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Big Four Wreck

recks & Accidents.

Close-Up of Big Four wreck

A Big Four wreck in the early 20th century occurred near Forest when a load of ore cars upset. The cars were probably from the Herzog quarry which was located at the McVitty stop south of Patterson.

Below is a close up view of the wreck. Some individuals might be recognizable. If you do recognize someone, please contact the Society using the Society link above so we can put names to these individuals. We would also like to know the date and location of the wreck. In the full-size photograph a building is just visible at the left so the train was probably north of Forest. The date of the photograph is unknown but the individual on the far left is dressed in what appears to be pre-1920 clothing.

Benjamin Burnett


  Freight Wreck Occurs on the Pennsy Near Forest. Wreck Crews were Called from Crestline and Ft. Wayne.

  Two West Bound and Three East Bound Passenger Trains Detoured Around the Scene of the Accident. The first wreck of any consequence that has occurred of the Ft. Wayne Crestline division of the P. Ft. W. & C. railroad for several months befell an east bound freight train on that road early this morning at a point between the stations of Dunkirk and Forest. The train was running at a rapid rate of speed when a truck under one end of a box car broke and in an instant several cars were piled up in a confused mass of debries. The cars were badly wrecked and the track was so badly torn up and blocked that both the wreck crew from Ft. Wayne and the one from Crestline were hurried to the scene. Fortunately no one was injured in the wreck but the track was so badly blocked that traffic was considerably delated before the debris was cleared away by the wreck crews. East bound passenger trains Nos. 6, 18, & 36 were sent around the scene of the wreck via. Dunkirk, the T. & O. C., Kenton and the Big Four to Forest. West bound passenger trains Nos. 21 and 39 were transferred around the wreck over the same lines. The track was cleared by the wreck crews this afternoon.


  Engineer George Horn, formely of the C. & E., who recently applied for a position on the C.H. & D., has been tendered a position on the Hamilton and Indianapolis division of the road. As the L.E. & W. R.R. has been notified by the steel companies that they cannot furnish any more rails this fall, the imporvements intended will be delayed until next spring. The last Cedar Point excrusion of the season has been run over the L.E. & W. R.R.

On 29 Oct 1902, Hoadly Johnson stepped in front of a Pennsylvania Fast Train at Ada and was instantly killed. He had gone to Ada to visit friends and was walking down the Pennsylvania railroad tracks when he stepped from the south track to escape an east bound freight train and in so doing placed himself in from of the freight. His brother went to Ada to identify his body. On 7 Feb 1903 Jno. Naus had a narrow escape of being caught and killed by the east bound local backing on him. He was crossing the tracks south of the freight house with his hay bailer. William Pickett, one of the loacl draymen, while handling freight at the Big Four freight house on the 19th of October (same year) had the misfortune to severely injure his left hand. He had loaded a large roll of linoleum when a horse backed up causing the wagon he was loading to mash his hand between the linoleum and the brick wall of the freight house. He went immediately to a physician where it was found that a bone in his hand was broken.

A small wreck of a freight just west of Washington on 6 Jan 1904 stopped all traffic for awhile on the Pennsylvania. Two box cars were on the rails across both tracks. A wrecker went through Forest at 8:44, presumably to help with the wreck.

A band festival was held in the freight house on Tuesday evening, 29 Jul 1902. Net proceeds amounted to over $22 which was attributed to the residents of Patterson street. On 5 Feb 1903 both of Forest's railroad freight departments received an Elliott & Hatch book typewriter. Will Heffernan and others then engaged in mastering its secrets. The machine was one of the latest and largest sizes at the time and cost $180. In March, 1903 the freight departments of the Big Four and Pennsylvania lines were consolidated in commodions quarters in the west end of the freight house, and when painted up were most pleasant quarters, as they were light and airy. The freight warehouse also was undergoing some needed repairs at the time. A new crossing took the place of an old one near the freight depot on 9 May 1903 and in June the slate roof of the freight house was repaired. Damage had been done to the building some weeks prior due to a tremendous wind squall that wrought havoc in a around Forest. By 1903 the average journey of a ton of freight was 128 miles.

enjamin Burnett.

Benjamin was struck by a Pennsylvania train at Forest on March 13, 1904 as he was driving across their trackage in Forest.

Benjaman lived with his wife, Margret E. Burnett, in Mt. Blanchard village, Hancock county. They were born in Ohio in March, 1859 and February, 1864 respectively. They had a daughter, Lizzie M. Burnett, who was born in May, 1885. Burnett was a farmer.

One 13 Mar 1904 an accident occurred at the dangerous Gormly street crossing of the Pennsylvania line. Benjamin Burnett unfortunately having suffered two fractures of his arm in February which had not healed was crossing the Pennsylvania tracks. Seeing only one train and while upon the south track was hit squarely by an east-bound freight thundering along at high speed. In an instant the horse was pushed along at high speed striking the rig squarely. The horse was pushed and dragged a distance of nearly 100 feet. A section hand quickly put it out of its misery. On the north side of the track about 50 feet from the impact lay Mr. Burdett amid the wreckage of his buggy which was wrapped around him. The editor of the Forest Review was among those who helped in carrying Mr. Burdett to his home. Mr. Burdett suffered fractures to both bones of the right leg among other injuries.

In November, 1904 a wagon got out of control and was narrowly saved by the quick actions of Allen Liles when he sprang into action and with a tremendous jump landing on the runaway rig and grabbed up the lines stopping the animal pulling the rig. Both were within 100 feed of the railroad tracks where a freight was crossing at the time. No damage was done and Mr. Liles was commended for his activity.

C.S. Wilson and his daughter, Electra Wilson, were on their way home from a funeral at McGuffy 2 Dec 1904 and nearing the McVitty switch when a passenger, and shortly afterward a freight train passed. The weather was sleety and the glass in the storm curtain was hardly transparent. Mr. Wilson asked his daughter to open the curtain at one side that they may know exactly where they were. When she did so, they found that they were on the track and the a box car was backing swiftly toward them. Mr. Wilson gave the lines a violent pull and the horse backing suddenly barely missed being hit by the car. The horse at that moment became frightened and continued to back until the buggy reached the rickety fence separating the road from the limekiln quarry which was about thirty feet deep. Had the horse made one leap, all would have landed in a heap on the rocks below and instant death would have been certain.

