Colorado Springs, CO Two Trains Derailed, Feb 1887
The Big Blow - Two Trains Derailed by Wind on the Rio Grande
The light rain of Wednesday evening was followed by another of those wind storms which have been so prevalent during the past six weeks. The wind began to rise about 11 o'clock on Wednesday evening, and in the course of half an hour had increased to a gale. It increased in velocity with each successive hour until about 5 o'clock the greatest velocity was reached 47 miles an hour. It was when the wind was it its height that the railroad accident, of which mention is made below, occurred.
Professor F. H. Loud director of observation for the Colorado Meteorological association is of the opinion that there was a connection between the sprinkle of rain and the wind, the former being an unusual occurrence at this time of year.
The velocity of wind was not near so great yesterday as in the storm of about a month ago when it reached seventy-two miles an hour. The barometer, however, reached a lower point in yesterday's storm than in the previous one, when it registered 23.5. Yesterday it registered 23.3. There was a very rapid fall in the twenty-four hours preceding the storm, amounting to nearly 7 inches. From 2 p.m. of Wednesday to 2 p.m. of Thursday the wind blew a distance of 783 miles, which is an average of 32 5/8 miles per hour.
The appearance of the sky was about the same as that during the previous blows. Heavy clouds hung about the horizon and the Peak was enveloped in an impenetrable mist nearly the entire day. The noticeable difference between the storm of yesterday and its counterpart of a month previous, was that there was not the regularity in the velocity of the wind, but that it came in gusts and blasts. During the night the wind would frequently subside, but only for a minute or two, when the roar of an approaching blast could be heard.
The rain in the early part of the evening succeeded in keeping the dust down for a little while but before the wind had been blowing an hour clouds of dust and fine sand were rushing through the cross streets. Many thought the wind was greater than in the previous storm, though the irregularity of its velocity was subject of remark.
The damage by the storm as far as we could learn is not near so great or serious as that brought about the storm a month ago. Several houses were partially unroofed and fences were blown down in many parts of the city. The building occupied by Aiken & Young, known as the North End meat market, sustained the greatest damage of any. Over half the roof, including the joists, was blown off and nothing but a thin coat of plaster is between the store room and the blue sky. The damage to the building is placed at from $150 to $200. The tin roof was blown off the Clement & Russell building on Nevada avenue above the city hall, and lodged against a tree on the opposite side of the street. A portion of the roof of the Union block was torn off by the wind, and the roof on the building occupied by Sumner & Holmes, next to H. T. O'Brien's harness establishment on Pike's Peak avenue, now lies in the street in front of the store. A number of chimneys were injured by the wind and those on several private residences were blown down.
Business was almost entirely suspended during the storm and but few pedestrians ventured out upon the streets. Three of the five electric lights were broken by the small pebbles which were carried through the air. At one time it was thought that the cornice of the building occupied by Nichols & Long would give way, as at every gust it was observed to be shaking as if ready to fall.
Passengers from Denver and Pueblo who arrived last evening stated that the wind at those places was fully as strong if not stronger than in this city. Several ranchmen along the Fountain and Little Fountain creeks were obliged to stay up all night to keep the chimneys on their houses propped up.
The roof of the building used for office purposes by the Midland railroad, near the Denver, Texas and Gulf track, was blown entirely off, and the company's effects had to be removed to another building.
At Manitou and Colorado City no damage worthy of mentioning was reported.
The scene around the Denver and Rio Grande railroad passenger depot was an animated one. Several trains were compelled to remain at this point during the day and passenger and train hands occupied the depot building most of the day. It was not until 4 o'clock that the wind showed any sign of abatement, but from that hour on it perceptibly decreased until at half-past six o'clock it had nearly died away.
The Railroad Accidents
The Leadville, Durango and Silverton express, which arrives at Colorado Springs at 3:50 a.m., was a little over an hour late yesterday morning. It consisted of nine coaches, three of which were baggage and express cars. Two engines were attached to the train to pull it over the divide. When the train reached Pueblo the wind was blowing at a fearful rate and between that point and Colorado Springs the train ran only at a moderate rate of speed.
When it reached the Colorado Springs depot the wind was still blowing harder if anything than at Pueblo. The Durango and Silverton express car which was in charge of Messenger Foley, besides containing a small quantity of express matter had all the mail pouches which had been taken on below Pueblo. These pouches were closed.
The car was attached to the tender of the engine. After leaving the depot here the train proceeded very slowly, being able to make but comparatively little headway against the strong wind which was then prevailing. Just after it had crossed the bridge about two miles north of the depot, and as it was going around a small curve a strong gust of wind lifted the express car next to the engine off of the track. As soon as the car began to go the force of the wind under it raised the other cars near it, so in almost an instant's time the three express cars, one of the passenger coaches and the engine and tender nearest the train were blown completely over. The accident occurred opposite a grain field and the dust blew in clouds across the track.
The cars had no sooner gone over than the Silverton express car took fire and in a brief period of time was totally destroyed with all its contents.
Word was immediately brought to this city and an engine in the yard was sent to the scene of the wreck and brought the cars standing on the track back to the depot with all the passengers. The train did not leave for Denver until 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon. A reporter of the Gazette visited the scene of the occurrence yesterday afternoon. The debris had all been cleared off from the track but the engine and cars laid just as they had blown over. The two baggage and express cars appeared to be perfectly intact and uninjured, with the exception of having lost their trucks. The passenger coach was quite badly demolished and had also parted from its trucks. The engine and tender sustained the worst injury of all, and the former will in all probability have to be taken apart before it can be taken to the repair shops. All that remains of the express car, which took fire, were the iron rods under it, the safes and the wheels.
