Michigan, ND Rear End Railroad Collision, Aug 1945

Telescoped Car By Engine Wreckage Michigan ND Wreck 1945 3.jpg Michigan ND Wreck 1945 2.jpg Michigan ND Wreck 1945 1.jpg Michigan ND Wreck 1945 5.jpg Michigan ND Wreck 1945 7.jpg


Michigan, N. D., Aug. 10 (UP) -- Twenty bodies were removed today from the crumpled observation car of the Great Northern railway's Empire Builder. Officials estimated the death toll would be between 25 and 40.
A spokesman for the railroad said that a majority of the dead were servicemen. Of the first 17 bodies removed, 10 were soldiers, he said, adding that the death list would reach at least 25.
An officer of the state guard unit at Devil Lake said the death toll would rise to at least 40. He said at least that many soldiers were killed in the rear car of the train when the second section of the Empire Builder crashed into the first section.

Identification Dead.
Identification of the dead was made difficult by the charred condition of many bodies which were seared when the car burst into flames.
Workers had succeeded in cutting away half the telescoped car.
The accident occurred about seven-thirty p.m. (CWT) last night when the first section of the train stopped about a half mile from the small Michigan depot because of a "hot box" on the locomotive.
Before flares could be put out to warn the second section, it plowed into the rear coach, a combination Pullman-observation car. It split the coach down the middle.
The engine's boiler exploded on impact and searing steam scalded those already dying. The Pullman ahead of the observation car was derailed.
Michigan, a small town of 500, had no facilities for first aid. Ambulances and help came from as far as Grand forks, 54 miles distant, Devils Lake, Lakota and other cities.
Military officials took charge and said no names of the dead would be announced until the next of kin had been notified.
Col. Fred Mann, Jr., of the Devils Lake state guard, said that the bodies of 40 servicemen were in the car long after midnight. All the dead were believed to be servicemen.
Loaded to Capacity.
The two sections of the train, loaded to capacity with from 450 to 500 passengers in each, mostly servicemen, left Chicago at eleven-fifteen p. m. (CWT) Wednesday, bound for the Pacific coast.
Charles Walker, a boatswain's mate from Cleveland who was riding in the second section, said he though that Engineer HANS NELSON of St. Paul made a desperate effort to avert the crash.
"The first indication of the wreck I had was three short jerks as though the engineer had attempted to slam on the brakes," Walker said. "The next thing was a terrific impact and that stopped the train. It's my feeling that the engineer applied the brakes so the wreck could be prevented."

The Ogden Standard-Examiner Utah 1945-08-10



Michigan, N. D. -- AP -- The death list in last night's collision of two westbound sections of the Great Northern railway's Empire Builder rose to 32 today. Approximately 50 were injured, 10 seriously.
Twenty-seven bodies had been taken from the wreckage shortly before noon. Workmen digging in the debris said they could see at least five others, trapped in the tangle of steel.

Three Identified.
Three bodies were identified as those of:
MRS. BETTY JANE LOFTHUS of Box 281, Lowell, Wash.
LLOYD S. BURDICK of 721 Second street, South Great Falls, Mont.
JARVIS PEARSON of Chicago, porter on the combination observation-sleeper at the rear of the first section which was telescoped by the following train's locomotive.
A bracelet found on a woman's body bore the name ADELAIDE F. McMANUS, but no address.
At least 15 of the recovered bodies were those of service men, eight those of women, including a nurse, the porter, two male civilians and three children.

Army officers from Fort Snelling, Minn., took charge of the servicemen's bodies and said identities, once made, would not be announced until the next of kin had been notified.
The seriously injured were taken to hospitals here and in nearby cities. Most of the less badly hurt remained aboard the trains, which were combined and proceeded on westward, several hours after the collision. They were treated by doctors who had been placed on board.

A railroad spokesman said the collision occurred on a curve a short distance west of the Michigan station shortly before 7 p.m. (CWT) after the first section had stopped to cool a hotbox on the locomotive's fuel tank. With a crash which shook every house in this community of less than 500 population, the speeding second section plowed into the rear end of the train.

The Brainerd Daily Dispatch Minnesota 1945-08-10



Michigan, N. D. -- AP -- John Cameron, division superintendent of the Great Northern railway, reported the thirty-fourth body had been removed from the wreckage of the Empire Builder here this morning.
The body was that of a man, believed to be a civilian, and was taken to Lakota.