Algernon Jack Tarlton, a barber, fell under a Big Four train 14 Feb 1905 a short distance north and suffered amputation of his left leg above the knee. Drs. Cook, Mundy, and Wolf and John Crum, M.S., did the amputation. Tarlton was going to Tiffin and was on the back platform, but changed his mind and attempted to get off between a passenger and a moving freight train. Shortly after the accident Tarlton made a statement alleging a Brakeman pushed him off the train because he would not go inside the coach. It was not know wether the freight or the passenger train ran over him. Harry McKean, conductor of the freight, and Jacob Hafer, got a buggy from town and took Tarlton to the doctor's office. He was later removed to the Kenton hospital with Dr. Wolf accompanying him.

Backed down upon by a freight train on the afternoon of 27 April 1906, with a speeder smashed and ground into bits, John Dickson, a local lampman, had a narrow escape from death. Dickson had been in the discharge of his duties and was moving west on his machine on the north track near the Forest City House. The butter and egg train was on the south track, also moving westerly, backing at a good rate of speed and was making a crossover, moving in behind Dickson. When the latter discovered the approaching caboose, it was too close to avoid, or to save the speeder. Dickson was sumarily summoned to Ft. Wayne 11 May 1906 by the mighty powers that doth hedge the railroad department bosses, and receive his conge. Mr. Dixon's successor, J.M. Young, of Ft. Wayne, arrived on the 17th with indications that Young would remain awhile. A new speeder had been furnished. Previously two lampmen's resignations were accepted on account of damages to their speeders. Some narrow escapes had been made by others riding speeders and it was looked upon as a red winged hoodoo to damage one.

On the 24th Misses Mallie Holmes and Williams had a narrow escape from the flyer. A long freight train had been going west with so much smoke that it hid entirely from view the flyer going east and not until they were on the track could they see it. They scarcely off the track when it passed.

A double headed freight train, going north, killed a two year old short horn bull belonging to W.L. Baker the week of 11 Nov 1906. Mr. Barker lived two and a half miles northeast of Forest and the animal would have been sold to the butcher soon after the incident. The entire Baker family had been absent from home and by some means the animal got out of its enclosure, went to the public road, crossed a cattle guard and onto the track of the railroad. After it was killed it became fastened in some way and was dragged 80 rods. It was necessary at the time to stop the train and haul the carcase from under the cars. When Mr. Barker heard of the incident he got appraisors and had the bull valued. He then sent the bill to the company for $40.

In December, 1906 relatives in Forest of L.A. Klingler, a brakeman on the Cleveland and Pittsburgh railroad had fallen from his train whie it was traveling at a 40 mile per hour rate. He had suffered terrible wounds to his head, being almost scalped.

The bob-tailed caboose of the Big Four switcher derailed at Lima street on the morning of 27 Jun 1907. It was blocked to make clear track for No. 39 on the Pennsylvania, and the caboose and three cars broke away. A freight train had been switching. A D rail did the rest and after about half an hour everything was back to normal.

On the nights of 17-18 Aug 1904 the Ladies of the M.E. church served supper at the freight house. A 15 year-old boy, Joseph Mullen, who had stolen a watch in Monroeville was captured on a freight by Conductor H.J. Greenlun ( 12 Aug 1904) and turned over to Chief Handchy for safe keeping until he could be returned to Monroeville. After stealing the watch the boy boarded an east bound freight and the chief of police wired the conductor.

After the earthquake which struck San Francisco, CA trains passed through Forest carring substance to the thousands who were suffering for the plain necessaries of life there. One train, of thirteen freight cars, at appalling speed, the first one carrying relief, passed through Forest on 20 April 1906 at about 11:00 o'clock in the morning, and the 21st at 11:26 a.m., another of the cars was whirled westward. At 1:52 p.m. the 21st, a train of five cars, running at a speed which gave the hearts of the populace who knew of the circumstance a most warm and generouss glow that the dire wants of the unfortunate would be supplied, passed west. That night three trains wen through bearing substance, and at 4:15 p.m. on the 22nd a train of about eleven cars went west at a high rate of speed; each car bearing a large sign that it was the Evening Telegram Relief Train for Frisco. A communication to Agent Smith from Division freight Agent Diefen??? of the Big Four road, and also from James C. Fargo, president of the American Express Company in New York stated that all clothing, sustenance and relief supplies for the San Francisco sufferers would be carried there free of charge if properly addressed to one of the relief organizations. Supplies of food which came rapidly from outside points were centralized in the freight sheds and warehouses still standing. San Francisco laid off districts covering areas of four blocks. Sub-committees in those districts regulated the supply of food furnished families living withing their boundaries.

In May, 1906 a young man living near Forest, jumped on a moving freight train at Heller's Crossing. As that was contrary to the state law, and the detectives of the Pennsylvania road being on the train at the time, he was arrested and when the train arrived in Forest he was brought before Mayor Schott, plead guilty and was giving the minimum of the law, which was $1 and cost amounting to $2.20 which he paid and was discharged from custody. The name of the individual involved at the time was known but withheld by request.

Freight Agent W.R. Smith, at the local office tendered his resignation to the companies which took effect on 1 Jul 1906. It was not known who would be appointed in his stead. he was been in the position for only a few months and had not stated his intentions as to his future.

In November, 1906 Ralph Cline and Wm. Hafer accepted positions with the Big Four railroad in the freight house at Middletown, OH.

