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NOVEMBER 1, 1949 

By Gary Glive Burford. 


The Line Drawing on the Front Outside Cover of this book is the work o* 
Jean Devaud, Bradley, 111., a student in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, 
University of Illinois, November, 1949. 




WEST IN THE 1880s. 

By Cary Clive Burford 
A.B., University of Illinois 
A.M., University of Illinois 


Fairbury, Illinois 

November, 1949 

Donovan M. Kramer, Publisher 

B.S., University of Illinois 


Introductory Note 3 

T., P. & W. Depot, Chatsworth, 111., Its History 4 

"The Bridge Was Burned at Chatsworth," in Song and Poetry . . 5 

Chapter One — Disasters and Their Historical Importance . . . 6 

"The Lady Elgin," Another Tragedy Embellished in Poetry ... 7 

"Always Be Careful"— The Slogan of This Volume 9 

Chapter Two— The T., P. & W. Railroad, Its History 10 

Chapter Three — Communities Served by the T., P. & W 14 

Keokuk, Iowa, Warsaw, Hamilton, Canton, 111 14 

T., P. & W. Sponsors Towns on Its Eastern Extension .... 16 

"The Campbell House," El Paso, 111., Its History 17, 19 

Abraham Lincoln and the T., P. & W 18 

"The Campbell House," Historical Plaque 20 

Picture of "The Campbell House" 21 

Fairbury, Forrest, Chatsworth, Piper City, 111 19, 22, 23, 24 

Old-Time Passenger Trains on the T., P. & W. Railroad . . .24, 25 
Chapter Four — The Romance of Old-Time, Popular Low-rate 

Excursion Trains 27 

Niagara Falls Excursions 32 

Chapter Five — The Fatal T., P. & W. Excursion Train .... 33 
Chapter Six — The Zero Moment, Midnight of August 10-11, 1887, 

The Crash 35 

Map of Central Illinois, Showing T., P. & W. Railroad . . . 42,43 
Chapter Seven — Aid and Succor at the Wreck Site for 

"The Wounded" 44 

Pictures of the Wreck 37-39,45,47,49,55,83.84 

Chapter Eight — L. J. Haberkom and His Experiences at the Wreck . 50 

Picture of L. J. Haberkorn 53 

Chapter Nine — Newspaper Coverage of the Wreck 54 

Bloomington, 111., Pantagraph, and Its Famous "Scoop" Story . . 59 

Picture of William McCambridge, Bloomington, 111., Pantagraph . . 59 

Facsimile of Pantagraph's "Scoop Story" of the Wreck .... 61 

Newspaper Sidelights Upon the Chatsworth Wreck 62 

Wreck Recalled Annually by Contemporary Newspapers .... 64 

Chapter Ten— Interviews With Persons Who Recall the Wreck . . 66 
Chapter Eleven— The Last Round-Up— The Final Reunion of Survivors 

of the Wreck, Chatsworth, 111., August 12, 1937 70 

Picture of Group of Last Survivors, at Final Round-Up .... 71 
Chapter Twelve— Summary of the Major Railroad Wrecks in the 

United States 73 

Chapter Thirteen— Synopsis of Ashtabula, Ohio, Wreck, 

December 29, 1876 75 

Chapter Fourteen — Conclusion 79 

And Now— Two Drain Tile Instead of Timber Bridge .... 79 

Memories From the Golden Years of Yesterday 80 

Salutations and Greetings to American Railroads 82 

"Always Be Careful"— The Life You Save May Be Your Own . . 82 


This volume, a study of railroad travel and especially of old-\ 
time excursion trains, in the Central West in the 1880s and the 
1890s, has two objectives. 

> We wish to portray, as accurately and as fully a.s possible, also 
^ as vividly, the events which led up to the Chatsworth Wreck, the 

tragedy itself, and the aftermath of suffering, death and national 

shock which the accident caused. 

But — far more important — we have endeavored to picture the 
transportation life of the people of the Central West in a period 
when they depended almost solely upon trains for their traveling, 
and especially upon local passenger trains and special excursion 

The railroads then supplied practically the only means by 
which the people in towns and small cities and upon farms in the 
Central West could relieve the tedium of their village or rural life. 

We have desired a similar recapture of those doubtless gone- 
forever railway traveling years preceding and following the turn 
of the present century which this author and Guy Mcllvain Smith, 
Danville, 111., his co-author, pictured in our "History and Romance 
of Danville Junction," a 1943 volume. 

If this writer has succeeded in bringing to the people of 1949 
and 1950 a glimpse of the happiness and the hazards of old-time 
railroad traveling, on old-time excursion trains six decades ago, 
we will feel assured that our labor on this volume has been abun- 
dantly rewarded. 


907 South Orchard Street, 

Urbana, Illinois. 

THE T., P. & W. DEPOT 

Chatsworth, Illinois 

Same Building — Same Site 

A Morgue, August 11, 1887 

The T., P. & W. depot in Ciiatsworth, 
m. This is the same depot in service 
which stood on the same site in 1887, 
according to L. J. Haberltom, Chats- 
worth, m., who led the first relief 
group to the site of the wreck, the 
night of August 10-11, 1887. 

This depot served as a morgue the 
next day after the wreck. Bodies were 
assembled there for shipment to their 
homes. Guards were posted around 
the depot to keep the curious and idle 
away, while members of families of 
deceased identified, or tried to iden- 
tify, their dead. 

Note the word "Chatsworth" on the 
east end of the depot. The word "Chats- 
worth" became a household term in 
Illinois, the Central West and the 
United States following the tragedy. 
'Even today, people who were not born 
in 1887, but who heard their elders 
discuss "The Chatsworth Wreck," 
know the name of this town 

L. J. Haberkom, Chatsworth, recalls 
having seen 22 dead bodies lying upon 

the platform at this depot the day 
after the wreck. 

Stretchers Hastily Made. 

Mr. Haberkorn told this author that 
three elderly carpenters, who were not 
able to walk to the wreck, began work 
on improvised stretchers for the dead 
and injured brought from the wreck- 
site itself. They took pine boards 12 
feet in length, one foot in width and 
one inch in thickness, cut them 
through the center, making two boards 
six feet in length and placd them to- 
geather side by side. They put strips 
under each end and in the middle, and 
then cut hand holds on each side, mak- 
ing a stretcher of each of them. The 
dead and injured or "wounded" were 
placed upon these hastily built, but 
useful, stretchers, and loaded into 
cars, and transported into Chats- 
worth. Many dead bodies, in such 
stretchers, reposed in front of, and be- 
side, the above railway station. The 
three carpenters made over 100 of 
these stretchers. 



By T. P. Westendorf. 

Published by the John Church Co. 

Philadelphia, Pa. 

1- From City, Town and Hamlet, 
They came a happy throng 
To view the great Niagara 
With joy they sped along. 
The maiden and her lover, 
The husband and the wife 
The merry prattling children 
So full of joyous life. 


But oh! how much of sorrow, 
And oh! how much of pain. 
Awaited those who journeyed 
On that fated railway train. 

2. With hand upon the lever 
And eye along the track 
The engineer is standing 
While shades of night are blacic. 
They pass the town of Chats- 
And rush into the gloom. 
Ah! could some power have 

stopped them. 
E'er they had reached their doom. 

3. For see! the smoldering embers 
That lie along the ridge, 

Ah, God in pity save them, 
It is the railroad bridge. 
Too late to turn the lever, 
Too late to stop the train. 
Too late to soothe the sorrow 
Too late to ease the pain. 

4. A mighty crash of timbers 
A sound of hissing steam, 
The groans and cries of anguish, 
A woman's stifled scream. 

The dead and dying mingled, 
V/ith broken beams and bars 
An awful human carnage, 
A dreadful wreck of cars. 