Cameron said railroad officials, on the scene since the wreck Thursday night, were certain there were no other bodies in the debris.

Work of moving the shell of the wrecked Pullman from the engine was completed today and it was expected the engine would be moved during the day.

The Brainerd Daily Dispatch Minnesota 1945-08-11


Taken from various newspapers.

MRS. OLIVE BRANNON, 46, Clifton, N.J.
MURIEL V. CUMMINGS, 21, Plentywood, Mont.
MRS. MARTHA McGRIFF, 48, Portland, Ore.
LLOYD (SHORTY) BURDICK, 37, Great Falls, Mont.
JARVIS PEARSON, porter, Chicago.
PFC RAYMOND R. BRENNAN, no hometown listed.
PFC STEPHEN J. MORGAN, Porter Falls, W. Va.
SGT. CLYDE JOHNSON, Morgantown, Ky.
CPL. RICHARD D. HEALEW, 20, Billings, Mont.


train wreck

My grandfather ( a pharmacist) and mother opened the family pharmacy to eveyone and helped as many people as they could. My grandfather administered morphine to people who were suffering

1945 Michigan Train Wreck Monument Dedication Ceremony

The Community of Michigan, ND, would like to invite all relatives of the 34 people who perished in the 1945 train crash and all crash survivors and other interested parties to a monument dedication ceremony on July 21, 2012 at 11AM at the Veterans Memorial Park in Michigan, ND. Please help us spread the word. We hope you can attend.

Michigan North Dakota train wreck


My dad was on the train that night. He was a young sailor, returning to Washington after being on leave from North Carolina. Here are his words as he recalls the accident:

My name is David Spell and I was one of 6 sailors that were in the train wreck in Michigan North Dakota. The story starts during the month of June 1945, all of the sailors were from North Carolina. I am writing you to explain the reason why I, along with 5 other sailors were on the train together when the wreck happened on the 10th of August 1945.

The six sailors were originally aboard a heavy cruiser ship, the USS Pittsburgh (CA 72) in the North China Sea during the war . On June 4th, we were caught in a bad storm, ( a typhoon) . The water began to run onto the bow of the ship, causing much damage. Later that night, the wind began blowing in excess of 148 MPH and the ships bow began to break apart, eventually breaking off completely. As morning began, the weather let up some and we drifted out of danger and later in the day, the sea was calm again.

At that time. we were about 200 miles from Guam Islands. We made it to a dry dock near the islands and had some repair work done to the ship and started toward the coast of the state of Washington around the middle of July. We arrived in Bremerton Washington at the naval yard. During the crossing, the Captain made arraignments to five the crew 25 days of leave home.

Once our leave time was over (around the 1st of August) crews began to return to their ship. Six sailors, including myself, boarded trains in Chicago Illinois on the Great Northern. A large group of military people were on train #1 in Chicago. Train #2 left Chicago 20 minutes later. We six sailors were on train #1 , sitting in a passenger car that was about 5 cars from the rear. Our train (#1 train) stopped in Michigan North Dakota due to a hot box. At approximately 7:30, train #2, which was 30 minutes behind our train came into Michigan North Dakota . Train #2 hit the back of our train, hitting us at a speed of approximately 57MPH. The five other sailors and myself were seated in the approximate middle of the train in the 5th car from the rear. Some of the sailors were standing and talking, some were not wearing shoes, but we were all relaxing as train #2 hit us from behind. People were thrown about the car, some received minor injuries including cuts and bruises. It was said that one passenger, a man, was killed in our car due to a broken neck.

A ship wreck and a train wreck are two events that you don’t forget. It was a very serious accident with a lot of people hurt. It is an experience that isn’t forgotten, even after 67 years. Most of the people on the train were military personnel going back to their bases . After several months, most of the personnel began to be discharged left for home.

This is a small part of the story about the wreck . but I am sure people who read this will understand how bad it was.

David Spell
Hope Mills NC
Age 88

North Dakota Train Wreck, 1945

Dear Shirley Bushyager,

I was the baby the man sitting across from your mother was putting to sleep when his wife went back into the observation
car and was killed. That was my mother. I was just over two years of age at the time. My father is still living - he is 93. I
am 67 and would like to correspond with you about the accident. It is indeed fortunate that you and your mother survived.
You are welcome to write to me at my e mail address: karincarr@aol.com

Change of Email Address for Becky Stastny-Henson

Hello...Just an update. My email address is no longer Rainbo.Star@verizon.net due to website changes at Verizon.com. My new email address is now Twinklofni@live.com. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused anyone. Thank you.