Electric Railway
& Light Company

In the spring of 1906 a number of earnest gentlemen, all strangers then to Forest, arrived and stated in the presence of it best business men and city officials their desire to construct an electric railway between Findlay and Marion, placing Forest on the line. It was considered to be a genuine and solid boom, stimulating growth and progress. No brass band accompanyied the railway party. They simply stated what they hoped to do and set to their work methodically and with a business air. The franchise was to place the rails along Forest's main streeet. The late Mayor Waltermire, then in office, became very enthusiastic and practically guaranteed a resonable and fair legal permission. Businessmen and citizens were not slow in saying a good word in the right place for the new company. Farmers north and south of Forest exhibited a cordiality toward the new line and freely granted rights-of-way over and past their properties. Rights-of-way were also discussed in Mt. Blanchard, Marseilles, Findlay, and Marion. Work was to begin in the spring of 1907. Forest and vicinity was exceedingly favored with the enterprise of the Findlay-Marion Railway and Light Company. On 4 Feb 1909 and article appeared in The Forest Review indicating that ... Railroads make a town, not towns alone [sic] the railroads. All electric roads, bear in mind, will not only carry you cheaper, and oftener, but will do your freight and express business cheaper and a whole lot quicker. You MUST wake up, and soon, or the Findlay-Marion traction will leave Forest miles off it line. The line is sure to be build, but whether or not through Forest is yours to say.

Prior to 1907, E.J. Bogan was an express agent for Forest and attended Senate Lodge F. & A.M., of which he was a member.

After about six years with the Big Four line, and eight years with the Pennsylvania company, as freight clerk, W.P. Heffernan resigned that position 24 Apr 1907 and accepted on with the Dickelman company as shipping clerk. Mr. Heffernan knew all the ins and outs of the freight business. The new freight clerk at the freight house was W.B. Birley.

The Roosevelt Special Train slowed down while traveling thru Forest on 7 Oct 1907. A big crowd saw President Roosevelt that evening as his special train slowed down for orders. Some greeted him and exchanged a word with him before the train got away, the President waving his handkerchief in adieu. There was a message to deliver the President and also a report from a freight train that had reached Dunkirk that a flock of sheep were on the track near the Blanchard river bridge. The caution signal was displayed and the train officials notified.

About 1:30 a.m. on 13 Oct 1907 conductor, G.W. Thompson's, Big Four train was attempting to push three cars near the oil tanks from an adjoining track with a pole. A switch was open and the three cars derailed. The crew succeeded replacing one car loaded with stock, but the other cars were loaded with 150 barrels of cement and too heavy for the crane, one so badly broken up that it was afterwards burned.

An experimental engine known as Fat Anna was being tested and used in October. It gained favor with the men in the transportation department with a regular run between Ft. Wayne and Chicago. On 16 Oct the train, composed of ten heavy laden cars, made up fifty seven minutes of lost time.

Mr. Cook was called about noon on 16 Oct 1907 to set the fibula of the leg of G.L. Geinbur, a brakeman from Ft. Wayne. He had been standing on the ground and was caught on a bold of one of the cars which hurled him ten feet in the air breaking his leg.

October 18 a freight wreck on the T. & O.C. road at Blanchard caused thru passenger trains of that line to go from Kenton to Forest over the Big Four, and then to Dunkirk over the Pennsylvania. The wreck wa caused by a freight train breaking in two and then crashing togethere. No one was hurt.

A case of fancy cookie snaps in transit was found badly burst open when it came to transfer them at the freight depot one day the week of 8 Dec 1907, if the hustlers there didn't eat them.

In February, 1908 the Big Four obtained several powerful puller battleship style engines from the P. & E. branch which allowed them to pull much longer freights.

John Speidel, a freight conductor on the Pennsylvania road, was relegated to the position of flagman in a ertrenchment shuffle of the road's management in April, 1908. It was the best position open, as dozens were laid off. His brother, Frank Speilel, an engineer, was moved to fireman. They were promised their old jobs back once business got better.

Forest had an excursion to Cedar Point the week of the 16th. The return leg was delayed to Forest due to a wreck of three freight cars at the crossing at Clyde.

The M.E. ladies had a supper in the freight house the week of July 5th. They had receipts in excess of $55.

The Pennsylvania flyer was delayed about ten minutes on 26 Aug 1908 due to a freight train that had broken down between Dunkirk and Forest on track No. 2. They were obliged to change tracks to No. 1 in order to run around the freight. The eccentric strap on the engine gave way in the afternoon and the freight had to sit until 7 p.m. when an engine from Crestline could give it a lift.

R. Edwards was the freight agent for Forest in 1908. In January, 1909 agent Edwards wanted to know what North American Indian got away with one of the two new trucks used at the warehouse. Somebody probably ripped it by accidently locking it in a car and carrying it off. Accidents of that kind were frequent in the case of new trucks.

The Big Four was speeding along about a mile and a half south of Grant early on 1 May 1908 when they hit an obstruction, thought to be a freight car door. Spikes and a few damaged ties were damaged, the ties causing damage to a brake connection on the baggage car and an air pipe on one of the coaches. The next day, Wm. Ropp fell from a moving freight.

An east bound Pennsylvania freight ran thru a flock of sheep belonging to W.B. Higgins on 2 Jul 1908 killing six of ten sheep. Higgins' farm was located a few miles west of Forest. Albert and his men went to the spot and cleaned up.

The Pennsylvania limited train instantly killed Claud Swanson at Kirby the evening of 13 Aug 1908 by striking him in the back. He was from North Baltimore and was working about two miles north of Kirby with John Corneally. He and two companions were walking to Kirby and did not see the flyer coming because of a freight train which was moving west.

About three o'clock in the morning on 20 Nov 1908, L.A. Conklin, of Forest, was awakened by the ringing of a telephone bell. Frank Lee, of Patterson, told him that a car of hay which Lafayette Woodard was loading for him was afire and burning up. Conklin immediately drove to Patterson and found the car and hay to be a complete loss. It made a very hot fire and warmed up the freight house which was not over twenty-five fee away. Dozens of people were compelled to throw water on it to keep it from burning. There was no wind and nothing else burned. It was supposed that a spark fron the engine of a fast southbound Big Four freight set the hay on fire. Conklin assessed the loss at $75.