5. All honor to the heroes 
Who flame and fury fought 
AH thro' that night of horror, 
A glory dearly bought. 

As over land and water. 
This thrilling message crossed: 
"The bridge was burned at Chats- 
A hundred lives are lost." 

A Poem — A Song — Folklore 

The above song, or poem, might 
well be considered "The Theme Song" 
of the great Chatsworth Wreck. 

It was sung by children, young peo- 
ple and adults for many years after 
1887. It was used a a "piece," or a 
song, for Friday afternoon school ex- 
ercises or on "the last day of school" 
programs. The Chatsworth Wreck so 
impressed the people of the Central 
West that they made it not only a 
part of their history, but of their folk- 
lore as well. 

We are indebted to several friends 
for copies of this song, especially to 
Miss Faye Shafer, Chatsworth, HI., 
and to Judge Claude U. Stone, Editor 
and Publisher, The Peoria Star, Peo- 
ria, 111., and to others. The Chicago 
Sun-Times published this song in Mil- 
burn P. Akers' column, October 4, 1949. 

It appears elsewhere, of course. 

There is no copyright on this poem. 
By authority of the Copyright Office, 
Library of Congress, September 27, 
1949, copyright has expired. We have 
the same information from the Theo- 
dore Presser Company, Music Pub- 
lishers, Bryn Mawr, Pa., successors to 
the John Church Company. 

T. P. Westendorf is thought to have 
written both the words and the music, 
according to the Presser Company. He 
was quite a well known composer and 
song writer. He wrote the song, 'Til 
Take You Home Again, Kathleen," 
which still has a large sale. 

(Author's Note: No attempt is made 
at this point to review the heroic and 
Good Smaritan work of the people of 
Chatsworth and other nearby towns 
in rendering aid to the injured. 


AT l/PR/lMn r.. 



Wrecks, Fire, Floods, Other Disasters and Their Historical Importance 

in the Central West. 

Unfortunately, disasters such as 
fires, floods, explosions, wrecks and 
other forms of death and loss, are a 
paj:! of the vast panorama of history 
in the Central Western states, as, in- 
deed, they are in all parts of the 
United States. 

Regardless of our disapproval — and 
certainly we do not like them — these 
disasters with their tremendous costs 
in life, health, strength and property 
are an important chapter in our his- 
torical records. 

Railroad wrecks, in all areas of the 
United States, have taken staggering 
tolls of human life and well-being and 
much property, both corporate and 

One of the greatest of all railroad 
wrecks in our nation — if we are will- 
ing to construe "greatest" in terms of 
human life — was the famous Chats- 
worth Wreck on the night of August 
10-11, 1887, on the Toledo, Peoria and 
Western Railroad, about three miles 
east of Chatsworth, III., when a heav- 
ily loaded Niagara Falls excursion 
train crashed into the burning debris 
of a timber culvert bridge while run- 
ning at a high rate of speed. 

There have been numerous serious 
railroad v^ecks in all parts of our be- 
loved country. As a people we have 
demanded speed and we have urged 
prompt and efficient service, as a re 
sponsibility of railroad officials. Amer- 
ica has been growing and developing 
at a tremendous rate. We have paid 
for our greater speed with many rail- 
road disasters. 

Motor Mishaps. 

But the railroad industry must not 
be criticized for all of our tragedies. 
Our modem highways in 1949 are tak- 

ing an increasing, and a sickening, toll 
of human life and strength and ol 
physical property. Readers of our con- 
temporary newspapers grow discour- 
aged while reading the myriad of items 
reflecting automobile collisions and 
other forms of motor mishaps on our 
highways. We do not, in this treatise, 
include data and statistics on this type 
of disasters as our readers, most un- 
happily, are entirely familiar with 
these daily tragedies. Fortunately, we 
have noted in the summer of 1949, a 
slight decrease in the number of au- 
tomobile fatalities and accidents in 
the United States. May this improve- 
ment continue— please Allah, 

Bus and truck disasters increase 
with the greater number of these use- 
ful vehicles on our highways. Buses 
and trucks are heavy. When wrecks 
befall them, the loss of life and prop- 
erty is certain to be impressive. 

Tragedy In the Air. 

Air disasters continue, with great 
loss of life. Most unfortunately, few 
persons, comparatively speaking, who 
are passengers or crewmen or women 
in planes, live to survive a crash. If 
there are 45 persons aboard a plane 
which runs into difficulties then the 
death toll is almost certain to be 45. 
Few live to relate the story of a major 
air crash. 

Another major air tragedy occurred 
November 1, 1949, when two planes, 
one an Eastern Air Lines DC-4 passen- 
ger ship, collided with a P-38 fighter 
plane as each aircraft was attempting 
to mai^e a landing at the Washington, 
D. C, airport. A total of 55 lives were 
taken, including two infants, four 
crew members, and many notables, 
including at least one or more mem- 
bers of Congress. Several other prom- 


inent rnen and women were aboard the 
passenger ship, which was destroyed 
with all on board. 


The wreck of the Lady Elgin, a pas- 
»;enger steamer on Lake Michigan, off 
Evanston, 111., September 7, 1860, was 
one of the tragic mishaps on our 
beautiful Great Lakes, one of Nature's 
most benificent gifts to Man in the 
Central West. There were 300 lives 
lost. (1) 

"Lady Elgin" Disaster Also Cast Into 
Verse and Song. 

Milburn P. Akers, columnist of the 
Chicago Sun, now the Sun-Times, pub- 
lished September 7, 3947, an interest- 
mg column story on the wreck of the 
"Lady Elgin," passenger craft on Lake 
Michigan, which went down with loss 
<3t a-most 300 passengers. 

"Lost on the Lady Elgin." 

Out of that disaster came the 19th 
century classic, "Lost on the Lady El- 
gin," 0. typical Vict'^rian poem that 
v/as set to music, and sung for many 
years thereafter. 

The Rev. Edv/ard J. Dowling, S.J., 
writing in the current issue of the 

(1) "The Wreck of the Lady Elgin," 
by Dwight F. Clark, Evanston, 111., 
President, Illinois State Historical So- 
ciety, 1948-1949, Journal of the Society, 
Volume XXXIX, 1946, pages 407 seq. 

Also note article, "The Wreck of the 
James V/atson," Illinois State Histori- 
cal Society, Volume XXXVII, 1944, 
pages 213 seq., "being a Civil Vv'ar Dis- 
aster, -the wreck of the Vicksburg 
Memphis packet, James V/atson," car- 
rying government freight, a large num- 
ber of passengers and 80 soldiers sank 
in the Mississippi River, below Napo- 
leon Landing, the morning of March 2, 
1SG5. Thirty lives were lost, includ- 
ing the Adams Kxpress m.essenger, 20 
soldiers and several ladies and chil- 
dren. Officers of the boat were mostly 
saved. The steamer and cargo vvcre 
a total loss." 

Illinois State Historical Journal, re- 
calls not only the disaster but the 
song that commemorates it as well. 
Lost on the Lady Elgin. 
Up from the poor man's cottage, 
Forth from the mansion door, 
Reaching across the waters. 
Echoing 'long the shore; 
Caught in the morning breezes, 
Borne on the evening gale, 
Cometh a voice of mourning — 
A sad and solemn wail. 

Lost on the Lady Elgin, 
Sleeping to wake no more; 
Numbered with that three hundred 
Who failed to reach the shore. 
Oh! 'tis the cry of children 
Weeping for parents gone; 
Children who slept at evening. 
Orphans, awoke at dawn. 
Sisters for brothers weeping. 
Husbands for missing wives. 
Such were the ties dissevered. 
In those three hundred lives. 

