Beech, IA Train Hits Road Grader, Nov 1961



Beech, Iowa (UPI) - Forty-six persons remained hospitalized today with injuries suffered when the Rock Island Line's "Twin Star Rocket" clipped into a road grader at a blind crossing at nearly 80 m.p.h. and spilled off the tracks.
Three of the injured, including the driver of the road grader, were listed in poor condition. The road grader driver was LYLE WELLONS, 54, Hartford, Iowa, who lost the lower part of his right leg in an almost identical accident near here 10 years ago.
The other listed in poor condition were HENRY FOX, 79, Topeka, Kan., and his wife ELIZABETH, 78.
Altogether 71 (revised figure) persons were taken to Des Moines hospitals for treatment or checkups. Almost miraculously, there were no fatalities.
The diesel-powered rocket, en-route from Houston, Tex., to Minneapolis, Minn., was derailed at a rural crossing just north of here and about 20 miles southeast of Des Moines.
Engineer HARRY PATTON, 67, Kansas City, Mo., said he was less than a quarter of a mile away when he saw the grader nearing the crossing, which was marked only by crossbar markers.
PATTON said the train was traveling "near the maximum" speed permitted at that point - which is 79 m.p.h. "I set the brakes, but it takes several seconds to do that," PATTON said. "Even when we got pretty close I though he was going to get across."
However the train sheared off the rear wheels of the grader.
The three diesel units ripped up 815 feet of tracks and spilled over onto their sides, along with the mail and baggage cars immediately behind them. However, all eight passenger cars remained upright, and the last two cars stayed on the tracks.
One passenger car was hurled sideways and was jutting out into a cornfield.
"I felt the emergency brakes going on and then the car lifted up in the air and flipped over on its side," W. M. MANION, 49, Kansas City, Mo., foreman of the postal workers on the mail car, said.
MRS. RICHARD KLEEMAN, Minneapolis, Minn., said she was thrown out of her seat onto the floor when the rain went off the tracks.
"I looked up just in time to see a wheel of the grader flying through the air," MRS. KLEEMAN said.
Rock Island officials, revised figures of the number of persons aboard the train. They said there were about 154 persons aboard, including 128 revenue passengers.
Thus almost half of the persons aboard were injured seriously enough to be taken to hospitals in nearby Des Moines.
Mercy Hospital was swamped with 41 patients, 25 went to Iowa Lutheran and 5 to Iowa Methodist.
At the height of the rush at Mercy, the corridors were filled with walking patients and others in wheel chairs lining up at the telephones to call loved ones to let them know they were alive.
The wreck turned the passenger cars into a jumble of confusion.

Ames Daily Tribune Iowa 1961-11-17