Salem, MI Excursion Train In Head On Collision, July 1907
SCORES KILLED ON EXCURSION TRAIN WRECK
FREIGHT CREW FORGOT ORDERS AND COLLISION RESULTS.
VICTIMS RAILROAD EMPLOYES.
Freight Train In Michigan Did Not Wait For Excursionist Special and the Two Trains Met Head On -- The Work Of Rescue.
Salem, Mich. -- Thirty-one persons were killed and more than seventy injured, many of them seriously, when a Pere Marquette excursion train bound from Ionia to Detroit crashed into a west-bound freight train in a cut located at a sharp curve of the Pere Marquette Railroad about a mile east of Salem.
The passenger train of eleven cars, carrying the Pere Marquette shop employes of Ionia and their families on their annual excursion, was running at high speed, probably fifty miles an hour, down a steep grade. It struck the lighter locomotive of the freight train with such terrific force as to turn the freight engine completely around. The wrecked locomotives lay side by side, both headed eastward.
Only a few of the freight train cars were smashed. Besides the two wrecked locomotives, however, six cars of the passenger train lay piled up in a hopeless wreck. Four of the passenger cars remained on the track undamaged and were used to convey the dead and injured to Ionia. One coach had only its forward trucks lifted off the rails.
The two cars next ahead of these were telescoped. The next car forward stood almost on end after the wreck, its forward end resting on the roadbed and the rear end high in the air upon the two telescoped cars that had been following it. Two coaches were thrown crosswise on the track and lay suspended from bank to bank of the cut five or six feet above the rails. Of the baggage car not enough remained to show where it had been tossed. Portions of it and of the locomotive tenders and freight cars were piled in an indescribable mass of debris.
Every family on the train had lunch baskets, and many of them were eating when the trains crashed together. Some passengers sitting near the windows of the rear, undamaged coach, were thrown out the windows to the ground. There was a panic in the uninjured cars for a few moments. Then these passengers rushed from the cars to the rescue of friends and relatives who were pinioned in the wreckage ahead of it.
Families were scattered among different cars, and there were frenzied searches for missing relatives. Mothers ran screaming up and down searching for their children, while many of the young people were as frantically calling for their parents.
JAMES BOYLE, a farmer, was working in a field probably 400 feet away from the track when the two trains approached from opposite directions. The local freight was moving slowly up the heavy grade and had just reached the curve when the passenger train appeared, running at high speed. BOYLE saw the passenger engineer shut off his steam and apply the brakes and saw the crews of both engines jump just before the crash. He ran to the tracks, where he found the uninjured passengers from the rear coaches running forward, and joined with them in pulling out the injured, who could be seen on every hand.
The dead were placed in a row alongside the track and the injured were made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances and until the arrival of the wrecking trains from Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Saginaw which made it possible to sned them to Ionia and Detroit.
The twenty-eight dead bodies first taken out of the wreck were shipped to Ionia and the injured were placed on two trains, one of which headed for Detroit and the other for Ioinia. There were about thirty-five injured persons on each train. Later others were found.
List Of The Dead.
The following is the list of dead, all from Ionia except as indicated:
HOMER SMITH, a boy.
DON ROGERS, Lowell, Mich.
MRS. ABRAHAM EDDY.
EDWARD GALLAGHER, eighteen years.
L. K. MERELL, fifty-eight years.
HENRY REYNOLDS, Pere Marquette.
CHARLES McCAULLEY, SR.
AL F. HERBERT.
CHARLES BROAD, eighteen years.
MRS. AUGUST RICHTER.
ED CORWAN, brakeman.
H. A. KNOWLES, fireman.
CHARLES FENTON, fireman.
E. J. PIXLEY, conductor.
Responsibility is put squarely up to the crew of the freight train by officials of the road. Those who arrived at the scene of the wreck soon after the accident obtained from the crew of the freight the orders under which it was running. They clearly showed the positioin of the excursion train, and that the freight had encroached upon its running time. The freight crew left the scene early, but railroad officials said that they explained simply that they had forgotten the orders.
The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1907-07-26
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!