Staunch was the noble steamer. 
Precious the freight she bore, 
Gaily she loosed her cable 
A few short hours before. 
Grandly she sv/ept our harbor. 
Joyfully rang the bell. 
Little thought she ere tomorrow, 
'Twould toll so sad a knell. 

This song, like "The Bridge Was 
Burned at Chatsworth," became a part 
of the song background, one might 
also say, the folklore music of the 
pcEt-Civil War period. 

The Lady Elgin, named for the wife 
of a Canadian governor, had brought 
a largo group of Milwaukeans, prir-.- 
cipally from the city's old third ward, 
to Chicago for a political rally. 

Leaving Chicago the night of Sep- 
tember 7, 1860, for the return trip, the 
Lady Elgin encountered rough v/eath- 
cr. Scmev.'hcre near the Illinois-Wis- 
consin line, probably off Waukegan 
(some v/riters say off Evanston) sm 
was rammed by the schooner Augusta, 
and sank. 

"Many lost their lives on the spot," 
so Father Dowling writes. "But otherb 
foimd safety amid the floating wreck- 
age, especially the upper deck cover- 
ing which Captain Jack Wilson had 
ordered to be chopped loose. A major- 
ity of the survivors floated safely on 
this makeshipt raft, only to meet death 
in the heavy surf at the shore line at 
Winnetka. Captain Wilson died with 
his passengers." 

In the lobby of the Northwestern 
University gymnasium there is a 
memorial tablet to a Garrett Biblical 
Institute student, Edward Spencer, 
who became the hero of the occasion. 

"Strong and courageous," says Fa- 
ther Dowling, "he braved the waves 
to swim out and rescue 17 people be- 
fore he fell exhausted " 

Milwaukee, whose citizens consti- 
tuted the bulk of those lost in the 
Lady Elgin disaster, annually recalls 
the tragedy with memorial services at 
the city's St. John's Cathedral. 

Eastland Tragedy. 

The Eastland tragedy, when this 
Great Lakes excursion craft tipped 
over in the Chicago River, as she was 
about to depart on a day's joyful jour- 
ney, July 24, 1915, terminated the lives 
of 812 persons. Significantly, this ves- 
sel did not sink. Overcrowded, with 
many people rushing to one side of 
the boat, the vessel simply turned over 
on its side in the Chicago River, with 
certain death for hundreds submerged 
beneath the water of the stream. 

Tragedy In Industry. 

Industrial accidents and disasters 
are important in our American econ- 
omy. Coal mines, unfortunately, are 
frequent sources of deaths and inju- 
ries. The Cherry, III., mine disaster, 
November, 1909, took a toll of 270 
lives. The Centralia, 111., mine tragedy 
March 25, 1947, was one of our most 
serious mine disasters, with loss of 
211 lives. 

The Iroquois Theatre Fire, Decem- 
ber 30, 1903, was one of our most cost- 
ly theatre disasters, with a death rec- 

ord of 602 lives, with many more in- 

Other Disasters. 

River floods along the Mississippi, 
Ohio and Illinois rivers have been se- 
rious, but the total loss of life has 
been widely distributed through many 
communities. However, there has been 
great suffering and much loss of prop- 
erty at points such as Shawneetown, 
111., Paducah, Ky., Beardstown, HI., 
and many other towns and cities when 
Old Man River has run amuck on his 
wild caprices. 

The last place of all for heavy death 
toll might seem to be in a hospital, 
yet the fire which destroyed St. An- 
thony's Hospital, Effingham, 111., April 
5, 1949, was the cause of about 80 lives 
being lost — this was the nation's most 
serious hospital fire. 

No attempt can possibly be made in 
this brief recapitulation to enumerate 
all, or even a major or a minor portion, 
of the various disasters which have 
arisen, in one form or another, in 
transportation, industry or amusement 
in our Central States alone. 

Caution — ^Be Careful. 

Suffice the matter to emphasize that 
caution must continually be our watch- 
word. Industry, traffic, the rush for 
amusement, and the increasing mech- 
anization of man's tools, including 
farm implements, bring mankind to 
that certain rendezvous with Death. 
And if Death itself does not intervene, 
then injuries to life and limb and loss 
of property are the inevitable result 
of Man coming into collision with gi- 
gantic forces of Nature which he can- 
not — even in these scientific days of 
1949- — control. 

Death takes no holiday. This ob- 
servation runs true to form — with no 
exceptions. Whether we travel by 
railroad train, or by bus or boat, or 
by privately ov^med and operated au- 
tomobile, or whether our duties take 
us into the fields of grain, or into 
shops and factories and warehouses, 


or into the realm of v/holesome sports 
and recreation, we must allot full 100 
per cent attention to that slogan, now 
so universally proclaimed by our rail- 
roads and industries: 


Death on the Nigiit of August 
10-11, 1887. 

Death certainly rode the rails on that 
summer night of August 10-11, 1887, 
when a T., P. & W. passenger train, 
rushing through the darkness towards 
Niagara Falls, became a burning hor- 
ror of wreckage near Chatsworth, 111. 
Under the tonnage of two locomotives 
and many heavily loaded coaches, a 
blazing timber culvert collapsed and 
those wooden cars splintered and piled 
high, one upon another. 

The night was made hideous with 
the cries of the injured, or "the 
wounded," as contemporary news- 
papers used the term, for it was only 
22 years after Appomatox. The Civil 
War was still grimly and vividly re- 

The hundreds of injured were taken 
to neighboring towns, and eventually 
to Peoria, 111., where impromptu hos- 
pitals were speedily — perhaps clum- 
sily, even if lovingly — prepared to care 
instantly, as best they could, for the 
gigantic task so immediately at hand. 

The dead were laid out in rows upon 
the bosom of the fertile Illinois prairie. 
Later, they were removed to nearby 
towns and eventually to their home 

communities for their last long sleep. 

The night was horrible. Succeeding 
days with increasing fatalities were 
certainly as deplorable. 

Yet this event was an important his 
torical episode in the story of Ameri- 
can transportation. It should be told. 
It should be— it must be— preserved 
as surely as Carl Sandburg and other 
able historians relate the sufferings of 
the American Civil War — without 
doubt our greatest internal American 

Gettysburg and Vicksburg and 
Petersburg are never pleasant, albeit 
they are most important. These and 
other battles and campaigns in otu- 
Civil War are being studied today as 
they have never been before. 

Disasters — yes, even great wars - 
should teach us something of the frail- 
ty of Man. From these regrettable 
events, Man may be able to improve 
his future. He should — certainly he 
has cast some blots upon his record 
in the past. 

The Chatsworth Wreck, the third 
most costly in human life in American 
transportation, can teach us many 

Above all, and over all„ in the con- 
duct of American industry, and high- 
way and other forms of traffic, and 
our daily life in general, the Chats- 
worth Wreck can impress upon us the 
need for attention to that important 
slogan, let us 



The Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad, the Railroad of the Famous 

Chatsworth Wreck. 

Following an almost direct east-west 
route across the State of Illinois — 
from Effner, Indiana, on the Illinois- 
Indiana state line to the Mississippi 
River, at Hamilton, 111., Warsaw, 111., 
and Keokuk, Iowa — a distance of 239 
miles, the Toledo, Peoria and Western 
Railroad is correctly evaluated as one 
of the important freight arteries of 
the nation. 

This railroad connects the most im- 
portant freight lines of the East with 
those of the West, thus affording 
quick and efficient transcontinental 
cargo movements on a far-flung na- 
tional scale. 

