Shoals, IN Train Wreck, Oct 1870

The Accident on the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad.

Night before last the eastward bound express train on the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad collided with a coal train at a point four miles west of Shoals, about midway between this city and St. Louis.

It appears that the coal train took a side track to allow the passenger train to pass at that point. A brakeman of the coal train, who acted as switchman, set the switch to allow the passenger train to pass, lay down upon the ground and fell asleep. He was finally awakened by the whistle of the approaching train, and in the confusion of his awakening imagined that it was a signal for his train to proceed. He accordingly rushed to the switch and set it so as to allow the coal train to pass the main track. By this fatal blunder the express train, which was running on fast time, was turned upon the switch, and collided with terrible force and effect.

The engine of the coal train was demolished. The boiler was rent in many places, and the escape of the imprisoned steam added to the terror of the passengers. The coal train being empty recoiled from the shock, and thus considerably weakened the force of the collision. The result, however, was terrible enough. The engine of the express train was badly wrecked, the tender was driven into the baggage car, and the smoking car forced into the first regular passenger car nearly its entire length.

The fireman of the passenger engine was so crushed that he died in a few minutes. A Mrs. McRoberts, of Vincennes, Indiana, and a girl names Nancy Runyan, who was on her way from Kansas City to West Virginia, were instantly killed. George Williamson, of Pomeroy, Ohio, was somewhat bruised, but not seriously. Charles Ziegler, of this city, was seriously but not dangerously hurt. He is lying at his residence, No. 47 Poplar Street. Mortimer Parks, of Platte County, Missouri, had the heel of his right foot crushed and his left ankle sprained. His brother, Sampson Park, who accompanied him, escaped unhurt. Mr. Sartmann, the express messenger, was severely bruised, and his guard was quite seriously injured. It was rumored last night that Marion Fitzgerald, the engineer of the express train, was baldy bruised about the head and face, and is in a critical condition. He lives at Vincennes, Indiana. Several others sustained bruises more or less painful, but not dangerous. The occupants of the two sleeping cars in the rear of the train escaped uninjured.

Statement Of Mr. And Miss Williamson.

George Williamson and his sister, of Pomeroy, were sitting in the second car behind the baggage car when the accident occurred. In front of them was the smoking car. Their seat was nearer the front that the middle of their car. Both were in the same seat on the left of the aisle, Miss Williamson next to it. When the accident occurred, Miss Williamson said the shock startled her not so much as one would suppose. It gave her time to think the car was off the track. Next she saw the front end of the car she was in approaching her. The smoking car was folding into the passenger car in the rear of it as one joint of a telescope folds into another. The bottom of the smoking car cut as high as the tops of the seats in the car behind. People who were lying in the seats escaped unhurt. The sides of the smoking car formed an oblique angle to those of the car it ran into.

Thus it swept over the tops of the seats, just grazing them, coming down corner foremost. Passing at a fearful rate between Mr. and Miss Williamson with this corner foremost like the edge of a wedge, it threw her in safety into the aisle; picking him up and dragging him over the backs of seats, it pinioned him against the wall at the rear corner of the car, many seats behind where is sister lay.

Miss Williamson called, as soon as there was sufficient stillness, and was answered by her brother. Mr. Williamson is not at all in a dangerous condition, as has been reported. He will be well in a short time of his severe bruises.

Miss Williamson says that after the first shock of the accident was over there were many amusing incidents.

One she relates of an old lady passenger, one of whose friends was a serious sufferer by the accident. She exhibited very much concern about some cotton garment she had lost in the wreck, exclaiming with emphatic pathos, “It cost twenty cents a yard!” This fact she reiterated, wringing her hands, until the passengers got out of all patience with her, though amused at first with her eccentricity.

Mr. Williamson states that the passengers did not seem to show any special feeling of indignation toward the brakeman who is charged with the grave responsibility for this accident.

Mr. and Miss Williamson are in this city, at the residence of Mr. Chas. E. Donnally, on the west side of Baymiller, near Poplar Street.

Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, OH 28 Oct 1870