A freight car with one set of tracks on one track and the other on another track came to grief the morning of 10 Dec 1908 near the Fox elevator. The car, a loaded box car, was somewhat mashed up and had been booked for the repair shop. A Pennsylvania engine was pulling cars east on the house track and had coupled to one standing about 200 feet south of the elevator on the switch. No one saw the car making the staddle until it was dragged 75 or 80 yards off the rails, smashing the interlocking and switch apparatus and almost breaking off the steel semaphone pole. A wrecker from Crestline arrived around noon. Operator Barteldt directed the wrecked removal.

The No. 2 train on the Toledo & Pittsburg division of the Wheeling & Lake Erie railroad east bound was derailed at the Burbank switch near Lodi causing six cars to go into a ditch with one passenger injured.

Tull Wise was injured on his hands while he was hanling a truck at the freight house 7 Aug 1909. The sun was very hot that day and the truck handles became hot enough to burn blisters.

On 14 Aug 1909 Paul Bell's horse got scared at a freight train and threw him out of his rig.

Freight did not leave Forest 9 Dec 1909 due to a Big Four wreck at Springfield.

A new floor for the freight house was planned for August or September, 1909. The flooring, oak planking, was delayed until the week of 16 Jan 1910 and was completed by the 20th.

After more than two years of service to shippers and receivers as freight agent of both the Pennsylvania and Big Four roads, R.R. Edwards resigned in December, 1909. He was succeded by Morgan G. Gemmill, an employee of the roads for 29 years. Edwards had accepted a position as traffic manager at the Dickelman Co. in Forest. Tullis Wise assumed the duties of clerk in the place of Gemmill. Employed to carry the mail and assist around the freight house was Kenneth Long, of Wharton.

Faithfully attending to his duties as trackwalker traveling east from Kirby, Nicholas Sebenoler, was struck by an east bound freight train the snowy evening of 11 Feb 1910 and instantly killed. He was 65 years old. He had been carrying his lantern in front of him, but due to the snow the engineer did not see him in time to prevent his death. Sebenoler was the father-in-law of operator Cornelea, of Kirby.


A kicked back freight car and Wesley White's dray met up the afternoon of 3 March 1910 at the east end of the freight house. The freight car was moving and soon the dray also got a hump on itself, with the result that a wheel of the latter was broken. No body was hurt.

As a Big Four freight train was pulling out of the siding on 6 May 1910 the trucks of a box car left the rails. It was necessary to send to Grant for another engine to assist in replacing it.

Not wanting to walk to Wharton, his home, and missing connections at Forest with the passenger train on 1 Apr 1911, Russel McEvoy, a young man returning from an Upper Sandusky teacher examination, boarded a fast freight train in Forest and when it reached Wharton leaped from it. His face and head were mangled beyond recognition, and when he partially regained his senses he crawled back to the depot and was given care.

A chicken supper and festival was held in the freight house on the evening of 4 Jul 1911. It was given by the ladies of the M.P. church.

On 1 Nov 1911 Morgan Gemmill, the local union freight agent in Forest transfered to Patterson to take the place of Edw. Gardner who had retired. Mr. Gemmill wanted more outdoor life that could be obtained at Forest. The Patterson office was smaller than the Forest office. He had been with the Big Four for 26 years prior to the move. Mr. Mohr of Springfield took his place in Forest.

One of the train hands on an east bout freight was serverely scalded by the leakage of steam of the engine, the packing of one of the stuffing boxes having blown out. The mishap occurred on 3 Jan 1912. The engine was to remain in Forest until repairs were made.

A feature which made going to and from the depot in Forest in 1912 was the paving of the entire Big Four and Pennsylvania R.R. freight yards by Lambert Bros. The paving was done to get rid of bad mud holes.

In 1913 representatives of eleven railroads asked the commerce committees of Congress to make an investigation of the causes of railroad accidents. Their finding was that 92% of the numbered killed were not passengers but trespassers!

Sometime on the night of 29 May 1913 a bad freight wreck occurred south of Forest near the stone quarry at McVitty. Fourteen Big Four cars piled up across the track and passenger trains were detoured from Kenton over the T. & O.C. to Dunkirk and over the Pennsylvania to Forest, and from Dunkirk to Kenton going south. Traffic was resumed the following night.

Walter L. Weddle was teh freight agent of the Pennsylvania and Big Four railroads. He won the mayoral race for Forest in November, 1915.

orest Hotel   vs.  Big Four, 1916.



Upper Sandusky, O., Nov 24.'By remarkable chance no one was seriously injured when the Steel City Express, a fast Chicago to Pittsburgh passenger train on the Pennsylvania railroad, plunged through a derailer at Forest, near here, and ripped its way into the Forest hotel in a blinding snow storm early today.

The train, known as number 136, was running fast when the Big Four reailroad crossing was reached and the engineer ould not see that the block signal for the crossing was set against him, so severe was the storm which was raging.

The engine turned over on its side as it ploughed into the hotel which was badly damaged. The tender and mail car followed the engine. The seven coaches remained upon the track.

The only person hurt was the mail clerk, whose name has not been learned and he was only slightly injured.

As conductor Dugan on a southbound Big Four feight was preparing to pull onto the main track from the siding north of the Pennsylvania tracks around midnight on 2 Aug 1916 he found the dead body of fireman Barber who had been firing on one of the engines of a double header that was pulling his train. It was assumed that he had been sitting or sleeping along the tracks after climbing out of the cab while waiting for a late train and was hit by a passenger train. His body was not mangled. There had been much confusion on the Big Four that night due to a wreck near Herzog lime kiln. Barber had only been married two weeks.

A storm of almost hurricane strength separated about four inches of the freight house roof when it hit Forest in the afternoon of 2 Jun 1916. Agent Bogan and Don Smith watched as the roof lifted.

World War I stymied Forest from boosting water works but they were concerned that the railroads weren't erecting crossing gates within village limits.

Trucks operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which had been carrying package freight between Lima and Mansfield was discontinued 25 Apr 1925. protests had been made to the State Utilities Commission by Traction Companies and the commission ordered the operation discontinued.

L.H. heffernan was the local ticket agent for the Pennsylvania and Big Four Railways. He retired in 1926 after working 52 years. He had succeeded his father, John Heffernan as agent of the Pennsylvania Ry. Co. in Forest. The father and son together served 99 years for the Pennsylvania Ry. Co.

