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East Rio, WI Train Wreck, Nov 1886


Thirteen Persons Burned Alive in a Blazing Car.

A terrible railroad accident occurred the other night at East Rio, Wis., thirteen miles from Portage. The limited passenger train on the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, which left Milwaukee at 10 P. M., was derailed at East Rio and thrown into an old stone quarry. The engine and tender, a baggage car and two coaches, were hurled from the track, into the quarry. The engine left the track, ran a short distance, and brought up against the side of the cut and then toppled over. The baggage car and the coaches followed, while four sleepers kept the rails. The engine and the cars that went off the track were badly smashed, and soon took fire from the stoves. Engineer LITTLE and Fireman EAGAN crawled out from under the locomotive badly bruised and scalded. The baggageman had a leg broken. All passengers in the sleepers got out uninjured, except by slight bruises. In one of the day coaches thirteen people were penned in and literally burned to cinders. Many others were injured, by the severe shaking. Only three persons escaped from this car. The whole train, with the exception of one sleeper, which they were unable to uncouple and draw away, was burned up.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1886-11-05


A moment in time...

The 'Rio Wreck' has always fascinated me. I grew up only a half mile from where the train wreck took place. When young, my sister and I often enjoyed picking wild berries and exploring the woods on the north side of this particular section of the railroad tracks. On occasion, we would even walk the tracks and explore the old train cars sitting on the side track. 'East Rio' was once the watering station where steam engines would take on a supply of water before traveling on their way. The water tower is long history although I know some photos exist. The little 'station house and sign for East Rio' was razed in the late 1960's or early 1970's. I have always been curious about the little piece, written above, as it is quite obvious that the writer was never at the scene of the accident. The comment about the old stone quarry really puzzles me. The land on both sides of the railroad tracks are swamp or very low lying land. Miles Parker, who died in 1959. used to sing a song about the train wreck of many years ago. We were always told that there were no photos taken of the train wreck and that is not the case. George C. Bush (1838-1927) is buried in the Ohio Cemetery at Rio. His obit tells that he was the former first mayor of South Milwaukee and that he had taken photos of the wreck. The photos had been sold to someone (name not given) and everything destroyed. Speculation on my part but would suspect that it might have been a relative of someone who died in the wreck. Unclaimed remains were laid to rest in the Ohio Cemetery on the west side of Rio and there is a small sign to mark the location. There are extensive reports of the wreck to be found in the old editions of the local newspaper from the time.

article | by Dr. Radut