TWENTY KILLED ON A CURVE
The Denver Evening Post, September 10, 1897
Transcribed by Rita Timm, email@example.com
Frightful Railroad Wreck, Followed by Fire, New New Castle
THE KNOWN INJURED NUMBER ONE DOZEN
Westbound Passengers on a Rio Grande Express Train Rode to Their
Death in the Darkness -Terrible Scenes Follow the Crash of Monster Trains
in the Mountains-List of the Identified Dead.
New Castle, Colo., Sept. 10.,-- The worst wreck in the history of Colorado railroading occurred one and one-half miles west of New Castle at 12:15 this morning. An east-bound Colorado Midland freight train crashed into the west-bound Denver & Rio Grande passenger train No. 1. A conservative estimate of railroad officials on the ground places the number of dead at twenty and the injured at twelve. The greatest confusion and horror prevails and several unidentified bodies are now alongside the track.
To date the identified dead are as follows:
JAMES F. KEENAN, Denver, postal clerk, scalded.
MRS. A. HARTMAN, AND TWO CHILDREN, Hersher, Ill., burned.
CHARLES LEIPER, of Clarion Pa. Engineer
OSTRANDER of the Colorado Midland, scalded and burned. Fireman
HINES, of the Colorado Midland
ROBERT HOLLAND, fireman,
D. & R. G. WILLIAM GORDON, engineer
R. & R. G. A. HARTMAN, Hersher, Ill.
*Note - this story was uncovered when a transcriber, Leona Gustafson, discovered several mass graves marked "Unknown" at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, CO, which contained bodies of some of the passengers on this train.
Partial List of Injured:
Engineer GORDON of the D. & R. G., who was reported dead this morning at a late hour this afternoon was found to be alive and is making a strong but hopeless struggle for life.
JOHN H. STANDART of Blackfoot, Idaho, cut and burned, both legs broken, will probably die.
Miss PEARL CORNELL of Oregon, leg broken.
J. H. SHEETS of Iowa, right hand cut.
R. J. SHEETS of Pennsylvania, injured about the head.
P. H. MCcANENY of Victor, Colo., burned about the head and bruised.
FRANK P. MANNIX and F. YEAGER of Victor, slightly injured.
It is not known how badly Conductor BURBANK is hurt or whether he is injured at all, as he has disappeared. The stories concerning the disaster are conflicting and confusing and where the responsibility lies it will be difficult to determine until a thorough investigation is had.
That a greater number of persons were not killed is miraculous and stories of narrow escapes are numerous. JAMES C. FOLEY and WILLIAM S. MESSENIER, express messengers on the Rio Grande train, had a very close call. Both men reside in Denver. The car they were in after toppling over and burying them under a pile of baggage and freight, caught fire and they had to cut their way out with axes.
WRECK TAKES FIRE
Immediately after the smash the wreck caught fire, presumably from the explosion of a gas cylinder under one of the coaches.
Early reports blame Conductor BURBANK of the stock train for the disaster. It being alleged that he made a mistake of ten minutes in figuring on the time when the passenger train passed New Castle.
Two minutes either way would have saved the trains, as they would then have been on an open stretch and the engineers would have been able to see each other.
A FUNERAL PYRE
From advices received from wrecking train the scene of the resembles a pyramid of half-burned timber and iron work. From twenty to twenty-five were killed, the majority of the bodies being under the mass. The wrecking train has been on the scene since 5 o'clock this morning.
Three or four bodies, badly mutilated, are as yet unidentified. The wounded are being cared for at New Castle. Dr. O'CONNELL, surgeon and staff; C. S. MITCHELL, Rio Grande claim agent; General Passenger Agent HOOPER and Attorney MAY, representing the Rio Grande attorneys, left at 8:45 this morning for the scene of the disaster. But small hopes are entertained for life being left in those under the still burning wreckage. Cars piled up and proved a funeral pyre for between twenty-five and thirty human beings. Many of the dead are unidentified and others are burned beyond recognition.