The brick pavement in front of the freight house made a very convenient place to park automobiles during the congested traffic on Saturday nights in Forest. Agent E.J. Bogan informed Forest that the space used could continue, however, no parking would be allowed on the same spot during business hours.

20 Jun 1926 a truck on a freight car in an east bound Pennsylvania train, jumped the track about two miles west of Forest. Cross ties were damaged by the wheels for a stretch of nearly one mile and the rails were somewhat put out of line. Both section crews were called to repair the track.

ennsylvania R.R., 1927.

Pennsylvania and Big Four'Traffic Tied Up at Forest, Ohio

LIMA. Ohio, July 20 (AP)--Property damage of $100,000, injury of one man and a tie up of traffic on the main lines of the Pennsylvania and Big Four railroads resulted from a Pennsylvania freight wreck and fire at the crossing of the two roads at Forest, Hardin county, early today. The accident occurred in front of the station, a tank car of benzol being derailed. It and another car of benzol exploded, throwing burning oil over the station, an adjacent business building and several freight cars. Fire departments from Upper Sandusky and Kenton were summoned to fight the flames. L.C. Harmon, Forest groceryman, was injured by a falling wall. Traffic on the railroads was tied up all forenoon. A $50,000 block signal system of the Pennsylvania railroad was included in the damage.

Big Four

Bucyrus, July 20--Fire, due to explosion of two tank cars containing benzol on a Pennsylvania freight train early today, at Forest, near here caused damage estimated at more than $250,000. The explosion occurred after derailment of the train. Investigation was being made to determine the cause of the accident. A dozen  cars  were  derailed  and about 1,000 feet of track was torn up. The force of the explosion hurled the burning fuel over the Big Four depot and adjoining buildings, including the plant of the Dickelman [sic] Manfacturing Co., all of which were destroyed. Contents of the freight cars were burned. Flying brick cut and bruised Leonard Harman when a chain store of which he was manager, caved in. No one was seriously hurt. Fire departments from Upper Sandusky, Kenton and Dunkirk aided in fighting the flames which were under control shortly before noon. Traffic on the Pennsylvania and Big Four railroads was blocked. It was stated that the tracks would not be cleared until late today. Railroad officials declared that the newly constructed joint interlocking system, installed by the Big Four and Pennsylvania railroads at Forest were destroyed, for the most part by the accident. Work of the firemen was hampered when the water supply at Forest, was exhausted, water was then secured from a lake.

Loss $100,000'Man Injured'Traffic Is Blocked.

LIMA, O. July 20.--(AP)--Property damage of $100,000, injury of one man and a tie up of traffic on the main lines of the Pennsylvania and Big Four Railroads resulted from a Pennsylvania freight wreck and fire at the crossing of the two roads at Forest, Hardin county, early today. The accident occurred in front of the station, a tank car of benzol being derailed. It and another car of benzol exploded, throwing burning oil over the station, and adjacent business building and several freight cars. Fire departments from Upper Sandusky and Kenton were summoned to fight the flames. L.C. Harmon, Forest grocery man, was injured by a falling wall. Traffic on the railroads was tied up all forenoon. A $50,000 block signal system of Pennsylvania railroad was included in the damage.

Fire Damages
Penn. Railway

Two Carloads of Benzol Explode When Eastbound Pennsylvania Freight Is Wrecked—Change in Wind Saves Village.

  Kenton and Upper Sandusky Firemen Fight Flames for Hours in Successful Effort To Prevent Heavy Damage to Surrounding Structures. (Special to The Star) FOREST, July 20. Resounding blasts of exploding benzol routed residents of this village from their beds at 5:30 o'clock this morning. They found the town being showered with liquid fire and in the midst of a $250,000 conflagration and freight train wreck. The Dickelman Manufacturing Co. and the Pennsylvania railroad were the [undecipherable] wreck and fire which started when two tank cars of an eastbound freight derailed in front of the depot.

  Fifteen cars piled up along the mainline Pennsylvania tracks adjacent to [undecipherable] section of Big Four and caught fire from the benzol [undecipherable] which [undecipherable] fourteen cars on a side track also burned. [undecipherable] of fighting [undecipherable] Kenton and Upper Sandusky departments were dispatched to prevent spread of the blaze in the business section. Offices and a storage room of the Dickelman company located near the tracks were burned to the ground. The Pennsylvania depot was a total loss. Equipment of a recently installed $50,000 interlocking block system at the Pennsylvania Big Four junction was rendered useless. Four hundred yards of double track mainline of the Pennsylvania was destroyed and piled high with burning cars. [undecipherable] and steel of the cars were twisted into grotesque shapes by the terrific heat. Traffic in both the Pennsylvania and Big Four has been suspended.

This original article is extremely difficult to read. The best rendition as been attempted.

Blaze Causes $150,000 Loss in Ohio Town—Wreck of Pennsylvania Benzol Tank Car Starts Blaze'Inferno Continues for House'As All Turn Out to Give Aid

FOREST, O., July 20--(Special)--Fire which broke out here at 5:25 a.m. Wednesday morning in the central business section of this city, when two cars of benzol gasoline exploded following the wreck of an eastbound freight train, coupled with the loss caused by the crash, is expected to [undecipherable] in damages estimated at approximately $200,000. The wreck was caused when a wheel on one of the oil cars came off, causing the smash. About 100 feet of track was torn up at the intersection of the Pennsylvania and Big Four railroads, while two cars were wrecked in addition to those destroyed by fire. Eight explosions of the burning oil threw the burning liquid on the Pennsylvania station and the main office and a large storage building of the Dickelman Manufacturing Co. The latter was burned to the ground. Fire also destroyed 11 cars of wheat, flour, lumber and rubber and was still raging early Wednesday afternoon. For some time it was believed that the entire northern section of the town would be destroyed by the flames, but after one house was partly burned and the personnel of the First National bank had started to move from the building, the 200 volunteer fire fighters and equipment sent from other cities gained partial control of the blaze. Fire trucks from Kenton and Upper Sandusky which were called to the burning sector restricted the fire to a large area. The only danger of the fire spreading was from continued explosions of the oil. Traffic on the Pennsylvania and the Big Four roads has been held up since 5:25 a.m. Wednesday morning because the track at the intersection of the two roads was torn up by the wreck. In addition to other damage caused, a $50,000 recently installed interlocking system regulating the blocks and signalling apparatus of the two roads was demolished by the wreck.

