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Researched and contributed by Sharleen Wurm

A disastrous wreck occurred Friday morning, September 23, 1910, during a terrific thunderstorm, taking the lives of sixteen passengers, including one woman and a little seven-year-old girl. 

According to Norton A. Turner, editor at that time of the Colby Tribune and a passenger of the Rock Island westbound train No. 27 the wreck occurred at about 2 a.m. between Clayton and Dellvale.  In charge of the train that consisted of four Pullmans, two chair coaches, a smoker, a baggage car and mail car was Conductor Sid Hubbard with Engineer Pickenpaugh and Fireman Mills on the engine.  The ill-fated train pulled out from Norton in the storm with about one hundred passengers aboard. 

The WRECK as seen and described by Norton A. Turner, one of the passengers:  "We left Norton 1 hour and 50 minutes late.  It was raining quite hard and the conductor made some mention of soft track west of Jennings, but had no slow orders for anything between Clayton and Dellvale.  At a point about one half mile west of where the track crosses the Prairie Dog is a heavy fill across the mouth of a draw.  A cloud burst had just taken place at this point and the diverted channel made by the railroad grade, which was supposed to carry off the water, proved insufficient at this time and the fill was washed out.  The track was pushed off the grade for a distance of about 50 yards by the current of water.  It was in this washout that the train plunged, running at full speed.  The fact that a heavy steel safe was thrown 40 feet and embedded in the ground and trunks from the baggage car were hurled 100 feet in advance of the wreck indicates that the train must have been running rapidly.  When the train hit the ditch the engine literally jumped to the opposite side and was buried above the trunks; the tender leaped over the top of the engine; the mail car pitched diagonally to the southwest, almost clear of the wreck, and the car was not very badly crushed; the baggage car was absolutely made into kindling wood; next to this came the smoker, which fared almost as bad.  The chair car, in which the writer was riding, was telescoped by the smoker.   The smoker roof and south wall crashed through the chair car almost full length, while the north wall of the smoker stood parallel to the north wall of the chair car with about 2 feet of distance between.  The floor of the smoker slipped under the floor of the chair car, almost full length.  All the fatalities and serious injuries resulted in these cars, except to the engine crew.  The second chair car was only crushed at the ends and the sleepers remained on track."

The front-page article from the Goodland Republic dated Friday, September 30, 1910 reports: "To the coolness and quick wit of the engineer, Pickenpaugh, who lost his life, is attributed the saving of the lives of those who escaped, numbering a hundred or more. It is certain that he could have jumped and saved himself but he remained at his post and did everything possible to prevent the train running into the ditch. Examination of the engine and air brakes showed that he had reversed the lever and set the air in an effort to check the flight of the train. His body was found beside the wrecked locomotive, and the body of Fireman Mills was taken from beneath the tender of the engine. Both men were frightfully disfigured, especially Fireman Mills, and certainly both died instantly before the swollen waters could possibly effect their drowning. Conductor Usher, who was dead-heading to Goodland, was taken from the smoker. He was not much lacerated, having a mark on his chest and a cut on the head, but was crushed in the wrecking of the smoking car."

The Topeka ball team was on board that night in a Pullman, on their way to play a series of four games with Denver. Dr. E.F. Stofer, third baseman for the baseball team and who practiced medicine in Kansas City in the winter, was the only physician on the train. He was there without surgical instruments, but his skill and training were very manifest in the manner he directed the work of rescue performed by his athletic companions who never strained after a ball more strenuously than they did after the helpless victims in flood or debris. 

He had the sufferers so well arranged in the Pullman berths, or wherever stretching space was available, that when the surgeons arrived he took them to the very men most suffering for their skill, never once missing in his classification of injury. He told the following story of his experiences:  "There could not have been a worse night for such a disaster, nor a worse place. We were three miles and a half from any town and it was almost impossible to get around the wrecked train on account of the volume of water that was rushing down the stream and surrounding the coaches on all sides. I am sure that several of the passengers were drowned, as I saw several bodies with no signs of injury upon them.

As I came to the door of our car after the crash, I saw a woman lying in the water twenty-five feet away. We rescued her body, but she was dead. Later we found her husband dead 100 yards down the stream. I learned later that the bodies were those of Mr. and Mrs. Myers.

One big foreigner ran up and down the aisle of a car raving frantically. He had a big gash in his head and a sliver had been driven through the fleshy part of his thigh.  It took four of us to overpower him and force him into a berth. In twenty minutes he was dead, and I found that his skull had been fractured.

I think John Sloop was the pluckiest man I ever saw. He was pinned under the car with one leg mashed to a pulp and the other crushed under heavy timbers, but he never lost his nerve. He kept calling to us: "Do you think you can get me out boys? I am alright if you can get me out."   It was four hours before we could release him, and he died on the way to Norton.

I used towels, sheets and anything I could get hold of for bandages. The colored porter and the conductor of the train did noble work, and Walsh, Agnew and Riley of our team worked incessantly.

Many of the passengers and some of our team who started into help could not bear to witness the suffering, and some of them fainted. It was six hours after the accident before the first relief train came, and I hope I will never put in another such six hours."


Frank Pickenpaugh, Goodland, Kansas---Engineer-Body mangled
William Mills, Goodland, Kansas---Fireman---Body mangled
A.V. Huffman, Kansas City--Baggageman---Body totally crushed
J.W. Usher, Denver, Colorado---Conductor---Body crushed
Herman Mueller, Kensington, Kansas---Passenger---Skull fractured
H. D. McIntyre, Rexford, Kansas---Passenger---
O.E. Jacoby, Woodruff, Kansas---Passenger---
W.E. Shively, Agra, Kansas---Passenger---
John Sloop, Boyle, Kansas---Passenger---Legs mashed
Gilbert H. Iiams, Fullerton, Kansas---Passenger---
A. Myers, Riverton, Illinois---Passenger---Drowned
Mrs. A. Myers, Riverton, Illinois---Passenger---Drowned
B.H Moyer, Defiance, Ohio---Passenger---
Sallie Zeigler, Stratton, Colorado---Passenger---Seven year old---Drowned
W.J. Bowers, Rexford, Kansas---Passenger---
G.H. James, St. Edwards, Nebraska---Passenger---Body crushed
Unidentified---Body severed in two

If anyone has addition information about those who died or are related and have a web page that you would like to link to these people feel free to email me.  Much was written in newspapers at that time about the wreck. My main sources for this article were taken from the Phillipsburg News Dispatch, September 29, 1910, The Norton Courier, September 29, 1910 and October 6, 1910, and The Goodland Republic, September 30, 1910.

İMarch 2001  Ardie Grimes
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