Becky Henson

Karin Lofthus

I am trying to contact a wonderful English teacher I had as a student at Lawrence High School, NJ in the late 1960s. Her name was Karin Lofthus ... she took us skiing, started a folk club (and took us to hear 2 unknowns -- Simon & Garfunkel -- at a Princeton University coffee house), and expanded our horizons. Any help would be appreciated!

Train Wreck 1945

I was in a train wreck when I was 7 years old and am trying to identify it in history. My mom and I were travelling from Pittsbuurgh to Seattle to join my dad. I remember we changed trains in Chicago. As for the crash - I was in the bathroom when it happened and a black woman cushioned my fall by cradling me in her arms. I was told that I could have been seriously injured if she had not reached out for me. I would love to know if she is still alive, although I doubt it, as I am now 71 and she was an adult woman at that time. I recall my mom talking about the man seated across the aisle from us - he had just returned from the observation car to watch their baby while the wife went back for a smoke. She was killed. I further recall sitting in a field while they tried to remove the injuried (and dead) people from the train. One thing I will never forget is a woman trying to get out through the window. I could see her from the waste up and her arms were outstretched for someone to grab her as she she screamed for help. I recall ambulances and medical staff everywhere. I also recall that some of the porters were severly burned by the urns of coffee that had spilled over on them when the other train hit. From what I have read, this is the crash I was in. I would like to know if there is a way to get a passenger list to know for sure. Thank God my mom and I survived, but the few memories I have are vivid.

August 9, 1945 Train Wreck in Michigan, North Dakota

Dear Mrs. Henson,

I was a passenger on the Great Northern train on 9 Aug 1945. I was traveling from NYC to Seattle, Wn. with my mother( Mrs. L.H. Lofthus) and newly commissioned father. I was two years old. My mother (who was in the first trimester of a second pregnancy) was in the observation car at the time of the wreck and was killed along with all passengers in that car. My father and I were in the sleeping car of the train at the time of impact from the second section. My father remarried 9 months after the accident and I was raised by my second mother. After her death three years ago I returned to Michigan City and met with 16 townspeople who were either present at the accident or who had grown up knowing the stories. I saw pictures and read stories about it all for the first time.

I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk with your father, Captain Stastny, who I understand was also on the train. My father is still alive, but has serious dementia and I have so little first hand knowledge of the accident that took my mother's life. No one was willing to speak about her death during my growing up years. Perhaps out of what they thought of as respect for my second mother, who I also loved dearly.
Now that she has passed on, I want to know more about that fateful night. Any help your father could be to me would be greatly appreciated.

You can reach me through e mail (karincarr@aol.com) or by phone: 415-776-6424. I live in the San Francisco area.

May I thank you in advance for your kind consideration.

Sincerely, Karin Lofthus Carrington

Michigan, North Dakota Train Wreck on Aug 9, 1945

Dear Stu and/or Karen,

Once again I am trying to contact anyone who either was on the Great Northern Empire Builder Trainwreck or personally knows someone who does. I am writing this message for my father, Capt. Richard J. Stastny, who was on that train at the time of the wreck. He truly wants to exchange information with one of you. Please understand that my father is in his mid 80's now and so a prompt response to him is extremely important due to his age. Please mail a letter asap to my Dad, Capt. Richard J. Stastny, P.O.Box 517, Mundelein, IL 60060 or email me, Rebecca L.Henson at Rainbo.Star@verizon.net. This is very very important to him. Or...you can call me collect at 1-815-873-0316.

Thank You from the Bottom of Our Hearts,

Becky Henson

Michigan, North Dakota Train Wreck on Aug 9, 1945

Dear Stu,

My name is Becky Stastny-Henson and I am the daughter of Captain Richard J. Stastny who was one of the servicemen on the train on that fateful day. My father does not use a computer, so I am writing to you on his behalf. He would love to speak to anyone who either road the Great Northern Empire Builder on that day or knows someone who is connected to the crash in some way. Please send a letter to my father at P.O.Box 517, Mundelein, IL 60060 and/or my email address above. I know he will be very happy to hear from you.

Thank you of your response,

Becky Stastny- Henson