Fire Rages at Forest

Two other cars were wrecked in the smash but the rest of the train was reported intact with the locomotive only slightly injured. L.C. Harmon, manager of a Kroger grocery store at Forest, reported the only casualty of the day when he was slightly injured by the falling walls of the Dickelman property. Altho most of the attention at the present time is devoted in fighting the fire, wrecking cars and equipment are being sent to the scene by the railroad. Freight cars are being held on all the sidings along the Pennsylvania while passenger trains on the same roads have been sent to Marion on the Erie and back to their own tracks on the Big Four from Marion. J.M. Little, claim agent of the Ft. Wayne division of the railroad, estimated that damage resulting from the destruction of the material in the cars wrecked would be placed at approximately $85,000.


This added to the loss suffered from the razing of the Dickelman buildings, estimated at $25,000, the destruction of the $50,000 interlocking system and unestimated damage from the burning of the station and the wrecking of the tracks, places the loss at a very high sum. A similar wreck on the Pennsylvania railroad occurred here on May 28 when a defective wheel on a tank car caused several freight cars to leave the track, tearing up more than 300 yards of ties and rails. The interlocking system at the Big Four-Pennsylvania junction was destroyed with a resultant loss of approximately $50,000.

Fred Wright

Wind Change Saves Town.

  Fortunate change of the wind from a northwest [undecipherable] to the east was credited to saving the [undecipherable] rest of the village from destruction. The explosion of the tank car contents threw blazing liquid high into the air and the sudden change in the wind [undecipherable] eased [undecipherable] south of the tracks. The office building of the Dickelman company was a huge structure and [undecipherable] served as a hotel. Contents of the freight cars were complete destroyed included in the [undecipherable] were wheat, [undecipherable], lumber, rubber, and oil. The train which figured in the wreckage of the fast freight train and fire was traveling at a fast rate at 5:23 a.m.

Cecil Young

H. Dale Shields' cousin, Cecil Young is seen with his head turned towards the photographer. Joe __ is facing the photographer. They are both at the C.C.C.&St.L. R.R. and Dickelman Manfacturing Co. fire of July 20th.

Car Explodes


  Only one injury case was reported in connection with the fire. L.C. Harman, manager of a local chain grocery, sustained slight injuries when he was struck by flying brick from a collapsing wall. He was assisting in fighting the fire at the Dickelman plant. Work in fighting the fire was greatly hampered when the water supply was exhausted. Water was being taken from a lake. Further [undecipherable] from the fire was not expected when visiting departments suspended operations shortly before noon.

Depot Burns

UPPER SANDUSKY, O., July 20.--Explosion of a tank car on a Pennsylvania freight train at Forest early today destroyed the Big Four depot, the railroad offices and adjacent structures, entailing a loss that may exceed $25,000.

  Leonard Harman was bruised and cut by flying brick. The blast occurred at 5 a.m., when an east bound freight was derailed, thirteen cars, including the tank car, turning over, at the Big Four crossing. The plant of the Dickelman [sic] manufacturing Co. and 20 cars and their contents, besides the station were destroyed. The fire departments of Kenton and this city were summoned. The fire, still raging three hours later was reported out of control, having extended to the farmers' co-operative elevator.

The tank car which exploded is believed to have contained Benzol. Traffic was blocked on both rail roads by the wreck and fire.

UPPER SANDUSKY, July 20-- Explosion of a tank car on the  Pennsylvania freight train at Forest early today destroyed the Big Four depot, the railroad offices, and adjacent structures, entailing a loss that may exceed $25,000.

NEARBY HAPPENINGS.'Accident Brings Endurance Tree Sitting to End at Lima' Lad Establishes Record.

... Forest village officials have turned over to the city of Kenton a check for $400 in full settlement for the services given by the Kenton fire department at the fire there on July 20, 1928 [sic]. The check was received fro the Pennsylvania Railroad Company as the fire originated by two tank cars catching fire.
Clearing the wreck

The Pennsylvania section men were called on the night of 11 Aug 1927 to repair the track damage by a wrecked box car on a west bound freight train four miles west of town. A journal burned off derailling the car. The cross times were damaged.

A Big Four engine was derailed 13 Aug 1927.

In September, 1927 agent, E.J. Bogan, informed the people of Forest it would have a depot to replace the one burned down earlier. Chairs in the freight office were to be used for lady passengers while waiting for trains. A fence was been built around the ruins of the old depot where men sat and awaited the arrival of trains. By 1928 Sandusky street was considered to be a village avenue andor those who do not know the location of Sandusky, it is the first street south of the old Pennsylvania railroad tracks.

Charles Fredricks, son of Ralph Fredricks of Dola was struck by a Pennsylvania freight train at Dola on 20 Feb 1929. He was cleaning ice from the water pan used for trains to take water while running. The freight train stopped for orders, then proceded the main line, instead of the side track, where Fredericks thought it was going. The engine and fifteen cars passed over him, dragged him about three car lengths between the water pan and rail. He was taken to the Lima city hospital on another train. In the examination the doctors found no broken bones and no internal injuries.

A freight car being switched to the siding in the rear of the stores on the west side of Lima street, was sent in with too much speed on the morning of 23 Apr 1929. The car ran through the bumper placed at the end of the track and landed into the rear of B.F. Briggs new warehouse in the rear of Spearman's barber shop. The building was removed about seven inches off the foundation, the rear end caved in, the metal roof buckled that all seams torn loose. the floor joists were also sprung.