The T., P. & W. today, as in past dec- 
ades, is the "Outermost Outer Belt 
Line" of the Chicago area. By-passing 
all of the Chicago and Northern Indi- 
ana vast industrial areas, the T., P. 
& W. connects Eastern trunk lines 
such as the New York Central and the 
Pennsylvania with Illinois main liney 
of the Chicago and Eastern Illinois, the 
Milwaukee System, the Illinois Cen- 
tral, the Wabash, and the Gulf, Mo- 
bile and Ohio (or the Alton Route) 
with the great railroads of the West 
and the Far West, including, of course, 
the Burlington, the Santa Fe and the 
Rock Island. 

While the T., P. & W. itself does not 
serve a city larger than Peoria and 
the general Peoria industrial area, it 
connects with roads which enter and 
serve all the great cities of the nation, 
from New York to the Pacific Coast. 

Passenger Service Discontinued. 

Passenger service was discontinued 
on the T., P. & W. Railroad in 1927. 
Many of the passenger stations of the 
T., P. & W. were joint or union sta- 
tions with other roads, as with the 
New York Central at Sheldon, the C. 
and E. I. at Watseka, the Illinois Cen 
tral at Oilman and El Paso, the Wa- 
bash at Forrest and Fairbury, the 

Alton at Chenoa, and the Santa Fe at 
Eureka, to mention these on the east- 
ern end of the road. Such union sta- 
tion arrangements were ideal for the 
traveling public. Many of these union 
stations are still used by the connect- 
ing line, as at Sheldon, Watseka, Gil- 
man, Chenoa and Eureka. Those at 
Forrest, Fairbury and El Paso have 
been removed, although the T., P. & W. 
maintains a convenient freight depot 
at Fairbury. 

Beginnings of the T., P. & W. 

The absolute genesis of the present 
T., P. & W. Railroad at least in con- 
cept and long distance planning, may 
be traced to the years 1836-37, accord- 
ing to the History of Peoria County, 
published by Johnson and Company, 
Chicago, 1880, where on page 528, we 
note the following: 

"Considerable grading was done on 
what was called the Toledo, Peoria and 
Warsaw railroad in 1836-37, but not a 
mile finished. The people were both 
displeased and disgusted and for a 
number of years railroad building 

Thus were the beginnings of the 
present T., P. & W. railroad halted- 
The railroad, at least in the late 1830s, 
seemed to have died aborning. 

Origin of Other Illinois Bailroads. 

However, Lady Luck smiled upon 
the construction of "The Northern 
Cross" railroad which was begun at 
Meredosia, 111., on the Illinois River, 
in the same year, 1837. Ties and rails 
were actually laid upon grading — in- 
secure enough — with no ballast what- 
ever. A tiny locomotive was purchased 
from the Baldwin Works in Philadel- 
phia. This engine reached Meredosia 
by the all-water route — dov/n the Dela- 
ware River from Philadelphia, out into 
Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, 


through the Gulf of Mexico, and up 
the Mississippi and the Illinois Rivers 
— to be finally unloaded from an old- 
fashioned steamboat at the waterfront 
of the pioneer village of Meredosia in 
183S — just five years after a young, 
ambitious,, future statesman by the 
name of Stephen A. Douglas — who was 
later to make Abraham Lincoln truly 
great — had reached that same village 
in the spring of 1833. 

This diminutive locomotive which 
actually arrived at Meredosia was not 
the first one purchased by the hardy 
railroad builders in Illinois. The earl- 
ier one, caught in an Atlantic gale, 
went down with its ship. It is today 
resting (w^hat remains of it) on the 
bottom of the sea with the fabled 

But the engine which was placed m 
service at Meredosia was definitely 
untrustworthy. Its roadbed was mis- 
erable — it often slipped from the rails 
— that is, thin strips nailed to long 
pieces of timber. There were no me- 
chanics in the Central West who knew, 
or who pretended they kriew, anything 
about steam locomotives. The tiny 
little puffer was out of repair and out 
of service much of the time. Horses 
■ — more to be relied upon as motive 
power — were often used. But, un- 
daunted by these handicaps, the build- 
ers of the Northern Cross pushed on 
th.eir task, slowly but certainly. Jack- 
sonville was reached in 1840, Spring- 
field in 1842. 

The Young Mr. Lincoln: His First 

This was the first railroad which 
Abraham Lincoln — "The Young Mr. 
Lincoln," then 33 years of age, knew. 
Ds-nville was not reached until 1856 — 
railroad building was indeed slow and 
tedious — but the pioneers did their 
work well, when all of their manifold 
handicaps are taken into consideration. 
Our railroad promoters in the pioneer 
period made a valiant beginning. By 
1S30, there v/ere numerous railroads 
operating in Illinois — including the T., 
P. & W. from Peoria to the Illinois- 

Indiana state line — but the guns of 
the Civil War halted all railroad con- 
sti-uction for several years. Yet the 
Northern Cross — if we except a short 
coal mining road, with horses as the 
sole motive power, in the East St. 
Louis area — was the absolute begin- 

First Bails for Chicago. 

Chicago secured its first rail service 
in 1848— hence the Centennial of the 
Chicago and Northwestern railroad in 
1948 — through the construction of the 
historic Galena and Chicago Union, 
now a part of the vast Northwestern 
System. True enough, only ten miles 
were placed in service in 1848, but a 
bold start had been made, a begin- 
ning which was to transform Chicago 
into the greatest transportation cen- 
ter in America and in the world. The 
Galena and Chicago Union was also 
built with wooden rails capped with 
thin straps of iron. 

The first locomotive used in the Chi- 
cago area was "The Pioneer." It was 
conveyed, very naturally, over the all- 
water route from the east to the front 
yard of Chicago. There, it was un- 
loaded from a lake schooner and 
dragged over muddy and rutty streets 
by teams of stout horses to the end 
of the rails. There it was placed into 
service to bring all of the Great West 
and Northwest into the lap of Chicago. 
It seems that horses had their definite 
part in the building of our early rail 

Our Real Interest— In the T., P. & VV. 

Tempting would it be, in truth, to 
relate, even most briefly, the origins 
of other old rail lines, as we have 
sketched the mere outlines of the 
Northern Cross, now the Wabash, and 
the Northwestern railroads. The be- 
ginnings of the present Rock Island, 
Burlington, Baltimore and Ohio, Illinois 
Central, Alton (now absorbed into the 
Gulf, Mobile and Ohio) and New York 
Central Lines in Illinois and in the 
Mid-West are just as fraught with 
historic episodes of major importance. 


But our interest lies in the origin 
of the Toledo, Peoria and Western 
Railroad. (1) The Illinois General As- 
sembly February 12, 1849, gave a chai*- 
ter to the Peoria and Oquawka Com- 
pany to begin a railroad, to extend 
from Peoria on the Illinois River to 
Oquawka on the Mississippi River — a 
logical rail connection, indeed, between 
the waters of these two navigable 
streams. The charter was amended 
February 10, 1851, to include a branch 
to Burlington, Iowa, or at least to a 
point opposite Burlington as there was 
no bridge spanning the Father of 
Waters at that time. Burlington, a 
larger place, was held to be a better 
terminal for the road, which would 
then be 93 miles in length. 

The stockholders met June 20, 1851, 
at Knoxville, 111, and organized under 
the charter, which was amended June 
22, 1852, to extend from Peoria to the 
niinois-Indiana state line. 

The western half of the road was 
"completed" in January, 1857, from 
Peoria to East Burlington. We must 
always use the word "completed" with 
a dash of salt, for a railroad is never 

(1) Author's Note: This brief review 
of the history of the T., P. & W. rail- 
road does not, in any respect, pretend 
to be a complete history of this rail- 
road, so intimately associated with the 
pioneer railroad construction period in 
Illinois and the Central West. 