NEWS IN THIS CITY
Story of the Wreck as Told Over Railroad Wires:
The first intimation of the fearful holocaust at New Castle was received at 1 o'clock this morning at the Denver & Rio Grande offices. As soon as possible a wrecking train was ordered to the scene. As the morning wore on the messages increased it was ascertained the the first reports were not exaggerated. The wreck is by far the worst in the railroad history of Colorado.
Denver & Rio Grande officials blame as yet, no one openly. From President JEFFERY's office the following statement was issued this morning. "The east-bound Colorado Midland stock freight train had orders at Grand Junction to run one hour on the regular time of Denver & Rio Grande train No. 1, giving it until 12:05 to reach New Castle. The Denver Rio Grande train instead of leaving New Castle at 11:05, the schedule time, had instructions to run an hour behind that time, consequently pulling out at 12:05. After that, however, the D. & R. G. had the right of way. No. 1, consisting of engine 506 and a train of eight cars, including a mail care, baggage car, three coaches, two sleepers and a special Pullman car, pulled out of New Castle at exactly 12:05 o'clock. The head-end collision occurred ten minutes later at a point one and one-half miles west of New Castle on a curving track. The west-bound passenger was under charge of Conductor W. H. HAWTHORNE, Engineer WILLIAM GORDON and Fireman ROBERT HOLLAND.
When the two trains came together both were running at full speed. The force of the collision was sufficient to explode the passenger engine, drive the freight engine crashing back into the freight train and make a great lighted pyramid of the flaming coaches. Every car was a total wreck with the exception of thelast two sleeper. They still stand on the track unharmed.
SCENE A WEIRD ONE
"Can do nothing-everything on fire", was the message sent to Denver after the shock and wreck. It was responsible for hasty orders to man a wrecking train and arrive at the scene of disaster as soon as possible. The rescue train from New Castle pulled up to the wreck shortly before 5 o'clock when the work of relief began. The injured were conveyed to the Albany Hotel at New Castle and given every assistance and comfort. Twelve are more or less suffers from the accident.
A portion of the wreck had burned brightly for several hours. When the collision happened the two locomotives leaped together above the track, seemed to embrace in a death struggle of escaping steam and crashing steel and iron and then fell back. No. 506 exploding throwing the mail and baggage cars into the coaches, the six heavy cars heaping together in a pyramid formation. Death in many cases was instantaneous, but above the roar of steam and the crackling of the already fierce flames, resounded the cries of the dying and injured. To add to the horror of the disaster the Pintsch gas apparatus under the mail car exploded, throwing debris on either side of the track and giving the fire new life.
There were many personal acts of heroism, some of which will go unrecorded but were striking example of heroism in a moment fraught with horror. F. P. MANNIX, editor of the Victor Record, was a passenger in the smoking car, the first coach following the baggage. When the collision happened he was thrown violently against the opposite seat and then held in a vise-like grip. Groping through the dust and smoke, he saw daylight and although injured, pulled himself out. With the assistance of Brakeman Daniels of Salida, he helped to pull three more sufferers from the wreck just after the gas tank exploded. A youth, name unknown, ran widely along the unharmed sleepers crying for some one to save his mother, whose body was protruding from the second chair coach. The brakeman and MANNIX aided in dragging her out.
Those passengers who were uninjured were taken from the sleepers and assisted to neighboring ranch houses and to New Castle, where they were made as comfortable, as possible. The train was well filled, the festivities at Grand Junction and heavy travel causing it to hold nearly a hundred passengers. The occupants of the first four coaches were the most unfortunate and underneath their debris lie the majority of the bodies not yet recovered. After the first shock and before the locomotive of the passenger train exploded a wild rush was made for the doors and through the windows.