Harold Shaffer, of Adrian, MI, met with a painful accident in Forest in the afternoon of 12 Aug 1929. The accident happened in the north part of town along the Big Four Ry. near the old cement block factory. The section crew was hailed by the lad and he was brought to the office of Dr. Holtzmuller, where an examination disclosed that fact that his great toe was cut in the center and each side mashed, his shoe being cut to pieces. The boy claimed he was walking along the railroad by the side of a freight train when he stepped on a stone which rolled and threw his foot under a car wheel. The boy was visiting at the home of Oliver Ward, north of Forest.

C.E. Stoope, of Van Wert, was a Pennsylvania freight brakeman who was critically injured at Kirby in the morning of 5 Feb 1930. His left leg was cut off above the knee and is right leg badly mangled when he was run ove by a freight car he was assisting in switching. He was rushed to Antonio hospital in Kenton, in the Bringman & Co. ambulance. The freight was engaged in setting off a bad order car on the track by the Kirby elevator. It was said that Mr. Stoope was on top of the car and after setting the hand brake attempted to climb down, but fell between the rails and then rolled out to the side, the wheels passisng over one leg and crushing the other. The engineer of the train saw Mr. Stoope's body as it rolled from beneath the car. He was carried from the track by L.R. Caldwell and O.F. Kochler and Dr. E.E. Burns, of Kirby was summoned and gave first aid. The foot was also severed on the leg that was cut off, and the bone in the other leg below the knee was badly crushed. Mr. Stoope was a married man, his family consisting of his wife and one child. He died the next afternoon at 1:15 at Antonio hospital from the injuries he sustained.

A giant locomotive claimed to be the largest in the world passed thru Forest in the morning of 9 Aug 1930 over the Pennsylvania Ry enroute from the factory at Philidelphia to a point in Montana where it was to be put into service for the Northern Pacific railway.

E.J. Bogan began his career at Middletown in the freight office. He eventually was the freight agent at Forest in 1926 and the agent for the Big Four and Pennsylvania railroads at Forest in October, 1931 when he started on his forty-second year with the company.

Carpenter remodeled the Big Four freight office during the week of 19 Jul 1931. A door was placed at the east end of the counter and latice work put up so that the office could also be used as a ticket office. Tickets in the future were to be sold at the freight office instead of in the depot eliminating one man.

After 1 December, the Pennsylvania railroad and a few other railroads adopted collect and delivery service on freight. Dale Weber, drayman had contracted with Pennsylvania Ry. in November to deliver freight in Forest.

On 30 Jun 1933 while Agent E.J. Bogan was standing at the desk near the ticket window in the freight office, he was hit in the back by a bullet from a 22 calibre cartirdge. The bullet entered the office by crashing through a pane of glass in the lower sash of a rear window in the extreme south end of the office. It then struck the hardwood top of the desk and glanced to an iron save or some other hard surface before striking Mr. Bogan in the back. The bullet was found on the floor in front of the partition near the door at the north leading into the office, from the lobby. Mr. Bogan said the bullet created a stinging sensation in his back, but the skin was not broken, nor his shirt pierced. Dale Weber, city drayman, was sitting in front of the desk struck by the bullet and observed the flying glass, but was not hit. The two hard surfaces retarded the force of the bullet before striking Mr. Bogan. One of the mashed sides fit perfectly into the hole made in the tope of the flat-top desk. Mr. Bogan wen outside and looked all around but saw no one with a gun. The supposition was that someone was shooting at a bird or a mark and the bullet was deflected when coming in contact with some hard surface. Some citizens complained about bullets being deflected and entering their homes. Shooting with rifles in the village limits waa a dangerous habit curbed by the proper officials.

One of the largest freight wrecks for several years occurred 28 Aug 1933 one mile east of Kiby on the Pennsylvania Ry. A burned-off journal on a coal car on a west bound freight caused the wreck. Twelve cars were derailed and scattered over the right of way, tearing up hundreds of feet of track. Both tracks were blocked and traffic interupted until about two o'oclock in the afternoon. Fast passenger tains were detoured around the wreck via Forest, Kenton, and Marion. The cars derailed were in the center of a long freight, and altho the freight crew was somewhat shaken up, no fatalities occurred. The south or east bound track was shoved some distance off of the stone ballast, while the north track was torn out entirely for about 200 feed, and holes scooped in the ballast. Three wreck trains were called to the scend and section crews along the line were summoned for duty to repair the tracks.

R.R. Blakley, a brakeman on the Pennsylvanis Ry., local freight, met with an accident in Forest on 26 Oct 1933. While closing a car door, he stepped on the end of a loose plank in the freight house platform and fell. The fall resulted in the dislocation of a should blade. Dr. W.M. Brown attended the injured man.

Early in the morning of 11 Feb 1934 an east bound Pennsylvania Ry. freight train delayed other scheduled trains for about two hours when a broken arch bar was found on the train while ist was west of Forest.

Mr. and Mrs. D.F. Kear, of near Big Oak church, narrowly escaped death while driving to Wharton at 8:30 a.m. the morning of 4 May 1934. They were in an Overland automobile, which stalled on the New York Central tracks as a southbound freight approached. Unable to start the car Mr. Kear tried to push it from the track, but was unable to do so. The occupants ran to safety as the train struck the automobile, demonishing it. Mr. and Mr. Kear both escaped injury. Mr. Kear did not see the train coming, and when Mrs. Kear warned hime of the approaching train, he became excited and stalled the automobile on the railroad track.

Three wreck trains were called to clear a wreck of fourteen freight cards on the Pennsylvania railroad near Kirby on 1 Mar 1935. Both tracks were blocked. Passenger trains were detoured through Decatur and Marion over the Big Four and Erie railroads. No one was injured. The eastbound track, on which the train was traveling, was torn up for about 500 feet and the westbound track for about 150 feet. The wreck occurred at about noon a mile east of Kirby.