This sketch is presented only to in- 
dicate the historic importance of the 
T., P. & W. A full volume would be 
required to do justice to this interest- 
ing chapter in Illinois pioneer trans- 
portation construction and operation. 
Likewise, our comments upon other 
early railroads in Illinois are included 
only as sketches of the growth of rail- 
road building in Illinois and adjacent 
states. Again, it wot^ld require many 
volumes to amply portray the history 
of any one of the pre-Civil War rail- 
roads in Illinois and into surrounding 

completed. The grade, the ballast, the 
rails, which bear the flights of the 
Twentieth Century Limited, the Rock- 
ets, the Zephyrs, The Green Diamond, 
The Chief, The Abraham Lincoln, in 
1949, are not "completed," never v/ill 
be "completed." Afterwards, a branch 
line was built leaving the main line 
at a point nine miles east of the Mis- 
sissippi River for the five miles ex- 
tension into Oquawka. 

"The company became financially 
embarrassed" — how frequently do we 
read this dismal observation in the 
study of pioneer railroads. The infant 
railroad was sold under foreclosure to 
the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy 
Railroad Company, which operates it 
today from Peoria to Galesburg, Gales 
burg to Burlington, and Oquawka to 

Eastern Extension of the T., P. & W. 

The eastern extension of the Toledo, 
Peoria and Western railroad was be- 
gun in the summer cf 1853, and fin- 
ished to Oilman, 111., 86 miles from 
Peoria, by September, 1857. This por- 
tion of the road includes the scene of 
the Chatsworth v^nreck. The remaining 
mileage from Oilman to the state lino 
was completed by December, 1859. 

There were mortgages ,of course, on 
this part of the road and these were 
foreclosed. A new company was 
formed which was named the Toledo, 
Peoria and Warsaw Railroad Com- 

In 1867, the newly formed company 
began to build, once again, a western 
extension, the first one of which had 
been sold to the Burlington, as noted. 
The line from Peoria to Warsaw, HI., 
and Keokuk, Iowa was finished in Oc- 
tober, 1868. A branch was built in 
1871, from La Harpe, HI., to Burling- 
ton, Iowa. 

Citizens of Peoria, HI., subscribed 
for $250 000 of stock of the company 
in the late 1860s. The people of Pe- 
oria felt iflifferently towards the rail- 
road than their earlier generation who 


had been "displeased and disgusted' 
in 1836-37. 

Indeed, the same history of Peoria 
County states that "the road has been 
a grand feeder to Peoria and a pro- 
moter of her commerce and growth 
and may be styled, emphatically, "the 
Peoria Railroad." The Peoria County 
historian in 1880 was indeed forecast- 
ing the future, for, in 1949, or approxi- 
mately 70 years later, the T., P. & W. 
is called "The Peoria Road" and its 
locomotives recently carried this slo- 
gan. Jovially, through the years, es- 
pecially when the road carried a heavy 
passenger traffic, it was known as 
"The Tip-Up." 

Important Passenger Business. 

Comment may well be interjected at 
this point to note the really important 
passenger business which the T., P. 
& W. handled from about 1870 until 
1927. There were four passenger trains 
daily each way between Peoria and 
Forrest, two each way daily between 
Forrest and Effner. Practically every 
station on the eastern extension was a 
sizeable town — East Peoria, Washing- 
ton, Eureka, El Paso, Gridley, Chenoa, 
Fairbury, Forrest, Chatsworth, Piper 
City, Oilman, Crescent City, Watseka 
and Sheldon. There were important 
T., P. & W. passenger trains, with 
union stations as previously noted, at 
many of these points, connecting with 
other railroads. Connections for Chi 
cago were made at Chenoa and For- 
rest especially, also at Oilman, Wat- 
seka and Sheldon. The Tip-Up in what 
might be called the good old days, 

really handled passengers — "good 
loads"' as trainmen designate their 
coaches filled with passengers. And 
there was many excursion trains — no- 
tably the Niagara Falls excursion 
which made railroad history the night 
of August 10-11, 1887, when it plunged 
into the dry stream of a tiny creek 
after the burning culvert bridge had 

Later ffistory of T., P. & W. 

Octave Chanute, for whom Chanute 
Field, now Chanute Air Base, RantouJ, 
111., v.'as named, was a leading civil 
engineer, and was one of the active 
forces in the building of the eastern 
extension of the railroad. 

Through a special act of the Illinois 
general assembly, dated February 21, 
1861, the corporate title of the Peoria 
and Oquawka Railroad Company was 
changed to the Logansport, Peoria and 
BurUngton Raihroad Company. The 
property was conveyed to the Toledo, 
Peoria and Warsaw Railway Company 
May 14, 1864. 

Following a period of receivership, 
beginning January 20, 1875, the To- 
ledo, Peoria and Warsaw Railway 
Company was sold at foreclosure Jan- 
uary 20, 1880, and was acquired by the 
Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad 
Company May 20. Thus was the name 
"Warsaw" dropped from the corpor- 
ate name of the company. The com- 
pany continued operation under this 
name until reorganized July 1, 1887, 
as the Toledo, Peoria and Western 
Railv/ay Company. Note the change 
in substituting "Railroad" in favor of 



Communities Served by the T., P. & W. 
Keokuk, Hamilton, Carthage, Oquawka, Canton. 

Keokuk, Iowa. 

Keokuk, "The Gate City" of Iowa, 
and suggestively, entrance to the 
great Trans-Mississippi country, from 
which the frontier vanished decades 
ago, is important in our story, for it 
was from Keokuk, or from Hamilton, 
HI., opposite Keokuk, and from War- 
saw, 111., a few miles down the river, 
that the Peoria and Oquawka Railroad, 
later to become the Toledo, Peoria 
and Warsaw, or the Toledo, Peoria 
and Western, under various names 
and through diverse reorganizations, 
was eastward extended. 

Keokuk was named for the Sauk and 
Fox Indian Chief, Keokuk, who was 
known by the Indians as Puk-e-she- 
tuck, which meant "Where the water 
runs shallow," and which became 
known as Keokuk. He was a friend 
of the White Man and tried to avoid 
the Black Sparrow Hawk war cam- 
paigns of 1831 and 1832. His statue 
is now located atop a hill in Rand 
Park, Keokuk, with his Indian coun- 
tenance forever surveying the Father 
of Waters. 

Keokuk received its first railroad 
service in 1856 and is now served by 
the Burlington, Rock Island, Wabash 
and T., P. & W., the last three having 
only freight service at present into the 
Gate City. 

Platted in 1837, Keokuk had an even 
earlier history as an American trading 
post as early as 1829 By the 1840s it 
had become an important trading cen- 
ter. A canal was constructed around 
the rapids in 1877. The famous Keo- 
kuk Dam was built 1910-1913, and is 
about a mile in length, extending to 
Hamilton, 111., and furnishing electric 
power to a wide area. 

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who 
was later to become famous as Mark 
Twain, as a journeyman printer in 

Keokuk prior to the Civil War, serv- 
ed under his brother, Orion Clemens. 
One record has it that Samuel Clemens 
crossed the river and worked for a 
brief period as a printer in Warsaw, 
111., (see comment on Warsaw). 

Hamilton, 111. 

Situated at the eastern end of the 
famous Keokuk Dam, Hamilton, HL, 
is, and was, the extreme western ter- 
minal, on a straight line, of the T., 
P. & W. railroad, excepting its river 
skirting line from Hamilton to War- 
saw, about five miles to the southwest. 

Hamilton is the gateway city to 
reach the old Mormon memorials at 
Nauvoo, 111., about 12 miles up-river. 
The drive, Illinois Route 96, between 
Hamilton and Nauvoo, skirting beau- 
tiful Lake Keokuk — a widening of the 
Mississippi River, caused by the Keo- 
kuk Dam — is one of the most scenic 
and picturesque not only in Illinois, 
but throughout the Central West. 