The spectators and trainmen who visited the wreck yesterday expressed their surprise at the fact that no one was seriously injured. The only person who sustained anything like injuries were Messenger Foley of the Silverton express car, Mr. Harry Cinq Mars messenger of the Leadville express car, and Mr. Jake Brown engineer of the engine which was blown off the track. Of these persons Mr. Cinq Mars received the worst injuries. When his car went over it threw him with great force against the right-hand side of the car, and in the disturbance of baggage which followed the third and fourth fingers of his left hand were cut clear to the bone; his right ear was also badly lacerated, and his right knee was seriously bruised. His clothing was also badly torn in several places.
Engineer Brown received quite a severe bruise on one of his legs, which was entangled in the machinery of the engine as it was going over.
Messenger Foley's injuries were very slight, he receiving a few cuts on the cheek and hip, and a slight burn on his left hand.
The narrowest escape from death was that of Messenger Foley who had charge of the car which was burnt up. He had both the car doors closed and had the lamp burning dimly. He stated that just before the car was blown off it was swaying considerably and seemed suddenly to be lifted completely off the track. As the car tilted the oil in the lamp ran out and took fire. The fire was further increased by being communicated to a bucket of dope which was in the car to be used in case any of the boxes became hot. The car became filled with smoke and it seemed to Mr. Foley that he would become suffocated to death before he could get out. As the car started to go over he caught hold of the door on the west side, but it was some seconds before he could open it. As he did so, and as he crawled out of the car the flames burst out and aided by the strong wind quickly consumed the car. Mr. Foley's escape was so narrow that he was unable to save anything in the car, and came out of it bareheaded.
The passengers in the coaches were more or less frightened, particularly those in the front coach, which was blown off. The passengers in this coach were mostly dago emigrants and as the lamps would not burn on account of the wind they were in total darkness. The brakeman had previously entreated them to go into one of the other cars but in vain. They persisted in remaining, and when the accident happened most of them were asleep. Beyond being more or less frightened none were any the worse for the accident.
The loss from the accident aside from damage to the engine and wrecked cars was almost entirely confined to the Durango and Silverton express car, the contents of which were entirely destroyed. There was a very light quantity of express matter and only two pieces of baggage in the car. The mail was in closed pouches which had been taken on at points south of Pueblo. The pouches from Colorado Springs were put in the Leadville express car and were not destroyed. It was very fortunate that the train missed connection at Pueblo with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe train as a large quantity of eastern mail for Colorado Springs and Denver would have been placed in the car that was burned. Mr. Foley, the messenger, lost all his personal effects in the way of clothing, bedding, etc. which were in the car.
The immediate cause of the accident was due to the blowing off of this car. The fireman on the engine to which it was attached saw it toppling before any of the other cars had tilted and before even the engine and tender had begun to go. Had the car been more heavily loaded it would have remained on the track and no accident would have occurred. The rapidity with which the car took fire absolutely prevented any efforts toward saving its contents. The money and other valuable express matter had been placed in two safes which were entirely fire proof and will be taken to Denver in order to have an expert open them. At four o'clock yesterday afternoon they were still warm.
Hon. C. C. Holbrook of Alamosa and formerly attorney for this judicial district was a passenger on the train. He stated that the wind at Pueblo was blowing even harder than at Colorado Springs and that the train could only proceed at a very slow rate. He was an occupant of the rear sleeper, and the only notice that he had of the accident was two slight jars and the sudden stoppage of the train.
The baggage belonging to the passengers was taken from the cars at the wreck and brought to the depot. Most of the passengers remained in the cars at the depot but some came up town and registered at the various hotels.
Wreck of a Freight
About two miles above the wreck of the passenger train at a siding called Pike View another wreck occurred. A freight train consisting of nearly fifty cars had entered the siding at about four o'clock yesterday morning to wait for the Leadville Durango and Silverton express to pass. The train was so long that several of the rear cars were unable to get on the siding. The wind at that point was blowing at a fearful rate and the box cars which were nearly all empty swayed to and fro. Suddenly one of them was lifted a little by the wind and in an incredibly short period of time twenty-five cars including the caboose were laid on their sides on the ground. The siding being on the right hand side of the main track the cars fell away from the main track with the exception of the caboose and a coal car which could not get upon the siding. Eighteen empty coal cars which were not blown off were brought back to the city as soon as the main track had been opened. The engine which had been pulling the train remained on the track. The only person receiving any injuries on the train was Conductor Graham, who had his hip slightly injured. The conductor was not in the caboose but was on one of the cars that was blown over. He went to Denver on the first train yesterday afternoon. As soon as word of the accident was communicated to the railroad officials preparations to clear away the debris and open the track were immediately begun. Mr. T. Saunders, trainmaster at Pueblo, arrived in the morning, and Mr. Kennedy, an attache of Colonel Ricker's office, came down from Denver on a special engine. A large force of men were put to work and by two o'clock the track was reported clear. The first train to arrive from the north was the Salt Lake express, due here at 10:45 a.m. The train reached the depot at 4 o'clock p.m. As soon as it arrived the delayed passenger train started for Denver. The Thunderbolt from the north arrived on time, and that from the south due here at 10:10 a.m. arrived at half-past six o'clock last evening, bringing with a quantity of eastern mail.
The Daily Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Friday, February 18, 1887