Perryville, IA Train Wreck, Dec 1901


Fearful Collision on Illinois Central Yesterday.


Trains Were Running at Full Speed.



Intense Cold Added to Sufferings of the Eleven Persons Injured.

ROCKFORD, Ill., Dec. 15.---Failure on the part of a conductor to obey orders is supposed to have been the cause of a head on collision on the Illinois Central between Irene and Perryville, early this morning. The two trains were the east-bound passenger train No. 4 and a through freight from Chicago going west. As a result eight people are dead or missing and eleven injured.

The known dead are:

RICHARD ORMSBY, Chicago, engineer of the passenger train.
JAMES REARDON, Freeport, fireman of passenger train.
ROBERT THOMPSON, Dubuque, American Express messenger.
J. F. FUNK, Chicago, brakeman passenger train.
DAVID BEHAN, Freeport, freight engineer.
EDWARD CARRI, Freeport, freight fireman.

Missing and supposed to be dead:

Newsboy on passenger train, name known.
Section foreman from Irene, name unknown.

List of Injured.

The injured so far as the names could be ascertained are as follows; H. G. Wellman, 895 Jackson boulevard, Chicago, right arm crushed off at elbow; taken to Rockford City hospital, condition critical. D. R. Ahrendt, No. 669 West North avenue, Chicago, cut and bruised by broken glass. J. H. Quinlan, passenger conductor, cut and bruised, crushed about chest, taken to Rockford City hospital, condition critical. W. B. Keefe, Sioux City, Iowa, head severely cut. Frank Stadelman, New Athens, Ill., cut about head and arms. Thomas Hendricks, New Athens, Ill., cut and bruised and hair scorched off. Slightly cut; G. E. Shurtleff, Genoa; C. M. Burch, Kankakee; M. E. Franklin, Lake City, Ia.; A. L. Boggs, St. Louis; John Hussey, Independence, Ia.

The trains met in a slight bend in the track, both running at full speed.

The smoking, express and baggage cars were piled on the locomotives, penning in the occupants of the smoker. Only three of the half dozen persons in that car escaped. The others were penned in and if not instantly killed, were roasted to death and their bodies along with those of the engine crews, were entirely consumed.

All efforts of the survivors to reach the victims were unavailing. The flames drove them back at every point.

Was Twenty Below Zero.

The temperature was twenty degrees below zero and an icy wind was blowing across the prairie, the point where the wreck occurred being in a shallow but, affording no protection. The injured were without hats and wraps and suffered seriously. By the united efforts of the survivors the way car was pushed back from the wreckage to escape the flames and the wounded were placed on the bunks inside.

Two hours elapsed before any relief was at hand. Then an engine arrived from the east and pulled the way car to Irene, three miles distant.

A relief train was started from Rockford at 1:30 a. m., having on board Doctors S. R. Catlin, Henry Richings, and Agent E. W. Brown. It arrived at the scene of the wreck 20 minutes later. In the meantime the injured had been brought back from Irene from the way car and were transferred to the relief train and brought to Rockford. All the injured are doing well except H. G. Wellman, of Chicago, who is in a critical condition.

Wrecking trains have been at work today and have the tracks clear tonight. Six bodies were recovered from the debris but were charred beyond recognition.

Coroner F. M. Marsh will conduct the inquests Monday.

Trainmen Were Responsible.

CHICAGO, Dec. 15.----J. W. Higgins, general superintendent of transportation of the Illinois Central road, places the blame for the disastrous wreck at Perryville, Ill., on the conductor and engineer of the freight train. They are said by Mr. Higgins to have disobeyed orders, which were to stop at Irene, several miles east of Perryville. Mr. Higgins said of the wreck:

"It was a bad wreck and a lamentable accident. It was due to the fact that the engineer and conductor of the freight train failed to obey orders. The passenger train was delayed by the cold weather and it was three hours and 40 minutes late when the freight train going east reached Coleman, 40 miles west of Chicago. Coleman is the passing point of the two trains. The conductor and engineer of the freight train were instructed that the passenger train was late and it was their duty to sidetrack at Irene, which they neglected to do.

"There was no explosion that we can get information of. Employes[sic] who were aboard the trains say that both were running at full speed and that the shock was terrible. It seems there were three distinct blows, due to the recoils of the cars. Two men say that they were thrown three times in rapid succession. The entire passenger train and a large part of the freight train were demolished with the two locomotives.

The Duluth News Tribune, Duluth, MN 16 Dec 1901