Columbus, GA Carnival Train In HeadOn Collision, Nov 1915



Central Passenger Train From Columbus, Bound for Macon, Collides With Extra 1716, Westbound, Carrying Twenty-Eight Cars of the CON KENNEDY Shows to Columbus.

KEMPFS Die Of Burns, But Parents Heroism Gives Life To Child.

Passengers and Show People Work Desperately, But in Vain, to Save Proprietors of the "Model City." -- Bodies Buried Under Flaming Cars -- Animals Perish in Blaze.

24 Believed Dead.
Columbus, Ga., November 22 -- (Special) -- According to a statement given out late tonight by CON KENNEDY, manager of the KENNEDY shows, at least twenty-four lives were lost in the crash. He believes the death loss will exceed even this figure. He stated that he would have all the managers of the attractions check up Tuesday morning, and not till then would the number be definitely known.

The KENNEDY shows played in Atlanta during 'Harvest Festival' week and did the second largest business in the history of this attraction. The shows were located on the streets near the center of the city. WILLIAM MONELY, official representative, left at midnight Sunday for Albany to prepare for the opening of the show there, the week after next, while the KENNEDY train pulled out of Atlanta early Monday morning.

Columbus, Ga., November 22 -- The bodies of six persons have been recovered, and nearly forty other persons are in hospitals in Columbus tonight as a result of a head-on collision between a passenger train on the Central of Georgia and a special train carrying the CON T. KENNEDY Carnival shows, six miles west of here this afternoon. Show officials believe the death list will exceed twenty-four victims.
FRED S. KEMPF and his wife were burned to death while show people looked helplessly on. Their 4-year-old child was saved through the heroism of her mother alone.

Flames were licking at one of the palatial automobile trucks of the KEMPFS, which was on a flat car and in which the KEMPFS were imprisoned. MRS. KEMPF, seeing that there was no chance to escape hurled her child through a window, clear of the train. Then the mother fell back and was burned alive a minute later.
The child was badly injured but Columbus people who picked up the little girl and rushed her to a hospital say the little girl will live.


There has been much confusion at the scene of the wreck, which is six and a half miles east of Columbus, and it will be morning before the carnival company can complete its check to ascertain the number of missing.

List Of Causalities.
The known dead:
FRED S. KEMPF, of Kansas City.
A KENNEDY showman known only as "WHITEY."
O. H. HAWKINS, Peoria, Ill.
________ JOHNSON, GEORGE CHADWICK, all of carnival company.

Partial list of injured:
Engineer J. L. FLICKLING, gash of throat and fatally injured.
Engineer W. R. BITTICK, cut on mouth and hurt on breast, serious.
Conductor J. W. REICHERT, wrenched back and neck injured.
Both firemen injured, not seriously.
Train crews from Macon.
HAZEL KEMPF, Kansas City, bruised.
E. A. KEMPF, lacerations and injured internally.
G. W. BAXLEY, showman, St. Paul, leg broken and internal injuries.
TOM O'ROURKE, St. Louis, back injured.
J. B. WHITTLE, news agent, of Columbus, cut.
MISS ELLA MAY NORRIS, Columbus, bruised.
DR. W. MARSHALL, Cincinnati, sprained wrist.
J. G. BALL, Columbus, back wrenched and cut.

Passenger Train Crew Blamed.
Railroad officials here, where all of the reports of the wreck are coming in, blame the crew of the passenger train for failure to obey orders.

The passenger crew had orders to stop at Muscogee, four miles east of Columbus, and wait for the special show train. They failed to stop. The railroad officials emphasize the fact that the crash occurred on a straight stretch of track. The passenger coaches were of steel construction, three in number.

Both trains were running about 30 miles an hour.

The engines of both trains were demolished, yet did not leave the rails.

Cars at the head end of the show train were telescoped. There were two carloads of animals. Most of the animals were burned alive.

Twelve Pullman cars, carrying the principal people in the KENNEDY shows, were not damaged, as they were at the rear end of the special train.

The show was on its way from Atlanta to Phenix City, Ala., and was booked to the first of the year at points in Southern Georgia and Florida.

Miraculous Escape.
Members of the engine crews of both trains escaped death only by the narrowest margin. Both train crews leaped from their cabs as they saw impending disaster.
Engineer FICKLING, of the passenger train, was covered with a mass of debris from the demolished train, and sustained serious injury about the face and head.

Engineer BITTICK also in jumping from his engine received heavy pieces of debris on his body and is perhaps internally injured. The moguls pulling the trains were a complete wreck.

