Colton, CA Train Wreck, Mar 1907

Colton CALIF Train wreck marker 3-28-1907.jpg


Sunset Express Runs Into Open Switch and 26 Are Killed---100 Injured---Florence Roberts Company on Train---Dead Mostly Italian Laborers.

By the Associated Press.

COLTON, Cal., March 28.---One of the most disastrous wrecks in the history of the Southern Pacific occurred one and a half miles east of this place shortly after 4 o'clock this afternoon, when West-bound passenger train No. 9, from New Orleans for San Francisco, ran into an open switch while going at the rate of forty miles an hour, and ten of the fourteen coaches were derailed with frightful results. Twenty-six persons are known to have been killed, and the final list will total much higher than this number. The injured number about one hundred, many of whom will die.

The wrecked coaches were hurled in every direction. Four of them were smashed into sprinters[sic]. Most of the dead were Italians from New York and New Orleans, going to San Francisco. They occupied the smoker and day coach.

The dead were terribly maimed and mangled. Eighteen of them taken to the D. C. Schwartz undertaking establishment at Colton by 8 o'clock, and eight additional bodies could be seen underneath one of the overturned and demolished cars. This car cannot be raised until a derrick is brought from Los Angeles, sixty miles away.

The injured were carried to this city in vehicles of all sorts, and the Colton hospital was quickly filled to its capacity. Many were then taken to the Presbyterian Church and to private residences in the vicinity.

George L. Sharpe, of Muncie, Ind., was instantly killed. Engineer Clarence Wormington and Fireman Victor Crebb both jumped, but failed to get clear and were caught in the wreckage. They were both terribly burned and scalded. John Golden, conductor of the train, escaped uninjured.

Of eighty Pullman passengers there were but two who sustained serious injury. Two Pullman coaches and the diner, at the rear end of the train, did not leave the tracks. Those in these three cars were practically unhurt.

The Florence Roberts Theatrical Company occupied one coach, which was hurled from the track, and both ends of it was crushed in by impact with the other cars. But two members of the company, out of a total of 22 people, were injured. Miss Roberts escaped entirely unscathed. The escape from death of the occupants of this car was miraculous considering the manner in which the coach was splintered and torn to pieces. The men and women were hurled from one end of the car to the other but all escaped with the exception of the two mentioned.

The derailment of the train was caused by the crew of a switch engine leaving a switch open at this point. It is stated that the engine passed through the switch a few moments before the overland appeared. After the switch engine had passed on to another track, the engineer asked the fireman if he had thrown the switch. The fireman recalled that he had neglected to do so, and the engineer whistled for Switchman Morrison, who was in the yards, to close it. The signal was not given in time for Morrison to reach the switch before the overland had plunged through and been derailed.

The Southern Pacific headquarters in Los Angeles was notified immediately after the wreck, but it was sometime before a relief train left that city for Colton. In the meantime assistance had come from San Bernadino and Riverside, a few miles away.

The wrecked train is the regular Sunset Express, leaving New Orleans daily. This train left the latter city at 11:55 a. m. Monday.

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