Battle Creek, MI Train Wreck, Oct 1893


Twenty-six Persons Killed In a Wreck at Battle Creek, Mich.


A Crew of a Raymond Excursion Train Disobey Orders and Collided With an Express --- The Coaches Are Telescoped, People Crushed and Fire Adds to the Horror of the Scene --- Many Injured --- A Number of the Dead Will Never be Identified.

BATTLE CREEK, Mich., Oct. 20. --- The worst accident this year occurred about 4 o'clock this morning in the yards of the Chicago & Grand Trunk close by the round house in this city by which at least twenty-five people lost their lives and about as many more were badly injured. It was a Raymond & Whitcomb special train with passengers from New York and Boston returning from Chicago. The train was in charge of Conductor SCOTT of this city, and Engineer WOOLEY and took orders at this station to meet at Nichols No. 9 Pacific express going west, due at this station at 1:35 o'clock, but which was nearly three hours late.

The conductor or engineer or both, of the Raymond special, disobeyed orders and passed Nichols station and collided with the Pacific express coming west at the rate of thirty miles an hour. The two engines were driven into each other and were a total wreck. The one on the express was No. 158, a new cook engine in use only two weeks. The engineer and fireman, when they saw that a collision was inevitable, shut off the steam, reversed the engines, put on brakes and all jumped and escaped without serious injuries. The conductor of the special Raymond train was SCOTT and the engineer was named WOOLEY. The engineer of the Pacific express was named GIL CRANSHAW and the conductor was named BURKE. The conductor was badly hurt by being caught in the cars.

When the collision took place the second and third day coaches of the No. 9 train going west were completely telescoped. A horrible sacrifice took place, the second coach cutting through the third coach like a knife, the roof crashing over the heads of the sleeping, ill-fated passengers in the third coach, completely entombing them in a fiery furnace.

The engine and baggage car of the special were badly wrecked, but the coaches being sleepers and the train moving slowly, they escaped serious injury and no one on this train was injured. The Pacific express was made up of thirteen day coaches and four of them were telescoped and burned up, catching fire from the lamps on the cars. The passengers in the four cars were more or less injured and in one of them, No. 13, called the "unlucky coach," which has been in several accidents before, there were twenty-five dead bodies taken from the wreck this morning by the firemen. They were pinched under seats and jammed up against the end of the coach by the next coach which had telescoped it and then burned them like rats in a trap.

The accident was a mile from the fire station and before water could be turned on, the cars were destroyed and the bodies burned so as to be unrecognizable. Nearly all had heads, arms or legs burned off and cannot be identified yet. As the second coach crashed through, it swept the people in the north end of the third car to the vicinity of the stove where most of the bodies were afterwards found. The car immediately took fire and in an instant all was ablaze. The night yardmen and neighbors in the vicinity rushed to the rescue as soon as possible.

One passenger escaped from the doorway. Those who saved themselves smashed windows and climbed through. Three only got out of the left side and about six from the right side of the coach; all the others perished. The most horrible sight was that of MRS. CHARLES VAN DUSEN of Ft. Plains, N.Y. She succeeded in getting half way out of the window, but her legs were so fastened that those who ran to her assistance could not rescue her. She was burned to death before the eyes of the spectators. One-half of her body was hanging out of the window. Before she perished she gave her name.

HENRY CANFIELD, one of the night clerks at the Chicago & Grand Trunk office, heard a crash and immediately called the fire company and then telephoned the engine house for help to extinguish the flames.

The firemen responded promptly, but as they were a mile from the scene and because of the distance of the hydrant from the cars and the difficulty of the fire engines in getting between the trains, the flames had gained great headway when the line of hose was finally laid, and it was some time before it could be extinguished. The twenty-five dead bodies are unidentified, as all clothing and heads, arms and legs have been burned off. One body was that of an infant with its head consumed. On another body, the clothing of which was partly consumed, business cards bearing the name of "A. A. Allan & Co.," of 51 Bay street, Toronto, were found. Among the dead identified are:
MRS. C. W. VAN DUSEN of Sprout Brook, N. Y.
E. I. WORTS, being identified by handkerchief found on the remains.