Greeneville, TN Train Wreck, Oct 1872




This community was shocked on yesterday morning by the announcement that Capt. Jaques, Superintendent of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad, had received a dispatch from Greeneville, stating the southern bound train had met with a fearful accident at Roberts' Trestle, 1 1/2 miles west of that place. The magnitude of the disaster was not announced and rumors of a startling kind were current on the streets - a thousand reports were put in circulation and eager inquiries as to the details of the accident were made on every hand.
A special train left Knoxville in charge of Captain Jaques, the efficient Superintendent of the great through line from Bristol to Memphis at 12:10, passing the regular day express at Bull's Gap. This train contained Drs. Samuel Moses, John M. Boyd, and Morgan, accompanied by a Chronicle reporter and a number of citizens of Knoxville, and arrived at the scene of accident at four, P.M. The sight presented on arriving at the ground was a sickening one. The surgeons uncased their instruments and proceeded to do all that skill could accomplish for the benefit of the sufferers, while the others composing the party did all in their power to alleviate the condition of the unfortunate victims. The following is a correct statement of the accident, as gathered from the railroad officials present and passengers on the train:

Captain Thomas Holloway's train left Bristol on time, but when it reached Greeneville was an hour and sixteen minutes behind, owing to an accident to the engine of the up train.
The train was composed of the locomotive, two baggage and one express car, the smoking car, three passenger coaches and a Pullman sleeper, and was crowded with passengers; business men returning from the purchase of goods in the North, and persons who had been spending the summer at the Virginia Springs, en route for their Southern homes.
The passengers had had their breakfast and as the train traveled along were gayly chatting, all unconscious of the dreadful scene that was soon to be enacted and in which so many of them were to be the victims of fell destiny. The train dashed on, past fields of ripening corn, around rugged mountains, through fertile valleys, slumbering in the soft light of an October sun - while the fatal travelers, dreaming of home, children and life and love, were even, while all nature seemed in peaceful repose, being trailed by the demon of the rail.

The cause of the accident is not definitely known, but seems to be one of those inexplicable mysteries which no human foresight could guard against or prevent. The catastrophe occurred at the trestle, which spans the county road at the point, above named, being about one mile and a-half west of Greeneville.
When within about 175 yards of the trestle the tracks of the mail car jumped the track and ran to the bridge on the ties. The engine, tender and baggage car passed over the bridge in safety and remained on the track, but the mail and smoking cars, together with three passenger coaches ran off the track. The sleeping car, in rear of the train likewise, maintained its position on the track. The mail and smoking cars, after crossing the trestle, fell off the track down the embankment on the north side of the road, while the three passenger coaches were precipitated into the wagon road beneath, a distance of about fifteen feet.
The first passenger car was completely demolished, the second falling upon it, which had one end knocked out and was telescoped by the one in the rear, from which a large portion of the roof and side was thrown into the second car, the last car next to the sleeping coach, hanging with the rear end on the track while the other was inextricably mixed with the shattered and riven timbers of the one in front.
In this wrecked and rent mass of wood and iron nearly a hundred human beings struggled in agony while terror, with crushed limbs and mangled bodies, and shrieks of pain and groans of suffering rent the air.
The injured parties were released from their terrible position with all possible haste by the train hands and uninjured passengers, and everything possible done on the spot to alleviate their sufferings while a messenger was sent to Greeneville for assistance and a dispatch forwarded to Knoxville asking further aid.