Chicago, IL Train-Street Car Wreck, Jun 1891

Many Lives In Peril.

Cars Collide On Wabash Avenue.

An Illinois Train Crashes Into an Indiana Avenue Trailer in Which Twenty Passengers Are Seated-A Miraculous Escape.

Wabash Avenue grip car 699 was south bound yesterday afternoon at 5:30 o’clock, drawing a Wabash avenue open car and an Indiana Avenue closed trailer. The Indiana Avenue car held over twenty passengers. Just before the grip came down the street to the railroad tracks at Sixteenth street an Illinois Central train, returning from the races, stopped before turning into the lake front. The last coach in the train was only a few feet clear of the track which the north-bound grip cars use. The gates were drawn, but Illinois Central Flagman H.K. Sweet gave the word to Gateman Chris Herkiss to raise them, and the street car conductor, J.G. Hicks, told his grip man to go ahead. The car drivers have orders to go slowly over the tracks, and the grip, with its trailers, was creeping across, when the railway engineer, Stephen O’Neill, thought he saw a signal to back down and started to obey it. The train went swiftly down the track just as the Indiana trailer, with its passengers, was crossing. The conductor of the street car saw that a collision could not be averted.

“Jump for your lives,” he yelled, and immediately jumped for his own. Half the persons in the car were women and they screamed and struggled for the door. The men lost their heads and fought fiercely for escape, and there was a wild melee in the car. The hindmost coach of the railway train smashed into the side of the car, splintering the windows and breaking through the woodwork as if it had been paper. Most of the passengers jumped from the car before it was struck, but three or four men and two women were unable to get out. The force of the collision carried the seat on the east side of the car and the debris of the car itself over to the west side, pinning two of the men to the floor. The others escaped by jumping upon the seat. If the race train had backed up another foot these people would have been rolled underneath and horribly mangled. When the race train pulled away the two men were released by willing hands and the women ran screaming from the car. Only a few scratches were received by the half-dozen terrified people in the car. Miss Ada Simpson and Mrs. A.L. Stanley, who lives at 1608 Wabash Avenue, had a narrow escape from being crushed. They had just got off the Illinois Central train and were crossing the tracks on their way home when the train backed down. Thoroughly frightened they hesitated which way to run, and both of them had only just jumped clear as the collision occurred. A piece of Miss Simpson’s dress was caught between the cars and torn off. This so frightened her that she fainted. She was carried into a carriage factory and doctors were called. Among the first to reports was Veterinary surgeon Baker, who retired when he found the case was out of his line. A doctor tried to restore Miss Simpson, but it was nearly an hour before she was sufficiently recovered to be taken to her home. Mrs. Stanley said she would have fainted, too, if Miss Simpson had not got the start of her.

Both Sweet and Herkiss disobeyed orders in having the gates raised before the train was clear of the street, but Herkiss is a new man at the crossing, and claims he opened the gates because Sweet told him to. Stephen O’Neill, the engineer of the train, says he got the signal to back down, but no one saw any signal given, and the idea is that he either backed a little to get a start on the heavy train or else was getting out of the way of something in Michigan Avenue. O’Neill, however, could not be blamed, for so far as he knew the gates were closed.

Chicago Herald, Chicago, IL 9 Jun 1891