Lincoln, NE Train Wreck, Aug 1894



An Engine and Two Cars Plunge From a Trestle Forty Feet Above Ground Near Lincoln, Neb. -- The Work of Train Wreckers - Horrible Fate of the Victims.

A fearful wreck, involving the loss of eleven lives, one engine and two cars, occurred five miles south of Lincoln, Neb., on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad where it crosses on a high trestle the tracks of the Union Pacific and Burlington and Missouri River Railroads, shortly after 10 o'clock p. m. All indications point to train wreckers as the cause.

The dead are: C. D. ATANNARD, conductor, Council Bluffs, perished in the flames, leaves family; WILLIAM CRAIG, fireman, buried under engine, leaves family; IKE DEPOW, engineer, Council Bluffs, buried under engine; Grain dealer, of Fairbury, name unknown, burned to death in the wreck; five traveling men, names unknown, buried under car and burned to death; two farmers from Janson, Neb., en route for South Dakota, burned to death.

The Injured: HARRY FOOTE, brakeman, leg broken; Ch. H. CHERRY, postal clerk, terribly cut about the face and head; Fort Scott express messenger, back injured and cut on the head; O. S. BELL, Lincoln, traveling man, injured internally.

Train No. 8, drawn by engine No. 213, is an accommodation called the "Fort Worth accommodation," and is due to arrive at Lincoln at 9:40 p. m. On the night of the accident it was about ten minutes late, and was making up time when it struck the trestle that crosses Salt Lake Creek, about four miles from the city and two from the penitentiary. When it struck the trestle the rails immediately spread, and the engine, drawing the two cars after it, went thumping along over the cross ties for about fifty feet, and then with a crash it fell forty feet to the bed of the creek below.

The engine burst, and glowing coals, spreading, ignited the wooden supports and the coaches behind it, and in a few moments the bridge, dry as tinder from its long exposure to the sun, was a mass of flames. The coals, falling upon the coaches lying in the ditches, set them afire, and five minutes after the first warning the entire train of cars, with its load of human freight, below, was one mass of flames.

It was an awful sight. Willing hands were there to help, but little could be done. The engine had fallen first, then the combination car of smoker and express coach fell partially upon that, and the rear coach falling behind it, telescoped that car, thus pinioning those unfortunates who were in the smoker, so that it was impossible to save them or for them to escape.

Colonel C. J. BLISS and JAY McDOWELL, Fairbury passengers, and the brakeman, HARRY FOOTE, were the first to extricate themselves from the rear car. They immediately started to work, and after a half hour's effort, the fourteen occupants of the car coach were saved.

It was heroic work. The flames were scorching in their intensity, but those three men struggled hard to save their fellow sufferers. Rapidly the work of rescue went on, until the entire fourteen rear coach passengers, including three women, were rescued and laid upon the bank beside the bridge.

Those engaged in the work of rescue begged them to assist, but they were too frightened and excited to do anything but lay on the bank and moan. Many of them were severely injured and were unable to help.

HARRY FOOTE, the injured brakeman, is the one who advances the theory that the train was maliciously wrecked. According to his story, a rail was removed on the bridge and the fish-plates and a crowbar were found in the grass near by.

The evidences were plainly there and unmistakable. Marks made by a wrench on a loosened rail were plainly visible, and the marks of the crowbar on the cross ties were there so plain that no lantern was needed to examine them.

The wood of the ties was deeply dented where the crowbar had been inserted and the rails lifted clear of the ties, and the spikes which had been pulled out were lying around loose on the bridge.

Just after this discovery City Detective MALONE arrived and was informed of the facts and has the matter under investigation.

All the injured were brought to Lincoln and are being given excellent care. The doctors think all will recover. The loss to the railroad company is not less than $30,000.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1894-08-17