Ashtabula, OH Train Wreck, Dec 1912 - Covered by Coal


Three Additional Bodies Found In Debris of Wreck at Ashtabula


Many Others Are Hurt When Lake Shore Freight Hits Street Car

Ashtabula, O., Dec 17. When tons of coal was removed from the wreckage of a streetcar hit last night by a Lake Shore coal train, two more bodies were recovered, increasing the death list to eight. At the inquest James Hoolihan, tower man, was asked to explain why the gates were not lowered. Hoolihan and Conductor Thomas Mullen charged that Motorman James McCutcheon ignored their signals to stop the car. McCutcheon is in jail. He insists that the conductor gave him the signal to cross the track before he himself saw the train.

The eight victim was recovered when the car was lifted from the railroad track. She was Mrs. Rose Thompson of Ashtabula. Four other passengers were injured and one other, a woman jumped to safety from the platform.

Motorman McCutcheon gave the following as his version of the wreck: Conductor Mullen went ahead. The gates were not down. He gave me the signal to come ahead. Then after I had got under way he saw the train coming and called to me to stop but it was too late.

"I saw I couldn't stop the car without stopping it directly in the track on which the train was coming. The only thing to do was to go ahead and try to get the car across. This I tried to do.

"The gates not being down, there was nothing to warn me until Mullen yelled to stop. The train must have been running about 40 miles an hour." The train was northbound on a branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern.

The Ashtabula police and fire departments with the wrecking crews of the Lake Shore and the city transportation company worked for hours trying to find bodies under the wreckage. The streetcar, struck amidships was smashed to splinters.

Conductor Tom Mullen, who was on the back platform, was thrown ten feet, but landed in the dirt beside the track and escaped injury. Motorman James McCutcheon jumped from the front platform of the car just as the train struck and he, too, was uninjured.

The engineer of the freight train, D. E. O'Connor, evidently had the brakes set at emergency in the attempt to avoid the streetcar as the train buckled in the middle and the cars piled up on one another and on top of the debris of the streetcar, making the work of rescue difficult.

On Christmas day, 1908 a grade crossing wreck occurred here on the Lake Shore where a tunnel now permits street cars to go under the railroad track and one person was killed at that time. The list of dead includes Laura Leaphart, Ashtabula: Mrs. Frank C. Bartlett, Ashtabula; Mrs. W. H. Cook, Ashtabula: Mrs. George Kitson, Ashtabula: Mrs. John P Espy, wife of traffic manager of Cleveland Painesville & Ashtabula Railway. Willoughmaking the work of rescue difficult. Leaphart, Ashtabula; Mrs. Frank C. Bartlett, Mr. & Mrs. David Stowe, the former a wealthy hardware merchant of Ashtabula and Mrs. Rose Thompson, Ashtabula.

The injured include: Ralph Chubb, Ashtabula, leg broken; Mrs. Alfred M. Steward, Ashtabula, bruised; Velna Bartlett, 7, daughter of Mrs. Bartlett, head injured; Mrs. C. P. Hendershot, Ashtabula, face and head cut; W. P. Guthrie, Erie, Pa. freight brakeman, cut and bruised.

Sandusky Star Journal, Sandusky, OH 17 Dec 1912