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Catlin History Online

1908 Train Wreck

Newspaper clipping from The Commercial-News, Danville, Illinois, 3 April 1908, page 1, column 1.


Three Cars of the Conti-
nental Limited Coming
East Are Turned Over



Train Was Going Fifty Miles an Hour
When the Accident

Continental Limited, No. 4, the Wabash's crack eastbound fast train due in Danville at 1:08 o'clock, was wrecked at Catlin Friday afternoon, every car in the train leaving the track and all but the diner, which was in the rear, going in the ditch.

No one was killed although all of the passengers were badly shaken up, and a few of them sustained painful bruises. That no one was killed is a miracle, as the train was running at the rate of about fifty miles an hour and at the point where the cars left the track there is a considerable grade.

The accident was caused by the [spr]eading of the rails, workmen hav[ing] during the forenoon just put in a [ne]w rail, which had possibly not been [prop]erly spiked down.

But five persons were badly hurt. They were:

A. H. Stockland, Stuttgart, Ark., U. S. d[ep]uty marshal, arm badly sprained [ ]shoulder bruised.

[Jay G.] English, Danville, mail clerk; [ ]b sprained and ankles bruised.

[ ]ert A. White, colored, second cook on diner, Sanwich, Ont.; lips cut and artery in left wrist severed by broken glass.

Mrs. H. Dell Hornell, New York, leg badly bruised.

L. R. Johnson, colored, 2616 Walnut street, St. Louis; right hand and fingers cut. Bad hurt below left knee.

Result is Miraculous

The accident was a most peculiar one and how the passengers escaped without a score or more being killed outright is a mystery. The train left the track at the point where the new rail had been put in about 700 feet east of the Catlin station and ran on the ties for possibly 300 feet before the cars turned over. The engine did not leave the track. The rear trucks of the tender went on the ties, while the mail coach, immediately following, turned over on its side. The combination baggage car and smoker broke in two and turned over, landing in the ditch at a point where a telegraph pole was standing in such a manner that the pole is apparently sticking up through the car.

The day coach, which was crowded with passengers, among whom were many women and children, also turned over on its side in the ditch, but was not badly wrecked, which accounts for the fact that no one was killed or severely hurt. The car landed in the ditch in such a position, however, that it was impossible for any one of the imprisoned passengers to escape until the windows had been broken or cut out. The first car following the day coach was the Pullman sleeper, and it also turned over, but there were no passengers in it. The diner, the last car of the train, left the rails but did not go in the ditch.

Many Wild Rumors.

Immediately after the wreck occurred many wild rumors were in circulation and the entire population of Catlin was on the scene in a few minutes, and many of the men rendered valuable assistance in rescuing the passengers imprisoned in the overturned cars. Physicians were also soon on the ground and rendered what aid was necessary to those who had been hurt. The first news of the wreck to reach Danville was to the effect that not only had the entire train gone into the ditch but that a score or more of people had been killed and as many more had been more or less injured, and many people from here caught the first interurban cars for the scene of the wreck.

A Passenger's Story.

Rev. Whitlock, presiding elder of the Springfield circuit of the Methodist church, was a passenger on the train, being enroute from the capital city to Danville. He was sitting in the day coach and to The Commercial-News stated that he felt the jar when the train left the track and realized that the car was running on the ties. The car was crowded, a lady with her three small children occupying a seat on the opposite side of the aisle from him. Every passenger in the car realized at once that something was wrong, but before they could move the car turned over on its side, the occupants of the car being thrown under seats and in the aisle, everything being in the utmost confusion. Rev. Whitlock stated that his first thought was for the little children, the smallest one of whom had been playing in the aisle on the floor of the car at the instant. The mother had been thrown on the floor with the other two children while the little one was found jammed under the seat but apparently not hurt in the least.

Car Windows Broken Out.

The imprisoned passengers immediately began to break out the windows, being assisted in their efforts by the people on the outside who had rushed to the scene and soon all had been taken from the overturned car. Outside all were in such a state of excitement and confusion that it was [so]me time before any one could tell [wh]at had really happened or give an [ac]count of themselves as to whether [or] not they had been hurt in any way. [T]hose who were hurt were given immediate attention and the railroad men [an]d train crew set about taking care of the effects of the passengers as they [we]re recovered from the cars.

The Train Crew.

[T]he train was pulled by engine No. [?] the same that was pulling the train a few weeks ago when the

page 2, column 5

mail and baggage cars went into the ditch at Tilton. The engine was in charge of Engineman J. Crum of Peru and Fireman J. L Da[l]vern of Peru and Conductor C. W. Selwell and Brakeman J. W. Shawcross, both of Danville. The conductor and brakeman were standing in the vestibule of the day coach at the time, and when they saw that the car was going in the ditch they attempted to get the vestibule door open so as to jump, but were unable to do and went over with the car. Neither one was hurt.

The engineman and fireman stuck to their places in the car.

New Cement Culvert.

The cars went in the ditch at Paris street, and at this point a new cement culvert had been put in, the mail coach turning crossways over this bridge and on its side. The combination baggage and smoking car went over on the west side of the track followed by the day coach. While it was at first thought that the wreck had been caused by the spreading of the rails it was found on a further examination to have been wholly caused by the new rail that had been put in, the rail showing that it had been improperly placed, it being cut and ground almost to pieces where the wheels of the train had struck it. A short time before another train, a local passenger, had passed safely over the rail, but it was running very slowly and the faulty rail had held. However when the fast train struck it going at the rate of fifty miles an hour the rail failed to withstand the strain and turned.

C. & E. I. "Jumbo" Out.

As soon as possible after the wreck the C. & E. I. "Jumbo" was called out and sent to the scene and the work of clearing up the wreck was begun. The tender to the engine was replaced on the track and another train made up, the passengers being sent on their eastward journey in the special train.

Picture of train wreckage
Map of wreck
Newspaper photo
Catlin depot
C&EI Jumbo

Newspaper item from The Commercial-News, Danville, Illinois, 7 April 1908, page 2, column 2:

Engineer John Crum, who was in the wreck of the Continental limited at Catlin last Friday, has resumed his run between Decatur and Peru.

Catlin Historical Society
210 North Paris
Catlin, Illinois 61817