Gasconade, MO Train Wreck, Nov 1855

Gasconade MO New Bridge On Original Piers of Disaster.JPG

From the St. Louis Republican.


The magnificent train of cars which left our city yesterday morning on an excursion to Jefferson City, to celebrate the opening of the Pacific railroad to that place, is now a mass of ruins, and infinitely worse than this, many of the noble hearts that participated in the pride of the occasion, are now stilled in death.

The train consisting of fourteen cars, left the depot on Seventh street at 9 o'clock, crowded with invited guests, a half hour after the time advertised. By the time it reached Hermann this delay was fully recovered, thus showing the good condition of the track. After leaving Hermann the train proceeded with good speed, and without the least difficulty until it reached the Gasconade, when one of the most disastrous accidents occurred which has yet thrown this city into mourning.

The bridge across that stream gave way, and ten of the cars were precipitated a distance of twenty-five or thirty feet. The locomotive from all appearances, had reached the edge of the first pier, when the structure gave way, and in falling reversed its position entirely, the front turning to the east, and the wheels upward. On the locomotive at the time were the President, MR. E. H. BRIDGE, MR. O'SULLIVAN, the chief engineer of the road and an additional number of employees.

MR. BRIDGE it is supposed, is the only one saved of the individuals named. An hour after the disaster, voices from beneath the wreck of the locomotive were heard asking for assistance, and when we left the scene of disaster active efforts were made to relieve the sufferers. It is is [sic] possible - nay it is to be hoped probable - that some of these unfortunates may have been rescued.

The road enters the bridge with a curve, and this circumstance, perhaps, prevented the disaster from being more fatal, as the cars thereby were diverted, and thus prevented from falling directly in a general melee. Enough of injury, however, was accomplished. The baggage car next the engine went down - to use the expression of one who was in it - 'extremely easy,' without causing any serious casualty. The first and second passenger car followed, and in these several were killed, and a great number more or less mangled.

In the third car, one or two were killed, only. This car, although in a dangerous position, and almost entirely demolished, was less fatal to life and limb. In the fourth and fifth cars a great many were fatally injured, several instantly killed. The balance of the train followed swiftly on their fatal errand, and the loss of life, with contusions more or less severe, was dreadful.

Some of the cars plunged on those beneath them with their ponderous wheels, and crushed or maimed the unfortunate persons below. Others hung upon the cliff in a perpendicular position, and two or three turned bottom upward down the grade. Only one - the extreme rear car - maintained its position on the rail.

Our informant thinks there could not have been less than twenty-five killed.

Doctors McDOWELL and McPHERSON were fortunately among the guests; and gave their best skill to the alleviation of the wretched sufferers. It was impossible, however, for them to apply bandages and reset limbs under the circumstances. The accident occurred where no houses are to be seen, in a wild forest; and during the time a heavy storm of rain, accompanied with lightning and thunder of the most vivid description, fell without intermission.