Tacoma, WA Trolley Disaster, July 1900

Tacoma WASH street car trestle 7-4-1900.jpg Tacoma WASH street car wreckage 7-4-1900.jpg Tacoma WASH street car wreckage 7-4-1900 2.jpg



Tacoma, Washington, July 4. -- Nearly a hundred people, passengers on a car bound for this city, were plunged into a gulch at Twenty-sixth and C Streets shortly after 8 o'clock this morning. Those who were standing on the platform dropped off only to be bruised and wounded by the heavy body of the car, while others inside were killed and maimed before they knew what had happened. The car jumped the track and was smashed to kindling wood in the bottom of the chasm over a hundred feet below. The dead will number nearly three score.
Many of the injured are expected to die at any moment, and others are now in the various hospitals and under the care of their own physicians.
The accident was one of the most appalling that has ever occurred in this city. The unfortunate people were residents of nearby towns -- Hillhurst, Lakeview, Parkland, Lake Park, and other places -- bound for Tacoma to spend the Fourth of July. Their journey was nearly at an end when the accident occurred. Crushed, maimed, and mangled, the unfortunates were dragged from beneath the wreck of the car, and tender hands ministered to them until conveyances could be had to carry them to hospitals and to the homes of their friends. There was help at hand a few minutes after the accident occurred. Citizens, policemen, firemen, guardsmen, volunteers and women and children aided.
Ropes were quickly procured and the victims of the wreck were drawn carefully to the top of the gulch and their wounds attended to as fast as it was possible for the physicians to work. Every doctor in the city was called on for his services. The Fanny Paddock and St. Joseph Hospitals were soon crowded with patients. Hacks, express wagons, and all sorts of conveyances were pressed into service, and the dead wagon made journey after journey. Boys and girls, men and women, were its freight. The morgues of the various undertaking rooms were scarcely large enough to hold all. Excited men and women and children besieged the morgues searching for missing friends.
The car which carried its human freight into a deep ravine instead of to the city was No. 116 of the United Traction Company's cars, and was on the Edison line. It left Edison at about 8 o'clock in charge of P. L. BOEHM, motorman, and J. D.
CALHOUN, conductor. The car was crowded to the doors. Every inch of space on the platforms was taken, and men hung on to the railings.
Everything went smoothly until the car reached the hill, just beyond Tacoma Avenue. From this point the stories differ. One is that the motorman, after starting down the hill, turned on his current instead of shutting it off and when the car had gained such a momentum as to threaten to get away from him, he turned off the current, but it was then too late for the car was going at lightning speed, and there was nothing to bring it to a standstill on the steep incline.

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