Cleveland, OH Electric Car Wreck, Nov 1895



An Electric Car Plunges Through An Open Draw in the Big Bridge, With Dreadful Results.

Cleveland, Ohio, Nov. 17. -- A heavy electric motor car containing between twenty and thirty passengers went through the draw of the Central viaduct at 7:45 o'clock yesterday evening and dropped 101 feet to the river below. It is a horror the like of which never occurred here before.
The Central viaduct is a huge stilt bridge, 3,000 feet long, made of iron. It connects the heights and the prosperous residence section on both sides with the business center of the city. Directly over the river is a drawbridge on the pivot swinging pattern, and this is 101 feet above the surface of the water. The South Side street railway passes over the bridge, and on either side of the draw there is a safety switch, which, unless the conductor alights and holds up a handle, will send a car into the gully instead of allowing it to go on the draw.
First reports from the scene of the disaster seem to place the blame on the conductor. They were to the effect that the ill-fated motor car, containing between twenty and thirty people, approached the draw just as a vessel was nearing it and the bridge attendants had closed the big iron gates and were preparing to swing the draw. As is the rule, the car stopped and the conductor went forward to release the switch in case the way was clear. He must have been blinded by electric lights, for as eye witness declares that although the gates were closed and the draw was in motion, the conductor raised the switch handle. The motorman applied the current and the car shot forward and struck the gates with a crash. There was only a moment's pause and then the heavy car ground its way through the wreckage and plunged over the brink into the black abyss amid the screams and frantic struggles of the passengers, who at the first intimation of danger rushed for the rear door. The car struck the water with a great splash and then there was silence. Soon men began to rush about shouting wildly, and the police patrol wagons and ambulances were flying to the spot in response to telephone calls. In an incredibly short space of time the work of rescue had begun.
The work of rescuing the bodies of the victims has gone on steadily since 9 o'clock last evening and it is now believed nothing more can be done until the last bit of wreckage of the car has been removed from the river. Four others are missing and are thought to be in the river. The motorman jumped just in time to save his life but the conductor went down with the car and perished. Half of those whose lives were lost were women.
The scenes about the river late last night, while the work of rescue was being prosecuted, were pathetic in the extreme. The thousands of people who had assembled waited with bated breath for the discovery of bodies. It was a sad crowd and out of respect for the unfortunate dead but very little noise was made.
Occasionally the wild scream of some frantic woman, who believed some one dear to her was among the unfortunate ones, would echo over the flats, only to be taken up at a distance by some other woman whose heart was breaking over her loss.

New Castle News Colorado 1895-11-23