Chicago, IL Elevated Train Wreck, Nov 1936

Chicago ILL Elevated wreck Nov. 1936.jpg

20 DEAD 60 INJURED

CHICAGO ELEVATED CRASH

WOODEN CAR SHOPPERS SPECIALS TELESCOPED BY STEEL TRAIN.

CHICAGO, Nov. 24. -- Twenty persons were killed and more than 60 injured here late this afternoon when a North Shore elevated electric train crashed into a wooden train, “Shopper's Special.” Officials said that it was feared that many of the injured would die.

The wreck, described as the worst in years, came when elevated trains were packed with shoppers and workers. The special train which was made up of wooden cars, was crashed into by the steel train and was telescoped and splintered into kindling wood. The cars were hurled from the tracks and many of them were dangling on the “L” structure when the police, firemen and rescue squads arrived. Some of the dead were lying in the street, hurled from the cars to the pavement.

Shortly after the crash occurred all lights went out in the cars and along the elevated railway. This added to the horror. One man was hurled through a car window and into the street. His body was badly mangled.

Frantic relatives and friends surged against police lines which were thrown about the scene, crying for news of their loved ones. The picture of the scene was beyond description. Priests and ministers worked frantically among the dead and injured. Doctors and nurses were rushed to the scene and every available ambulance in the city was called.

Priests administered last rites to the dying amid scenes of horror.

Police and railway officials launched a sweeping investigation of the disaster immediately. It is believed that the steel train failed to take a switch going at high speed and crashed into the wooden cars before the motorman had a chance to apply the brakes.

Six squads of policemen were rushed to the scene. Within an hour traffic in the area of the wreck became blocked with a milling crowd. Women screamed and fainted as the dead and injured were lowered from the elevated structure. First aid stations were hastily set up in nearby stores and garages.

Firemen directed their efforts toward preventing a fire among the wreckage of the wooden cars.

Hundreds of shoppers were packed into the wooden coaches. The steel train was filled with workers who had been released from office buildings and factories.

Wreckage from the crash was spread over a wide area and the railway line was put out of commission for more than two miles.

Police and firemen late tonight were having a difficult time establishing the identity of the dead and injured. The task was proceeding slowly.

Ogdensburg Advance-News New York 1936-11-25

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MOTORMAN IS HELD AFTER 10 DIE IN CRASH.

INVESTIGATIONS BEGIN IN WORST ELEVATED TRAGEDY IN CHICAGO'S HISTORY.

Chicago, Nov. 25. -- (AP) -- Motorman VAN R. GROOMS was held in technical custody tonight while representatives of city, state and federal governments investigated the most disastrous wreck in the history of Chicago's elevated railroad.
GROOMS was at the controls of a North Shore flier last night when it plunged into the rear end of a crowded Evanston express train -- killing ten persons and scattering sixty-five injured passengers along the right of way.
Two officers were detailed to his hospital room. His physicians said shock and injuries made it impossible for him to tell his story at an inquest.
Fifty-seven persons were confined to hospitals, three in critical condition.
General Manager Bernard J. Fallon of the elevated lines blamed the tragedy on "man failure, or the human element."
State's Attorney Thomas J. Courtney said if his inquiry showed criminal negligence on the part of any employes, he would bring manslaughter charges against them.
At the inquest, officials sought to oascertain why the three-car limited bound for suburban Mundelein plowed into the eight-coach express.
Investigators reported the controls of the Mundelein train were set in reverse, indicating GROOMS had made a desperate effort to halt it when he perceived the line of cars ahead.
The inquest was continued to December 15th.
Deputy Coroner James J. Whalen, who obtained the only statement from GROOMS,
quoted him as saying "the lights of the 'L' train were so dim I couldn't see them until I saw the car itself. I put on my brakes, but it was too late to stop."
Dr. C. T. McGarry said GROOMS' injuries were severe lacerations of one leg and chest bruises.
Whalen said GROOMS "told me that this elevated train which was on his main track ahead of him was supposed to pull over to the left to a local track to let his train go by."
"He said that just previous to the accident he was going about forty miles an hour."
Those killed and injured boarded the northbound express "L" train in the downtown Loop District about 5:30 P.M.
The North Shore train was also northbound, with passengers living in northside suburbs.
It was dark, but at Granville Station, sixty-two blocks north of the Loop, the four track elevated right of way is straight. The police said trains should be visible for a mile and a half at the point.
The elevated train stopped near Granville Station on the outer express track awaiting a signal to proceed on the inner local track.
Passengers told of hearing the whistle of the approaching North Shore train, travelling, investigators said, about forty miles an hour.
Six persons died at the scene or soon after in hospitals. Crushing injuries added four more to the death list today. Many others were in critical condition.
The dead:
R. F. LARSON, 39.
MISS MARY MULLEN.
QUINN MORRISON, 37.
JACK DIFFENDAHL, 64.
MISS VERA LAFEBURE, 25.
SAM SCHWARTZ, 52.
RAYMOND WINBERG, 45.
JACOB BORCHARDT, 55.
GEORGE FULTON, 39.
MISS NELL WILSON, 35.

The Modesto Bee and News-Herald California 1936-11-26

Comments

1936 train accident

I too am interested in finding more information on fatalities in this accident. There is a slim possibility that one or more was a relative, but I need to locate obituaries or death notices to obtain further information.

Accident waiting to happen

The North Shore Line cars were heavy weight steel interurban coaches designed for running at 80+ miles per hour. The wooden "L" cars were so outclassed that I am surprised more of this type of wreck did not occur.

Having seen photos of this wreck, compared to the wooden coaches, the steel coaches had little damage.

I was wondering if anyone

I was wondering if anyone knew where you can find information on the people killed in this accident. Any thoughts would be very helpful. Thanks