The engine of the passenger train passed through the boiler of the show train special while the tender telescoped itself under the cab of the engine. All connections of both trains were torn off and the show train engine stands a mute witness of the shock that it sustained.

Following the wreck, fire from the show train engine was communicated to the carnival cars to its rear, and in less than two hours ten floats were totally destroyed by the consuming flames. In this section of the train was the exhibit of FRED S. KEMPF and wife, and they were caught in their sleeping compartment and burned to death before assistance could be extended them. Both were pinned to the room and it was only by sheer good fortune that they were able to pass their little baby girl out to friends who were working with the speed of demons to extricate the unfortunate parents.

People Were Asleep.
From ten to twenty attaches of the carnival company were likewise riding in the ten-car section which was destroyed, sleeping compartments being arranged in the various fronts for this purpose. The people were for the most part asleep and not less than twelve are believed to be piled under the burned debris. Only after a careful inspection will it be determined just how many were killed. Hardly a single persons on the show train or that part of it well forward toward the engine who did not receive painful injury.

Alarm Sent to Columbus.
An employee on the passenger train ran back up the track about a quarter of a mile and gave the first news to Columbus. Immediately a special train was dispatched to the scene, bearing every physician that could be found, and a call was sent for more. Another special left half an hour later with these men.


DR. W. F. WHITEHEAD, who happened to be hunting near heard the collision and was the first physician on the scene and he set about at once doing what he could. Other physicians began coming on special trains and in automobiles and the injured were taken to one side and loaded on the baggage car of the passenger train and rushed back to Columbus and taken to a side track near the city hospital, where other physicians were in waiting.

KENNEDY First On Ground.
CON T. KENNEDY, owner of the shows, traveling in the rearward coaches was among the first on the ground to give his attention to assisting his people. He it was, when the show train was fired that gave direction for cutting the cars loose and rolling them back up the track.

KENNEDY, a strong man, flushed with the pride of success that has been accorded his attractions, is one of the hardest hit by the catastrophe. Not only from a financial reason, but because of the loss of life and suffering of those who have weathered the show season with him.

KENNEDY stated at 3 o'clock that he had no idea as to the damage that had been done his train. Likewise he did not know the extent of death and injury that had visited the ranks of his employees.

The show people generally knew in a few minutes of the death of MR. and MRS. KEMPF and few there were who did not shed tears of real grief at their untimely end. That there were others under the burning section of the train was the stressed implication of all those who were in reach.

"I saw those poor fellows pinned in their sleeping wagons and they could not get out," was a phrase heard on all sides.

Central Superintendent's Statement.
Superintendent R. J. HARLAN, who is at the scene of the wreck, reported late tonight that the death list probably would be between nine and twelve. He said he based this report on the claims of CON T. KENNEDY, owner of the shows.

MR. HARLAN also officially fixed the blame for the disaster on the crew of the passenger train.

"The crew disobeyed orders," said MR. HARLAN. "They had orders to stop at Muscogee and wait for the show train."

It was stated at the Columbus hospital at a late hour that none of the injured were expected to die during the night.

Wreckage Still Burning.
Some of the trainmen are to be brought here tomorrow. The wreckage was still burning at a late hour tonight and the track will not be cleared for several hours.
Besides the engineer and conductor of the passenger train there were few injured on the regular passenger train. WHITTLE and MISS MORRIS, who appear in the list of injured, were on the passenger train.

The only other passenger reported hurt was DR. W. MARSHALL, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who has a broken wrist.

KENNEDY May Close Show.
KENNEDY stated that his train had come nearly to a stop when the crash came. When the collision occurred he and every member of the company in the Pullmans piled out, he said, and then as fire started they got four big draft horses that had been shot from the cars when the train was telescoped and hitched these onto the rear end of the train, pulling the sleepers and several other cars away from those that were burning. The whole train would have been destroyed if he had not done so.
KENNEDY stated at midnight that he had lost so much property in the wreck that he probably would be forced to close the show for this season.

R. M. HARLAND, superintendent of the Macon division, on the scene of the wreck tonight, stated that to the best of his knowledge the fault of the wreck lay at the door of the engineer of the passenger train from Columbus. The train had been ordered to remain at Muscogee Junction until 1:35 o'clock and the wreck occurred 2 miles the other side of the junction at 1:26 o'clock. He said that it was just one of those mixups, when a man forgets and that when the fast freight passed the orders must have been misread and the engineer pulled out. HARLAND is here with W. H. FELNER, master mechanic.

H. R. FRIERSON, train master, and three claim agents are making a thorough investigation.

The Atlanta Constitution Georgia 1915-11-23