Hamilton is the home of the cen- 
tury-old industry of Dadant and Sons, 
one of the largest beeswax producers 
in the United States. The founder of 
the company came from France and 
established the business in a small 
way, as were so many now thrivmg 
industries. The beeswax produced by 
the Dadant company te used, veiy 
largely, for candles in religious serv- 
ices, chiefly Roman Catholic, through- 
out the world, as much of it is ex- 

Carthage — Nauvoo — Oquawka. 

None of these three richly historic 
communities in extreme Western Illi- 
nois is served by the T., P. & W. rail- 
road, hence may seem to form no 
part of this present narrative. 

At one time, what was projected as 
the T., P. & W., was to have been 
built through Carthage, and former 
residents of that city, who were bom 


and reared there, have told this author 
that bits of grading and roadbed, des- 
tined for what is now the T., P. & W., 
are still visible at Cai'thage. 

Days might be spent in historical 
and literary research in Keokuk, Ham- 
ilton, Warsaw, Nauvoo, Carthage, oth- 
er communities at, or near, the be- 
ginnings of the present T., P. & W. 

From this general area, many per- 
sons went aboard, as passengers, the 
ill-fated Niagara Falls excursion train, 
which ran into such colossal havoc 
jtist after it passed through the small 
town of Chatsworth, 111. After all, 
those fine communities at the foun- 
tain-head of the T., P. & W. are part 
and parcel of the tragedy to which 
this book is dedicated. 


The largest and most important city 
on the western end of the T., P. & W. 
railroad is Canton, aside from Keokuk, 
Iowa, a prosperous manufacturing 
community. Canton is the largest city 
in Fulton county, which at one time 
included all of the area north to the 
Wisconsin state line, including Chi- 
cago. In pioneer Illinois history, Chi- 
cago people looked upon Lewistown, 
the county seat of Fulton county, as 
their county seat. 

Canton early became known as "The 
Plow City," for like Rock Island and 
Moline, it was an early center for the 
manufacture of agricultural imple- 
ments. At present these industries 
employ about 3,000 persons, with a 
current building and improvement pro- 
gram involving $3,000,000. 

There is much coal mining in Can- 
ton area, most of it so-called "strip" 
mining, with a few "slope" mines. 
Strip mining, is and has been, always 
important in Canton vicinity. Electri- 
cally driven shovels remove coal from 
strip mines to a depth of 75 feet. It 
is then hauled in powerful trvicks 
which cost $20,000 each to tipples for 
railroad shipment. More than 2,000,000 
tons of coal are produced annually. 

Canton is so named, it is said, be- 
cause its founder, Isaac Swan, enter- 
tained the belief that its site was ex- 
actly opposite, on the globe, the an- 
cient city of Canton, China. Swan, 
in the pioneer days, gave a building 
lot to each settler who would locate 
there. Canton, 111., today has popu- 
lation of 15,000 and is one of the fin- 
est and most prosperous cities in the 
general area between Peoria and 
Quincy, 111. 

Warsaw, HI., Truly Historic. 

Warsaw, a picturesque little 
city on the Mississippi river, a 
few miles below Keokuk, Iowa, was 
forecast as a future important city. 
Warsav/ drew many interesting and 
capable people. William H. Roosevelt, 
a great-uncle of former President The- 
odore Roosevelt and a great-great- 
uncle of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, as- 
cended the river from St. Louis, while 
studying the Central West for a loca- 
tion, and decided to build his mansion 
in Warsaw. This house was erected in 
the grand manner with large grounds, 
and with winding drives leading to 
stables. It was a prominent feature 
in the pleasing Warsaw background. 

In 1839, Dr. Charles Hay, father of 
John Hay, who was to serve as one 
of two of Lincoln's private secretaries 
during the Civil War and later as Sec- 
retary of State and as Ambassador to 
Great Britain, moved to Warsaw when 
John Hay was a small boy. From 
Warsaw, John Hay went to Pittsfield. 
111., to attend a private academy since 
discontinued, where he lived with his 
uncle, Milton Hay, thence to Brown 
University. Providence, Rhode Island 
In Pittsfield, John Hay met John G. 
Nicolay, the future chief secretary to 
Lincoln during "The War Years," and 
through this friendship Hay was se- 
lected as second secretary to aid Nico- 
lay. "Let Hay come along" was the 
crisp statement made by Lincoln when 
Nicolay suggested the need for addi- 
tional secretarial help. 

Following his Brov^n University 
graduation in 1857, John Hay returned 


to Warsaw. Within a year or two, in 
1859, he went to Springfield, 111., to 
study law under his uncle, Milton Hay, 
who had removed to that city. In 
Springfield, again,, Hay was thrown 
into company with Nicolay and with 
Lincoln. Hay's subsequent life is a 
part of our national history. 

Two of the old homes occupied by 
the Hay family in Warsaw were pre- 
served for many years. One stately 
Hay mansion, with great three-story 
porches overlooking the Mississippi, 
has been razed. An earlier home 
stands as a portion of a contemporary 
home. The old brick school, which the 
youthful John Hay attended, is, how- 
ever, happily preserved and in 1949 is 
the headquarters of the local Ameri- 
can Legion. 

A Hancock county history tells us 
that Mark Twain, who worked at the 
printer's trade in cross-river Keokuk, 
Iowa, was employed for a short period 
as a printer in Warsaw. 

Fort Edwards, at Warsaw, erected 
in 1814 as an outpost against the In- 
dians, was named in honor of Ninian 
Edwards, first territorial governor of 
Illinois. There was an even earlier 
fort a mile down the river. The present 
Fort Edwards State Monument stands 
within easy v/alking distance of the 
business district of Warsaw. Th's 
monument, overlooking the confluence 
of the Des Moines River with the Mis- 
sissippi River, is preserved by the Illi- 
nois State Division of Parks and 

Warsaw lies a few miles south of 
Keokuk, Iowa, and indeed, west of 
Keokuk, with Warsaw in Illinois and 
Keokuk in Iowa. The river swings off 
to the southwest between Keokuk and 
Warsaw, with the smokes of Keokuk 
to be noted to the northeast of War- 
saw. The Des Moines River enters the 
Mississippi just above Warsaw and 
from the heights at Fort Edwards 
State Monument, one can see three 
states, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois, 

Warsaw,, at one time, was selected 

for the future extensive shops of the 
T., P. & W. Railroad, and there was 
much brisk building and active trade 
in Warsaw. The city, today, is one 
of the most delightful in Illinois, both 
historically and scenically, but the 
population remains at the approximate 
2,500 mark. The T., P. & W. has a 
freight line entering Warsaw which 
skirts the bank of the Mississippi. This 
line leaves the Keokuk branch at Ham- 
ilton, 111., five miles northeast of War- 
saw and opposite the great Keokuk 

While Warsaw did not become the 
great railroad terminal which was 
forecast, its name was a part indeed, 
of the Toledo, Peoria and Warsaw 
Railway Company, which was merged 
with the Mississippi and Wabash Rail- 
road Company, December 14, 1865. The 
Mississippi and Wabash was chartered 
February 10, 1857. However, the name 
of the Toledo, Peoria and Warsaw 
Railroad Company was retained after 
this merger. 

T., P. & W. Sponsors Towns on Its 
Eastern Extension. 

The towns along the entire extension 
of the T., P. & W. between Peoria and 
Effner are "railroad towns." They 
were platted by town builders, like 
Patton and Chanute, who laid out 
new town sites along the new railroad. 
Patton, Chanute, others were, in 
reality, empire builders of the first 
order. In their far-ranging vision of 
the future they saw, perhaps, in only 
a rudimentary way, "A Vast Future," 
as Abraham Lincoln once expressed his 
glimpses of the years to come. Lin- 
coln was able to compress so many 
great truths into so few words. Such 
men did humbly, yet finally and dra- 
matically, forecast the vast America of 
Vv'hich we are proud today. 

