Evaro Hill, MT Passenger Train Derails, June 1962
219 INJURED, CHILD DIES AS STREAMLINER DERAILS IN MONTANA.
Missoula, Mont. (AP) -- Hurtling down a mountain grade, a 17-car Northern Pacific luxury train derailed on a curve in the early dawn Sunday.
A child was killed, and 219 of the 350 passengers were injured and required hospital treatment.
Fifteen cars of the Seattle-to-Chicago North Coast Limited crashed down a steep 100-foot embankment 100 miles west of the continental divide and 15 miles northwest of Missoula.
Reports from passengers suggested the train was exceeding the speed limit for the curve, which a railroad spokesman said was 35 m.p.h. The possibility of brake failure was being investigated.
Two of the olive-green passenger cars shot 100 feet down the grade, coming to rest in a ditch along U.S. Highway 93 and Highway 10-A.
A car's nose was buried deep in the ditch, scooping mud and burying TERESE ANN DOOMS, 2-years-old, of Eklaka, Montana.
Frantically, a woman -- possibly the child's mother -- dug out the body with her hands. Another child was buried in mud in the same car but was rescued alive.
The train had passed over one mile of an eight-mile descent on winding Evaro Hill, which drops 1,100 feet.
"I noticed we were starting to pick up speed," said JESSIE O'CONNOR, Chicago, a porter on one of the Pullman cars.
"All of a sudden, I noticed such a fast rate of speed that I got dizzy."
A college student returning home, WENDELL WARDELL of Billings, Mont., said, "We were going so fast that our car leaned way over to one side. The car rocked back and forth twice, and I could observe the second car jackknife and pull the rest of the cars over the bank."
The last two cars on the train remained upright on the tracks.
An official of the Northern Pacific estimated the train would have to be going 55-60 m.p.h. to tip over.
E. E. LYNN of Missoula, engineer, was quoted by a railroad spokesman as saying the train lost air pressure in its brakes as it began the downward run on the 50-degree mountain curve.
The death was the first involving a passenger in 62 years of operating the North Coast Limited train, the railroad said.
The train crashed one mile short of a long trestle than spans a 200-foot canyon along the right-of-way.
Most of the injured were thrown along with baggage and torn seats to the front of the cars.
The injured were taken to three Missoula hospitals. Of the 219 persons received, 154 were treated and released and 68 were held for further observation and treatment.
Many of the stretcher patients complained of back injuries in addition to cuts. It was two hours after the derailment at 4:40 a.m. that the last of the passengers were freed from the wreckage. Rescuers using cutting torches and crow bars had to slice through the jumbled steel.
Crewmen and passengers said the only apparent cause of the accident was speed as the limited started down the steep Evaro Hill grade at an elevation of 4,500 feet above sea level in the Mission Mountain range. The scene is 15 miles northwest of Missoula near the Idaho stateline.
The train sped into the three-mile downgrade after slowing as scheduled at the little town of Evaro.
The four diesel engines jackknifed off the tracks.
One of the engines broke in half. The others spilled off the tracks. The derailed cars tumbled down a steep embankment where the tracks parallel U. S. Highway 93. The rail bed is about 200 feet up the mountain side from the highway.
The last two cars of the train -- a vista dome Pullman and a Pullman club car -- remained upright on the tracks. The rest crashed into a jumbled mass of wreckage over an area 500 to 600 feet long.
The engineer, E. E. LYNN of Missoula, had been a Northern Pacific employe since 1919. He and the fireman, JERRY HAINES, of Missoula, suffered head and neck cuts.
WENDELL WARDELL, Billings, Mont., returning home from college, said he noticed the train slow down for Evaro.
"I travel this train all the time," WARDELL said. "They always slow down for Evaro and go down hill slowly. But I felt a sudden burst of speed."
DENNIS TABLE, Chicago, riding in a dome car that left the tracks, said his car nosed into a small swamp at the edge of the road.
"The mud and rocks burst through the front of the car," he said, "completely covering an 8 or 10 year old girl and a 2 or 3 year old child."
National Guardsmen, Red Cross disaster workers and others joined all available doctors and nurses in helping the wreck victims.
Uninjured passengers helped remove women and children from the tilted cars.
"There was no panic," said third cook PAT McGUIRE, 18, St. Paul.
"Everybody was seeing how badly they were hurt and then they started helping other people out of the car," he said. "I was in the dormitory car where the workers sleep, about two cars behind the engines."
"It started rocking badly and I just grabbed on, I was in the upper bunk. She went off the tracks and was real hard riding for about four seconds."
Greeley Daily Tribune Colorado 1962-06-11