McCann's Crossing, PA Circus Train Wrecked by Broken Axle, May 1893




The Cars Went Down a Steep Grade and Over an Embankment.


Fifty Horses Were Killed Outright, and Others Were so Injured that They Will Have to be Killed -- The Elephants and Camels Safe -- Many Animals Escaped to the Woods -- A Tiger Made for a Farmhouse and Killed a Cow, Being in Turn Killed by the Farmer -- Scenes About the Wreck.

Altoona, Penn., May 30. -- The most complete railroad wreck that has occurred in this section for many years took place this morning at a place known as McCann's Crossing, on the Tyrone and Clearfield Railway, about three miles from Tyrone, a station on the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, fourteen miles from Altoona.
The accident occurred at 5:30 o'clock and owing to it the circus and Wild West show of WALTER H. MANN was almost wiped out of existence. The circus train, composed of fourteen cars and one engine, was coming down the steep grade of the road, and when at McCann's Crossing, where there is a sharp reverse curve, an axle broke under one of the front cars, throwing fourteen cars off the rails and down a thirty-foot embankment.
Immediately there was a scene of wildest confusion. Groans and cries of distress came from those who were in the wreck, and with those were mingled the roars of the animals, who, maddened by fear and pain, leaped frantically against the bars of their cages, and in many instances succeeded in escaping and making their way to the adjoining woods.
The result of the accident was simply awful, and the scene that ensued was a terrible and heartrending one. Seven occupants of the cars were instantly killed, and nineteen others were more or less seriously injured. Six of the killed were showmen, one the Treasurer of the company, and the seventh was a railroad brakeman whose home was in Tyrone.
Directly after the accident, word was sent to the headquarters of the division at Tyrone, and a relief train was at once made up and sent to the scene, all the physicians of the town being hurriedly called into service, and taken to the relief of the wounded.
Arriving on the ground, relief was soon given to those who had sustained injuries, and all the dead bodies in sight were gathered up and sent into Tyrone to be prepared for burial and await an inquest to be held by County Coroner MICHAEL POET.
A little later the wounded were placed on a special train and brought to this city. Five of these, after having received proper attention here, were able to leave for the East at noon, but the remainder are still here.

FRANK TRAIN, Treasurer and ticket seller of the company, Indianapolis, Ind.
J. STRAYER, Houtzdale, Penn.
WILLIAM MUTTERLY, East Liberty, Penn.
And Two Men not yet Identified.

The injured at the Altoona Hospital are as follows:
WILLIS OBANNAN, Chambersburg, Pa., aged thirty; wounds of scalp and face.
DAVID JONES, Harrisburg, Penn., aged thirty-three; sprain of right thigh.
FRANK MORSE, Rochester, N. Y., aged eighteen; eyebrow and scalp wounds.
WILLIAM EVANS, Williamstown, Penn., aged fifteen; laceration of right ankle and probable internal injury; condition critical.
WILLIAM E. PATCHELL, Dubois, Penn., aged twenty; contusion of left knee.
JAMES WILLIAM HANEY, Atherton, West Moreland County, Penn., aged twenty-seven; contusion of right shoulder and scalp wounds, right ear nearly torn off.
LOUIE CHAMPAIGN, Rochester, N. Y.; fatal internal injuries, unconscious.
It was two hours before FRANK TRAIN could be reached. He was riding in the ticket wagon and was buried underneath a pile of debris many feet high. He was conscious all the time. Several times he urged on his rescuers saying: "Hurry up, boys, if you'r going to do anything for me, or I'll die."
The last timber was just removed from his body when he breathed his last. He was a prominent member of several secret societies among the being the Knights of Pythias, Freemasons, Redmen, and Elks.
WILLIAM HENERTY, a brakeman, of Tyrone was killed instantly. His head was crushed to a pulp. He was aged thirty-three years, was married, and the father of three children, the oldest of them six years.
J. STRAYER, who was also killed, only joined the show last night, and was making his first trip with it.

The smash-up was simply awful. Of most of the cars nothing is left but firewood and old iron. The flats were new, having been built in Youngstown, Ohio, only last year.
The destruction to stock was enormous, but the loss of human lives is still more awful. The "man-slaying" ape, the most dangerous animal of the whole lot, was luckily taken alive, and was safely caged.
Strange to say, the elephants and camels, the heaviest animals of the lost, were not injured in the least, and were apparently enjoying themselves as if nothing had happened.
In one place not 20 feet square lay the bodies of eight horses and a trick pony and its young foal. In another were five horses, and close by was a crushed box car, with an inextricable mass of horses, harness, and timber impossible to picture. All were dead, and their positions showed that some, at least, had struggled hard for a short time. Others had not moved. The cars had caught them fairly, and, as one of the hostlers said,l pointing out one horse. "Poor Chicago; he never knew what struck him." Scattered over the field were the bodies of other horses that had staggered away with broken limbs and internal injuries, and had been shot to put them out of their misery.
Three lions escaped. One was quickly caught and caged. Another was lassoed and tied to a tree by a colored attendant of the show, but a third is still at large, although there is no fear of his escape, as he is the quietest of the three.
Two tigers belonged to the show, and both got away. One was caged safely, but the other met his fate at the hands of ALFRED THOMAS, a native of McCann's Crossing. MR. THOMAS is a farmer, and his wife was attending to the milking of the cows at about 6 o'clock this morning, when the tiger leaped into the yard, and, seizing one of the cows, killed it. MRS. THOMAS went into the house and alarmed MR. THOMAS, who got his rifle and killed the tiger.
A bear, a hyena, a savage water Buffalo, the alligators, and a lot of valuable snakes which were in a glass case, also escaped, but all of them were captured in the bushes surrounding the scene of the accident. One was apt to come on to a bear tied to a tree, a hyena, or some other fierce animal. In all sixteen cages containing wild animals were crushed, and the animals escaped, but were captured with but few exceptions. All the vehicles, chariots, show wagons, &c., to the number of twenty-five, were utterly destroyed.
MR. MAINS was asked about his insurance, but said he could not make any estimate of his loss or insurance as yet. Two hundred thousand dollars is placed by many as a low figure.
A valuable new calliope was also utterly smashed up. The only animals killed, beside the horses, were two sacred oxen, both of which were so terribly injured that they had to be shot to put them out of their misery.
Around the wreck, among the trees, tents were pitched as quickly as possible, and the wounded horses were stabled in them and their wounds dressed. Not one of them escaped uninjured.
By dinner time supplies were being brought to the spot and cooking was proceeded with. Everything was sent that was possible from Tyrone. Thousands of sandwiches were cut at the Ward House and sent to the scene.
At noon all Tyrone was out there, and not a buggy was to be had anywhere. Along the road to Vail there was one long string of vehicles, carrying sightseers, who came back loaded with relics of the wreck. There was no Decoration Day in Tyrone this year.
In any wreck such as this there are always some narrow escapes to report. The most marvelous piece of luck was that which attended E. C. WHITE of the show company. On Sunday last FRANK TRAIN, the treasurer, who was killed, quit the show and handed over to MR. WHITE all the accounts, tickets, and money. MR. MAINS and MR. TRAIN, who had been with the company several years, talked the matter over yesterday, and MR. TRAIN decided to stay on as Treasurer. In consequence of that arrangement he, and not MR. WHITE, was sleeping last night in the ticket wagon and was killed.
The real facts as to the cause of the wreck will probably be ascertained at the inquest. It appears to be the general impression that such a heavy train should have had at least two engines attached to it. The cars were sixty-five feet long, solidly built, and very heavy.

The New York Times New York 1893-05-31