lives were J. J. ROSE, postal clerk, of Ambendon, Virginia; JOHN KIRKPATRICK, of Lynchburg; W. C. STEAD and wife and two children and a passenger on the train whose name could not be learned.

Aspen Weekly Times, Aspen CO 6 Jul 1889


The Horrible Holocaust.

LYNCHBURG, Va., July 3. – At the scene of the terrible disaster near Paxton’s, on the Norfolk & Western railroad, beyond Christian, hardly enough is left of the train of eight cars that took the leap to the bottom of the pit to make one car. So soon as the boiler of the engine exploded the entire mass of debris took fire. Those who went down and who were not killed outright were burned to death.

Portions of eight bodies have been taken out, but it is believed that fully fifteen others were entirely consumed by the fire.

The witnesses of the wreck say cries for help could be heard for a mile from the wreck and those unhurt were powerless to render assistance. A women with a mangled scalp lay on the damp ground for hours, suffering from her injuries. Her cries were awful. She lay until day and many walked long distances to farms. The passengers left uninjured did all in their power for the unfortunates.

The dead are engineer PAT LYON, of Lynchburg; traveling engineer T. W. AMES, Roanoke; firemen J. EDGAR, JAS. MONTGOMERY and BREESE; mail agent ROSE, the train dispatcher of Hillsford, Pa.; PEYTON, stenographer for Superintendent Osborne, of the western division of the road, wife and child; STEED, of Cleveland, Tennessee, and JOHN HARDWICK and wife; MR. MARSHALL, of the same city. A passenger, JOHN KINKARD, of Lynchburg, is supposed to have been killed; a passenger, N. COHEN, of Roanoke, is supposed to be killed. Some of these are still in the wreck. About 20 are hurt, some of whom will die.

Wilson, of Dalton, Ga., is badly cut on the head.

LYNCHBURG, VA., July 3. – The debris of the wreck on the Norfolk & Western railroad has been removed and a number of charred bodies have been found. The names of seventeen persons who were killed have been ascertained. All were Eastern people. There were about 30 people who escaped with slight injuries and ten who were seriously injured. The list of dead will be increased as the friends of missing people come forward in search of them. There is no way at present to ascertain the exact number of dead.

Aspen Weekly Times, Aspen, CO 6 Jul 1889


Correct name for location of wreck

The Aspen Weekly Times uses two different names for the location of this wreck, Flaxon and Paxton. Both are incorrect. It is Thaxton. For an accurate account of this accident I recommend a book by Michael E. Jones entitled, "Lost At Thaxton." Most newspaper reports at the time had many inaccuracies. The Norfolk & Western list of dead remained at seventeen.