Traveling the T., P. & W. from Pe- 
oria to Effner, one notes the business 
sections of all the towns, without ex- 
ception, grouped closely about the 
tracks of the old-time "Tip-Up." This 
fact demonstrates the truth that these 
towns followed the railroad. Eureka, 


El Paso, Gridley, Chenoa, Fairbury, 
Forrest, Chatsworth, Piper City, Gil- 
man, Crescent City, Watseka and Shel- 
don have packed their business dis- 
tricts snugly beside the tracks of the 
T., P. & W. Few of these towns even 
existed before the coming of this rail- 
road, although Eureka was the older 
Walnut Grove, and Watseka the pio- 
neer Middleport, each of which was 
moved to almost trackside of the 
T., P. & W. 

Illinois railroads, including, of 
course, the T., P. & W., aided pro- 
foundly in transforming a once Illinois 
v/ilderness into one of the richest Gar- 
den-Spots which the Creator ever fash- 
ioned. One has only to survey the 
agricultural resources of the Fairbury- 
Forrest-Chatsworth area to realize 
that tlie Corn Belt of Illinois is one of 
the marvelously fertile regions of the 
entire United States. Certainly, the 
men v/ho built the T.. P. & W. railroad 
and who platted the many town-sites 
chose wisely in their laudable ambi- 
tion to extend a railroad entirely 
across the State of Illinois at its 
widest point. 

Unfortunately, this area, so rich in 
agricultural resources and so fraught 
with business growth and develop- 
ment, proved the region where one of 
the greatest railroad tragedies in the 
United States occurred • — the Chats- 
worth wreck. P^ailroad history was 
made, but not the railroad history 
which we esteem so highly. How- 
ever, it was an historical episode of 
the first magnitude. 

The era of the Chatsworth Wreck 
was included in the period when all 
traveling, beyond the trotting ability 
of Old Dobbin and Old Betsey, was 
done by passenger trains and by local 
passenger trains, for the most part. 

A trip to Niagara Falls, in the good 
old summer time, on a typical excur- 
sion train, was a vacation which was 
highly regarded. This was a cherished 
event, a journey which relieved the 

tedium of farm work and small town 
life as few other sojourns could do. 

Small wonder, then, that hundreds 
of people clambered aboard a special 
T., P. & W. excursion train enrouto 
the entire distance from the Missis- 
sippi River towns to Chatsworth, 
for the joyful trip to the enchanting 
and mysterious Niagara Falls. This 
trip, undertaken in the most gala va- 
cation spirit, was never completed, for 
Disaster overtook the train, causing 
"The Chatswoi-th Wreck" to become 
truly historic. 

The Campbell House at El Paso — A 
Landmark on the T., P. & W. 

Erected in 1863, as a combination 
hotel and railroad passenger station, 
the Campbell House, at the junction 
of the T., P. & W. railroad with the 
old main line of the Illinois Central 
at El Paso, El., was one of the many 
such hostelries in Illinois and the Cen- 
tral West. 

Some of these combined hotels and 
depots were located along "the Chi- 
cago Branch" of the Illinois Central 
as the line from a point north of Cen- 
tralia, 111., to Chicago was known. The 
okl Doane House at Champaign, 111.. 
which burned in 1898, and the Essex 
House at Mattoon, 111., were amoiig 
these, as were hotel-stations at Effing- 
ham, 111., and Centralia, 111. 

At many junction points there were 
hotels and restaurants either within 
the stations themselves or in close 
proximity. Danville Junction, 111., for 
instance, was the focus for four hotels, 
several restaurants, bars and barber 
shops during the Roman holiday of 
the glory and importance of mass local 
passenger train travel at that historic 
old cross-ix>ads of the Central West. 
The depot hotel dining room and the 
depot lunch-counter, with their heavy 
and massive cups and saucers and 
plates, are recalled by old-time trav- 

George H. Campbell built the Camp- 
bell House in El Paso. He also served 

as agent for the two railroads. Camp- 
bell had served as agent at EI Paso 
since 1858, and noting the trend to- 
wards railside hotels, erected his com- 
bined hostelry and railroad station. It 
is said that he maintained the clean- 
est waiting-room along the lines of the 
two intersecting railroads at El Paso. 
At the peak of the local passenger 
train movement, there were 12 passen- 
ger trains daily, or at least six days 
a week, which stopped at his hotel- 
station — truly a "Roadside Tavern" of 
the Civil War period. He later leased 
his hotel to other parties. 

The Campbell house was razed in 
rather recent years. There is an ap- 
propriate historical plaque at the rail- 
road junction in El Paso, where the 
hotel once stood, with a brief, but im- 
pressive historical review of the old- 
time hostelry which once graced the 
railrcad intersection, when all travel 
beyond a few miles, was done by local 
passenger trains and when a "change 
of cars" at a point like El Paso was 
taken for granted. And it should bo 
recalled that patrons of railroad hotels 
were not bothered in their slumbers 
by the whistles and bell-ringing and 
noise of locomotives and of trains 
swishing across a railroad junction. It 
v/as, indeed, a privilege for many 
travelers to "stop" at such a hotel 
and to meet their fellow-travelers, 
much as the group met at "The Way- 
side Inn," as depicted so delightfully 
by the American poet, Henry Wads- 
worth Longfellow. 

Abraham Lincoln and the T., P. & W. 

Paul M. Angle, secretary of the Chi 
cago Historical Society and former 
secretary-treasurer and editor of the 
Illinois State Historical Society, in his 
authoritative "Lincoln, 1854-1861, Be- 
ing the Day-by-Day Activities of Abra- 
ham Lincoln from January 1, 1854, to 
March 4, 1861," makes only one direct 
reference to Lincoln using the Peoria 
& Oquawka Railroad, as the T., P. & 
W. was known in those pre-Civil War 

Angle (page 243) reports Lincoln 
changing from the old main line o€ 
the Illinois Central to the Peoria & 
Oquawka at El Paso, 111., Saturday. 
August 28, 1858, while enroute from 
Freeport, 111., where the second Lin- 
coln-Douglas Debate was held Friday, 
August 27, to Peoria. Lincoln had a 
wait of one hour at Kl Paso between 
trains. As soon as it became known 
he was in town a crowd gathered and 
he spoke for a few minutes. From 
Peoria, Lincoln went to Pekin, prob- 
ably by steamboat on the Illinois 
River, and then to Tremont, 111., then 
county seat of Tazewell county, where 
he spoke for two hours on Monday, 
August 30. 

Both Lincoln and Douglas spoke in 
Peoria, Monday, October 16, 1854, 
these addresses being commemorated 
today by historic tablets at tlie Peoria 
County court-house. However, accord- 
ing to the map in the Angle "Day-By- 
Day" volume, Peoria in 1854, had no 
railroad. Lincoln had been in Pekin 
on previous days and went to Lacon, 
111., the day following the Peoria 
speech, doubtless making both tripe 
by steamboat. There is little, if any, 
direct evidence that Lincoln used the 
Peoria & Oquawka railroad on other 

Towns in the Wreck Area. 

Mention has been made of pictur- 
esque Warsaw, which with Keokuk, 
Iowa, and Lomax, 111., form the west- 
ern terminals of the T., P. & W. 

Once again, it is tempting to spend 
much time in a review of the many 
interesting towns and cities along the 
T., P. & W. 