DEATH IN FEARFUL GUISE
Probably the worst death was that of JAMES F. KEENAN, the postal clerk, who was assorting the bags of mail matter in the mail car when the collision occurred. He was literally scalded to death, dispatches relating that the flesh was hanging from his body when he was released from confinement in the ruined coach. He died shortly after 7 o'clock after enduring agony for six hours. Engineer GORDON who was known on the second division of the Rio Grande as "@##$%^", (no longer acceptable term), "Bill", on account of his unusual dark complexion, was thrown with great force from the engine over a barb wire fence and when mangled and bloody, was picked up, was almost dead. GORDON was one of the best known engineers on the Denver & Rio Grande, having been a ringleader in the strike inaugurated years ago on the second division. He has been with the Rio Grande almost since its building.
The two express messengers had a thrilling escape. They are JAMES C. FOLEY of 1025 S. Ninth Street and WILLIAM S. MEMMEMER of 2330 Washington Avenue. They were engaged in piling up the baggage in the rear portion of the baggage car, and were caught in a narrow space as it toppled over. With an axe they made and aperture sufficient for escape, and just as the crushed structure burst into flames crawled through.
ROBERT HOLLAND the fireman on engine 506 died at 5 o'clock, after much suffering. He was crushed, bruised and burned. Fireman HINES of the Midland was burned so severely that when he was picked up near his engine he was in a dying condition. Engineer OSTRANDER lay under the freight locomotive dead. According to the painful account given by HINES, he failed to jump and the last glare of light from the headlight of the passenger train saw his form silhouetted in the cab with his hand on the lever.
The whole family of ALEX HARTMAN of Hersher, Ill., met death instantaneously. Mrs. HARTMAN with her two children, were asleep and had no opportunity for escape. They were burned to a crisp before the agonized father, who was taken from the wreck with both legs broken and severe gashes about the head.
The brakeman of the passenger train escaped all injury. As soon as possible he made his way to New Castle and notified the station officials who in turn informed Superintendent CHOATE of the Denver Rio Grande. Before 3 o'clock this morning General Manager SCHLAACKS of the Rio Grande knew of the wreck and was at the general offices in Denver awaiting information.
At 8:45 o'clock General Passenger Agent HOOPER, Claim Agent C. S. MITCHELL, Dr. O'CONNELL, surgeon, and Attorney MAY, representing WOLCOTT & VALLE, the Rio Grande attorney, left on passenger train No. 1 for the scene of the wreck. They will arrive there this evening when all claims will be considered and the responsibility determined. A message received stated that Conductor BURBANK of the Colorado Midland made a mistake in glancing over his orders and took a wrong column of figures. The Midland general offices having no wire from New Castle and receiving but very meager information refused to discuss the affair. Until the investigation is made public and is laid before the officials of both roads, nothing will be said on the matter.
The joint track is a line of rail from New Castle to Grand Junction used together by the Denver & Rio Grande and Colorado Midland railroads for the movement of their trains between the two points. It was built jointly and has been in operation since 1890. From New Castle the road winds with many curves following the Grand River. It is seventy-seven miles in length and is of single standard gauge.
THE DEAD POSTAL CLERK
Mrs. JAMES F. KEENAN, wife of the postal clerk, was notified early this morning that her husband had been severely injured in the wreck. At the same time Chief Clerk FRANK PUTNEY of the Railway Mail service received a message that Keenan could not possibly survive. It was stated that the flesh was hanging in shreds from his body, as he had been caught, pinioned in a flood of scalding water after the explosion. Mrs. KEENAN's anxiety was pathetic. She was preparing to go to her husband's side on the Rio Grande passenger train leaving the Union depot at 8:45 when at 8 o'clock, the railway mail office was notified by the superintendent's office of the Denver & Rio Grande that KEENAN was dead. Mail Clerk KENNISON broke the news as gently as possible to the distracted woman. KEENAN leaves a wife and two children, residing at 756 S. Water St. The dead postal clerk came into the service eleven years ago, and has been running on the lines between Denver and Ogden. He was originally from Gunnison, where he is well known, KEENAN was nearly 40 years old at the time of his death. He stood, in regard to efficiency at the head of the division and was one of the best men in the service. The news of his death created a deep feeling of regret around the federal building.
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