Breakneck Yards, OH Train Wreck, Oct 1891




AKRON, Ohio., Sept. 30.----At 2:03 o'clock this morning the fifth section of the special excursion run on account of the reunion of the Olin family at Bennington, Vt., left Kent. It was running as the sixth section of No. 4. Five sleepers, four day coaches, and a baggage car composed the train, which was crowded with Michigan excursionists. The train passed from Toledo to Creston over the Wheeling and Lake Erie, and as on its way east. F. H. Nichols of Meadville, Penn., was engineer of the ill-fated passenger, and Stephens, also a Meadville man was fireman. Division Traveling Engineer William Maxwell of Meadville, Penn., had charge of the excursion, and met his death on the passenger engine.

At 1:40 o'clock the third section of freight train No. 85 left Ravenna for Kent. The train was in charge of E. Biegert of Meadville, and the engine was manned by Engineer C. E. Brown of Meadville and Clayton Glass of Kent as fireman. The conductor had been told to wait at Ravenna for the last section of the eastern excursion. The fifth section carried no lights to show that a passenger was following and Conductor Biegert gave the signal to leave the siding. Traveling at a good rate of speed, the freight left the Ravenna yards. Nothing unusual was noticed, and in a few minutes more the freight would have been safe at Kent.

Suddenly a headlight appeared through the fog in front. With a cry of alarm Engineer Brown reversed his engine. On the grade the train would not stop. It was a fearful place for a wreck, and is justly named Breakneck Yards. At this point the Pittsburg and Western passes under the New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio tracks, and a fall of at least forty feet exists leaving a sheer descent to the Pittsburg and Western tracks of thirty-nine feet. Both approaches to the trestle are banked high, and just to the west of this trestle the two huge engines crashed together.

Engineers Brown and Nichols jumped and rolled down the embankment, escaping with their lives. Fireman Stephens followed their example. It was sure death to remain. Clayton Glass, the heroic fireman of the freight, remained at his post. From the ruins of his engine his body was taken, mangled almost beyond recognition, and borne to his weeping wife and children.

Division Engineer William Maxwell was on the passenger engine, and also died at his post. When the crew of the engine jumped, he saw that the collision was certain and started back over the tender to warn the passengers of their peril. It was too late. As he crossed from the tender to the baggage car the shock came. Caught between the cars in the crash, his death must have been instant, and his horribly mangled body was tangled in the debris.

From the coaches behind the dead engineer came cries of agony and appeals for help. Women with babes in their arms were shielding them from glass and flying timbers. Fire broke out and added horror to the already horrible scene. Men and women rushing from the wreck fell over trestle and embankment.

But help soon came for those not already beyond human aid. The rear cars had not been damaged, and their occupants rushed to the assistance of those whose lives were in such deadly peril. Flames were already rising from the coach immediately in the rear of the sleeper. Women were feebly but bravely fighting the fire from their helpless children. Men and women held down by seats and timbers were quietly and calmly waiting what seemed a certain, slow, and horrible death. The water cans were quickly carried from the other cars, and the whole side of the coach was drenched. Then the work of rescue began. Nearly all of the dead and injured were women and children. Few men were in the car. The second coach was crowded with women and children, with a few men. In that coach nearly all of the injured were found. From it was taken the yet breathing body of Mrs. Willoughby Dewey. She had been caught and crushed by falling timbers and died shortly after reaching the Town of Kent. Her husband was accompanying her East on a visit to friends. This morning's train, No. 5, bore the body of Mrs. Dewey and her stricken husband back to their Western home.

As soon as the accident occurred one of the train men started for Kent. The switch engine left for the scene, bearing Dr. O. M. Evans and Dr. J. D. Davis. The cars, which were yet whole, were attached to the switch engine, and in the berths of the sleeping cars were placed the mangled bodies of the victims. It was daylight when the train arrived in Kent. Twenty of the injured were carried to the Revere House, while the remainder were taken to the home of the physicians. Drs. A. M. Sherman and H. C. Long were summoned to assist Drs. Evans and Davis, who were unable to care for all the mangled victims. The Revere House was turned into a hospital. The first train from the East brought Dr. T. B. Lashells, the Meadville surgeon of the New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio Railway, and J. S. Matson, Division Superintendent of the Erie. All that could be done for the comfort of the injured was done.

The list of the killed and injured follows:


WILLIAM MAXWELL, of Meadville, Penn., Division Traveling Engineer; instantly killed.
CLAYTON GLASS, of Kent, Ohio, fireman on the freight.
Mrs. WILLOUGHBY DEWEY, of Richmond, Mich.; instantly killed.


Mrs. L. H. VAN AUCKEN, of McDonald, Mich.; right arm broken, serious bruises.
Miss LAURA VAN AUCKEN, of McDonald, Mich.; right leg and left foot lacerated.
Miss NELLIE STANFORD, Galesburg, Mich.; back and right thigh seriously injured.
Mr. G. C. THOMPSON, Montague, Mich.; severe scalp wound, shoulders and breast crushed.
Mrs. G. C. THOMPSON, of Montague, Mich.; severe injury to spine, possibly fatal.
Mrs. THOMA RICHAR, of Muskegon, Mich.; back and hips seriously injured.
Miss MARY RICHAR, of Muskegon, Mich.; both legs injured.
Mr. J. D. HART, of Rockford, Ill.; right ankle lacerated, thighs, shoulders, and breast injured.
Mrs. ALICE M. SEDGWICK, of Parma, Mich.; right leg broken, left hip dislocated, severe bruises on lower limbs.
Mrs. ALICE FRIEND of Kalamazoo, Mich., back injured.
Miss EDITH SOMERS of Grand Rapids, Mich.; left leg broken, shoulders and back bruised.
Mrs. C. WESTCOTT, of Bangor, Mich.; severe bruises.
Miss REBECCA CLARK, of Bangor, Mich.; back and hips injured.
Miss CAROLINE REED, of Richland; right leg broken.
Miss LUCY S. BUELL, of Shelby, Mich.; left leg broken, back injured.
FRANK M. CALDWELL, Division Passenger Agent of the Erie Railway, Kalamazoo, Mich.; severe scalp wound, cut over left eye, left foot lacerated.
Mrs. A. M. JOHNSON, of Muskegon, Mich.; both legs broken, probably fatal injuries.
Mrs. G. A. BUELL, of Shelby, Mich.; lacerated hip and left side.
CHARLES E. McKINSTREY, of Kalamazoo, Mich.; injured internally.

The slightly injured are: H. L. Fenning, left side lacerated; S. D. Allen, slight bruises; J. W. Wilson, bruised and cut about body; ______ Stephens of Meadville, Penn., fireman on passenger, badly bruised; Dr. Brook of Muskegon, Mich., bruised and lacerated. The excursion train, manned by a new engine, left Kent for Ravenna over the Pittsburg and Western tracks about 9 o'clock this morning. Many whose injuries were not so serious as to forbid traveling accompanied the train to their Eastern destination. Nearly all the killed and wounded were from points in Michigan. They had taken advantage of the low rates to visit the East, many being bound for points in New York State. No member of the Olin family was injured, as all of their company were in the sleeper.

The New York Times, New York, NY 1 Oct 1891