The afternoon of 23 Mar 1936 a pecullar and expensive wreck occurred in the north part of Forest on the Big Four Railroad. The estimated cost of damage done being about $15,000. While a north bound freight was passing over the Pennsylvania Railroad crossing a journal on a gondola loaded with slack coal, broke, causing the car to be derailed and five other cars loaded with coal to leave the track. The car with the broken journal, left the train on the east side of the main track, and tore up several rods of siding. The car did not stop it irregular couse of destruction until it smashed into the engine on a southbound freight which was standing on the siding. The front of the engine was damaged and engine derailed. No one was injured as the engineer and fireman left the engine when they saw the coal car heading for their engine. The other cars were derailed on the west side of the main track. Traffic was tied up for several hours on the Big Four Ry. A wrecker was called from Bellefontaine and with a force of men worked all that night to clear the tracks. The wreck was still not cleard by the next night. A neighboring newspaper later wrote Tearing up nearly a block of tracks as it left the rails in Forest, a single freight car came to rest along the right-of-way, last evening as the result of a flat tire on the car.

David G. Mayhorn, a retired crossing watchman for the Pennsylvania Ry., was killed in a crossing acciden at the street crossing near his home on the north side of Forest. Mayhorn had been enroute to Henry Durenberger's to get milk for supper. As he approached the Big Four railroad, he evidently did not see or hear a train and drove onto the railroad in front of a northbound freight train.

Effective 25 May 1936, less than car load freight was picked up and delivered within the corporation of Forest by both C.C.C. & St.L. and Pennsylvania R.R. Co., without extra charge when the rate was 30 cents per hundred pounds or more. After 1 Jun 1936, passenger fares were reduced to 2 cents per mile for coach travel. Fares for pullman travel were 3 cents per mile plus cost of space occupied. The pullman surcharge was entirely cancelled.

The July 4, 1936 fireworks display took place at 10 p.m. on the Pennsylvania and Big Four freight office yard with D.L. Van Tilbury chairman of the program. Ralph Fernbaugh and Rev. Yolton were in charge of the display. Harry Peart and Harold Lehman were in charge of railway safety. J. Stanton King and Dr. Holtzmuller were in charge of fire prevention. Bert Herzog, Justine Myer, and Dr. Lutz were in charge of the general safety zone.

Sometime during the week of 18 Sep 1938 a freight train on the Pennsylvania Ry. became stalled two miles from Forest due to an air valve. Burk & Fox, a prominent firm in Forest with diversified activities in plumbing, electrical work, installing furnaces, developing patents, manfacturing articles patented by themselves, and light structural iron work were requested to help fix the problem. Morris Burk, of Burk & Fox, was sent to help with those repairs and the engine was completely fixed and on its way within 18 minutes.

In October, 1938 local railroad men began to notice an increase in freight traffic.

The Essinger family lived just west of the Big Four Ry. on State Route 53. Murry Essinger, son of Carl Essinger saved his little sister, Vera Mae Essinger, from be crushed beneath the wheels of a south bound freight train on the Big Four the last week of March, 1939. Seeing the danger of the girl about to be crushed, Murry ran down the lane from his house located west of the tracks, scampered up the ballast, onto the tracks, grabbed his sister, and rolled down the east side as the train whizzed by.

In April, 1939 the Pennsylvania railroad reduced local freight train service from three to two train each way each week in Forest. The Ry. company claimed it was done to conserve its coal supply due to a coal strike.

E.W. Ewing

By 1940 Forest had no railroad passenger service or bus service to Kenton. The Big Four Ry. picked up and delivered freight for Kenton but no passengers. After 25 Mar 1940 the New York Central Ry. (Big Four) resumed the pick up and delivery of freight the same as was done by the Pennsylvania Ry. Passenger fares on the Big Four would be 2 cents per mile for travel in coaches according to C.M. Ewing, the train agent.

ittsburgh, Ft. Wayne, & Chicago.

During 1941 it was estimated that over 50 trains daily passed through Forest over the Pennsylvania Ry.

A 1,000 pound blown-out cylinder head from a west bound freight train fell on the track of the Pennsylvania Railroad on the outskirts of Dunkirk the night of 9 Nov 1941 wrecking the Chicago-New York flyer and killing 12 person and injuring nearly 50 more. The locomotive and seven of eight coaches were left as twisted steel.

One freight train gondola loaded with 50 tons of pig iron was derailed the night of 2 Sep 1942 at around 11 p.m. on the Pennsylvania road. A broken journal was later reported as the cause for the derailment. The gondola was the twenty-first car from the rear on the westbound freight when the accident happened just west of the Big Four junction. A wrecking crew from Crestline repaired the damage.

In May, 1942 the Pennsylvania Ry. Co. discontinued local freight train service to rerlease more entines for through freight service. Freight was delivered via Pennsylvania trucks.

The Pythian Sisters served the District Auxillary of the Railroad Clerks on May 14, 1949 at the K. of P. hall. In attendance were Mary Burk, Clara Hune, Bertha Campbell, Minnie Peart, and Minnie Naus.

Burt Jaquith, editor of the Forest Review wrote this in a his column of June 4, 1954, Can you remember when trains at the crossing of the Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads were signaled by manual instead of electrical signals? We do! Gates were pulled across the tracks by a man with a long iron rod attached to the gate, the rod being fastened onto a hook in a cross tie. At the top of these gates was a red light to be used at night. The last gate watchman we can remember in Forest was a one-armed man named Nate Brooks, whose headquarters was a shanty by the side of the tracks. 

ennsylvania R.R. in the 1960s.


Damaged Cars
Wide Angle Shot
Canadian National at Night
P.S.L. Boxcar
Canadian National Boxcar

This Pennsylvania R.R. wreck occurred in Forest in 1960. The first photograph was taken looking west. The elevator can be seen on the right. The second photograph was taken with the photograph standing on the south side of the tracks and looking northeast. The photographer was standing on the north side of the tracks and looking southeast in photograph 3.

Looking West
Warner Street Crossing (SR37)

In the photograph below, the switch tower can be seen in the left background behind the tractor trailer. Also, to the right of the trailer the old freight house can be seen. The wreck also brought out many spectators.

Switch Tower

ennsylvania R.R., 1970.

There is no date for this wreck. It is believed to have occurred in 1970. The photograph was taken by Kim Hester.

Pennsylvania Wreck (c1970)