Wasatch, CA Train Collision, Oct 1869



[From the San Francisco Times, Oct. 31.]
In the despatches to the Associated Press of Wednesday was an obscure item from Wasatch, stating that an accident had occurred and three passengers were killed, one of them named JOHN TUSTIN, of Petaluma. Had the accident taken place on the Erie Railroad, in New York, or on the New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain, we should have been supplied with the horrible details, the telescoping of the cars, the recklessness of the superintendent, who had neglected to repair a switch reported three days as defective, and the carelessness of the engineer of one of the colliding trains, who received the danger signal a full mile from the point where he rushed into a wrecked train loaded with passengers. Our contemporaries would have commented upon the enormity of permitting roads to be demoralized by speculators like Vanderbilt and James Fisk, Jr., and perhaps would even offer useful suggestions, based upon the observations of European travel, as to the importance of "sounding the wheels" at the end of every twenty-mile section. For ourselves, we have refrained from comment until we could receive details of the sad affair, and then show clearly where the blame lay.

A Palace Train Off The Track.
The train which left Omaha at ten A.M. Monday consisted of two baggage cars, two passenger cars and two Pullman palace cars, made up in the order in which we have mentioned them, the baggage cars in front and the Pullmans in the rear of the train. At a point one and one-half miles this side of Evanston, coming towards Wasatch (distance eight and a half miles), the forward wheels of the engine were thrown off the track by a defective switch, which had been reported three days previously to the division superintendent as out of order, and which had not been repaired. A despatch was immediately sent back to Evanston for a spare engine to come and haul the cars on the track. The engine came down, made fast to the rear end of the rearmost Pullman car and hauled the train with its engine up on the track. She then cast off and moved back some three yards from the cars, where she stood, when the emigrant train came thundering down, striking her and driving her into the motionless train ahead.

The Warning.
This emigrant train was running on her regular schedule time, a half hour behind the first train. When the accident occurred the conductor of the wrecked train sent back a brakeman with a red flag to a point a full half mile distant, and where he could be seen at least half a mile off by the engineer of the approaching train. The brakeman says that he waved the flag for danger, but the approaching train took no notice of it and rushed past him at the rate of twenty miles an hour. This fact is not denied by the engineer of the emigrant train, but he says that he whistled down his brakes and the men did not put them down. It is merely absurd to say that an engineer cannot get his brakes put down during the minute and a half that he is running a half mile. As he passed the signal man yelled to him to reverse his engine, and he did so. But he was too late. Three minutes afterward he smashed into the detached engine, and a crowd of wounded, dying and dead were crushed amidst the wreck of both trains.

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