Cincinnati, OH Inclined Railway Accident, Oct 1889

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Cincinnati, Oct. 15. -- The most appalling accident ever known on the inclined plane railways of this city, happened today between 12 and 1 o'clock. It was on the Mt. Auburn incline plane, which lies at the head of Main Street and reaches to a height of 250 and 300 feet on a space of perhaps 2,000 feet or less. Two cars are employed, one on each track. They are drawn by two steel wire cables that are wound upon a drum at the top of the hill by an engine located there.

Nine passengers had entered the car at the foot of the plane and a number were in the other car at the top. The passage of the ascending car was all right until it had reached the top, when, to his unspeakable horror, the faithful engineer found that the machinery would not respond and that he could not stop the engine. Only one result was possible. The car was arrested by the strong bumper which stops its progress, and as the engine continued all its force was expended on the two cables and they snapped like wrapping thread under its enormous power. Then the car, with its nine inmates locked within, began the descent of that frightful slope.

When the fatal trip was begun, Operator Goble noticed a strong pressure on the cable -- due doubtless to the imperfect condition of the machinery -- and when the car was about halfway up, Goble put on more steam, thinking there might be a truck of coal behind. When the car, with its load of human freight, was about twenty feet from the top, Goble endeavored to slacken speed by reversing the lever. It was at this point that the machinery refused to work.

It had got beyond Goble's control. Goble tried to stop the car, but to no avail. It kept thundering on at a rapid rate. A moment later and the car crashed into the strong oak beams which support the flooring of the incline platform. Nor did the machinery stop when the crash came. The front of the car had been demolished, but the trucks had remained on the tracks. The cable was removed from its fastenings on the car, and once released from the cable the car had nothing to anchor it.

When the cable detached itself from the car, the car started down the inclined plane. It kept going faster and as the momentum increased the roar grew louder, and the horror of the eye-witnesses intensified. Down, down it went, the full length of the declivity, until a loud crash was heard. Then the crowd gathered. The dead, dying and wounded were removed amidst the groans and wails of the horror-stricken spectators.

What were the feelings and thoughts of the fated nine may hardly be imagined. The crash at the foot of the plane was frightful. A cloud of dust arose that hid the wreck from view for a moment, but when it was dispelled the scene was horrible. The iron gate that formed the lower end of the truck on which the car rested was thrown sixty feet down the street. The top of the car was lying almost as far in the gutter. The truck itself and the floor and seats of the car formed a shapeless wreck, mingled with the bleeding and mangled bodies of the nine passengers.

As soon as it could be done the dead were taken to the morgue to await full identification, while the wounded were carried to the nearest places where examination could be made. The intensest excitement prevailed and numberless inquiries were made by friends who feared members of their families might be on the fated car.

This inclined plane is the oldest in the city. It was built twenty-one years ago and this is the first accident attended with loss of life at any of the four inclined planes that are in almost constant use.

Perhaps the most horrible condition of any except the nine in the descending car was that of the passengers in the other car at the foot of the plane. They were locked in, as is always the case, and were compelled to await the coming of the other car and its inevitable crash beside them at the foot of the track.