New Castle, CO Train Wreck, Sept 1897



The terrible accident at New castle yesterday morning by which so many people were killed in a railway collision, was almost the sole topic of conversation on the streets and in business places in Aspen yesterday. Nearly 200 Aspenites had traveled over this road in the past few days, and it was feared that some had been on the ill-fated Rio Grande passenger train.

Anxious inquires were made at the railway depots in the city, but it could not be learned that any tickets west of Glenwood had been sold. A woman appeared on the streets during the morning much excited and weeping, and saying that her daughter, who had left Aspen the night before, was on the wrecked train. Last evening, however, it was learned that the daughter had gone East, instead of West.

Engineer Ostrander, of the Midland freight, and who is reported to have met death under his engine, was well known in this city, he having had charge of a switch in the Midland yards.

Conductor Frank Burbanks, of the Midland freight train, escaped injury. He is known in Aspen, being a son-in-law of J. C. Johnson, the undertaker. It was reported here that he admitted his responsibility for the accident, and was nearly insane over the awful calamity.

A number of Aspenites, delayed at Grand Junction, passes by the scene of the accident yesterday. Among these were Mrs. James McGee and the children of Benjamin Baker, clerk at Nycum’s store. They state that the scene was most appalling and past description. The great mass of wreckage was still burning, the dead bodies recovered were laying about, while many others were being cremated in the ruins. Some of the bodies recovered were frightfully mangled and burned past all hope of recognition. It was a scent to sicken the stoutest hearts.

The work of rescue was going on vigorously, but was slow on account of the great mass of iron piled up, mixed with the burning timbers.

The Midland freight was loaded with cattle, and many of these were laying about dead, while others were being consumed by fire. A large number crippled were shot, while some not injured had to be killed to keep them from trampling the wounded and rescued from the passenger train.

W. Aldrich, traveling agent for the Farmers’ Mill and Elevator company at Longmont, was in Aspen yesterday, and was congratulating himself on his narrow escape. He had come from Leadville to Glenwood on the Rio Grande passenger train. He had intended to go on to Grand Junction, and had the conductor punch his ticket for that point. At Glenwood at the last moment he changed his mind, and came to Aspen.

Many reports reached Aspen yesterday regarding the accident, and the number of killed was placed variously from thirty to fifty. The killing of a thief, who was caught carrying off goods from the wreck, by Sheriff Ware, was commended on all sides, while the fact that the lives of two others caught stealing, were spared, was deplored.

At the midland depot late last evening it was reported that the list of known dead had been reduced to fifteen, and that the body of Engineer Ostrander of the freight train had not been found. It was thought probable that he might have escaped and absconded. It was reported last evening that Conductor Burbank had been arrested at Glenwood Springs and lodged in jail.

Those in Aspen familiar with the point where the accident occurred say it is one of the most dangerous points on the entire joint road. It is a little over a mile below New Castle, and where the road makes a short curve to the right. Had the trains approached each other from almost any other point on the line, a collision could most probably have been averted.

Rev. Bullis, the Episcopalian minister at Glenwood Springs, who lost his wife and child in the wreck, and who himself had both legs crushed, has many friends among the Episcopalian congregation in this city. The dreadful calamity so near our doors, and the terrible details of the disaster, caused a feeling of deep depression among out people.

Later--The trainmen who arrived on the Midland passenger train into Aspen at 11 o’clock last night, brought some additional news regarding the wreck. They report that at the time of eastbound passenger train on the main line passed through New Castle, twenty-seven bodies had been recovered. Rev. Bullis of Glenwood Springs had also died as the result of his injuries.

Burbank’s arrest was reported to the Midland officials at headquarters. The officials sent back word that they know of no reason why he should be held on the road’s behalf. The Garfield authorities will hold him as a witness at the inquest, and should the facts warrant it, he will be held on a criminal charge later.

Aspen Weekly Times, Aspen, Co 18 Sept 1897



Aftermath of the Colorado Railroad Horror.

Newcastle, Col., September 11 --The body of Robert Ostrander, engineer of the Colorado Midland stock train which collided with the Rio Grande passenger yesterday, was found today in the debris of the wreck.

Rev Alexander Hartman of Herscher, Ill., whose wife and two children killed in the accident, died in the hospital at Salida this morning.

Coroner Clark intends to make a thorough investigation and fix the responsibility for the terrible loss of life. The inquest began today.

The railroad officials claim that only thirteen persons were killed and seventeen injured but the fire that broke out in the wreck reduced some of the corpses to heaps of ashes and makes it difficult if not impossible to determine exactly how many lives were lost. The remains of a number of bodies, variously estimated at from six to ten lie in a space less than would ordinarily be taken up by one corpse, and must be buried without identification.

Fresno Weekly Republican, Fresno, Ca 17 Sept 1897