Our chief interest, however, lies in 
the communities in the area of the 
Chatsworth Wreck of August 10-11, 
1887, and these towns are Chatsworth, 
Piper City, Forrest and Fairbury. 
These four communities were the near- 
est allied to the great tragedy which 
is our real theme of discussion. 



"A bronze Plaque marking the site 
of the olJ Campbeil Kcuse in El Paso, 
III., was unveiled November 1, 1939, 
by the American Legion. Many peo- 
ple prci"ninent in the early history of 
the state have been guests at the old 
Campbell House, v/Iiich v/as built in 
18C3, and razsd in 1938. General Grant 
was host at a reception there in 1880 
and General John A. Logan is knovv'n 
to have stayed at the hotel vv^hen he 
was in El Paso." — Journal of the Illi- 
tiois State Historical Society, Vclui-ie 
XXXII, December, 1939, page 537. 

V/ith the exception of the above 
brief item in the Journal of the Illinois 
State Kistorical society, the Cainpbei] 
House has never been recognized, it 
is believed, outside of El Paso and 
vicinity. The third generation of tlie 
Campbell famjlly is ncv/ living in Cali- 

1iil?..::li T-zain at The Campbell H.'.;se. 
C. C. Kingdon, cashier, Woodford 
Cor.nty National Bank, El Paso^ in., 
who prepared the material for 
Campbell House plaque, v/roto tl: 
thcv of this volume, October 23, 1349: 

"One guest deserving historical note 
war: a young lecturer who signed the 
register January 12, 1869, and remain- 
ed overnight. In one of the Campbell 
House room-S, the young lover-lecturer 
write one of his 'Loveletters.' We did 
not know this fact when we double- 
checked the da.ta for the historical 
plaque. The letter, with the dating 
and place by Samuel Langhorne Clem- 
ens, the future Mark Twain, v/as pub- 
lished in the Atlantic Monthly, Novem- 
ber, 1948. Only the dateline mentions 
our then budding town of Ei Paso, 111." 

To Octave Chanute goes mucli of 
the credit for the early surveys and 
platting of the city of Fairbur^'-, the 
most important centei- in southeastern 
Livingston county. 

Indian Grove township, in v/hich 

Fairbury is located, has a long- his- 
tory identified with the American In- 
dian. There were pioneer White settle- 
ments in and near Avoca. The first 
name at least assigned to v/hat is 
nov/ the city of Fairbury v/as South 
Acova. Caleb L. Patton, a stock- 
holder in tli3 original Peoria and 
Oquav/ka Railroad, and Chanute, a 
prominent civil engineer of his period, 
were instrum.ental in the location of 
the present town-site of Fairbury. 
There was much rivalry among tlit? 
early residents, especially betwen those 
of th.e "east end" and the "v/est end" 
as to which would be the real center 
of the community. These jealousies 
have long since been buried by the 
ever vigilant hs.nd of Father Time. 

"The railroad was built in 1857, run- 
ning east and west through the center 
of tov/n. It is a great trunk line be- 
tween East and West. There are few 
roads at the present time in the State 
cf Illinois that are doing such a heavy 
business." (1) 

Fairbury really entered railroad his- 
:ry in 1872 with the building of "The 
Chicago and Faducah Railroad," v/hich 
has since been absorbed into the Wa- 
bash System. This railroad, which has 
become only a branch line, with freight 
service only, in 19-19, of the Wabash, 
v/as projected southeasterly from 
Streator, 111., through Pontiac and 
Fairbury, crossing the T., P. & W. at 
the v/estern edge of Fairbury, 
where it continued s o u t h v/ a r d 
tcv/ards the general vicmity of Padu- 
cah, Ky. Hov/ever, Effingham, 111., 
v;as the fai'thest south terminal ever 
reached. Today, the road does not ex- 
tend beyond Sullivan, 111., v/ith freight 
service only, Bement, 111., to Sullivan. 

(1) Kistorical Encyclopedia of Illi- 
nois and History of Livingston Coun- 
ty, edited by Christopher C. Strawn, 
Fordyce B. Johnson and George K 
Frani:en, Volume II, page 345, Munscll 
Publishing Co., Chicago, 1909. 



On this site from 1863 to 1938, 
stood "The Campbell House," a fa- 
mous old hostelry and railroad de- 
pot. Built by George H. Campbell 
and operated almost continuously 
by him and his son, Harry, until 

General U. S Grant held a recep- 
tion here on Monday, April 19, 1880, 
and General John A. Logan on Oc- 
tober 6, 1872, and many other no- 
tables were guests at other times. 

Major Louis Baron Chlopicki, 
noted Polish gentleman and exile, 
operated a restaurant one block 
south of here from 1856 to 1867, 
near the denot of that era. He died 
in 1867, and is buried in Evergreen 
cemetery nearby. 

David A Stiother voted in the city 
election, Monday, April 4, 1870, the 
first legal Negro vote cast in the 
United States. 

The first Illinois Central train 
passed here May 16, 1853. The first 
T., P. & W. train in 1856 brought 
lumber for El Paso's first store 
building erected one block east of 
here by WiUiam H. Jenkins. 

James H. Wethen and George L. 

Gibson platted the town April 20, 
1854. It was incorporated as a city 
in February, 1867, and was reorgan- 
ized under the general law in 1891. 

Plaque erected in 1939 by El Paso 
Post No. 59, Inc., The American Le- 

(Author's Note: It is difficult to 
check the exact dates of railroad 
depots in El Paso. The Campbell 
House was erected in 1863 and was 
Tsed for many years as a joint 
ticket office and passenger depot 
bv both the T., P. & W. and the 
Illinois Central. Yet we read, on 
this plaque, there was a depot, one 
block south of the intersection, 
which was used from 1856 to 1867. 
These dates overlap by four years, 
probably cannot be accurately 
checked today. 

It could be that the Illinois Cen- 
tral operated its own depot south 
of the intersection until 1867 and 
then moved to the Campbell House. 
It might be that the hotel, erected 
in 1863, according to the plaque, 
was not used as a railroad ticket 
office and waiting-room until 1867, 
at least by both railroads This is 
an interesting problem for local 
historians in El Paso to study.) 

"The life-story of Louis Chlopicki, 
mentioned on the tablet of the Camp- 
bell House, will interest readers of 
this volume. I wrote it up for an El 
Paso newspaper several years ago. Un- 
fortunately, I have no copy of it now, 
and we have only the copy in the files 
of the newspaper itself. Isaac Jenkins, 
old-time citizen of El Paso, now de- 
ceased, carried much information con- 
cerning this Polish citizen's strange 

existence in El Paso and his even 
stranger death." — C. C. Kingdon, El 
Paso, m. 

Abraham Lincoln, known to have 
"changed cars" at El Paso, August 28, 
1858, and who might have been at El 
Paso on other occasions, did not know 
the Campbell House, which as noted, 
was erected in 1863. Lincoln left 
Springfield, 111., February 15 1861, 
nevermore to return in life. 


^ C: 1> Q 

03 rt O to 3 

a § o S w 
«-.. _ f^ ? < 


The Chicago and Paducah. 

Older generations in Illinois spoke 
of the present Wabash railroad from 
Bc-ment, through Mcnticello, Gibson 
City and Forrest into Chicago as "The 
Paducah Railroad." Many railroads 
carried names of cities or areas which 
Were never reached. 

Illinois maps of the vintage of 1880 
show "The Chicago and Paducah Rail- 
read" extending south from Streator 
through Pontiac, crossing the T., P. 
& W. at Fairbury and joining "The 
Chicago and Mississippi," as the pres- 
ent Wabash from Chicago to Beinent 
ivas Itnov/n, at Strav,?n. Remnants of 
the old grade of the Chicago and Pa- 
ducah are still to bo f-und southeast 
of Fairbury and southwest of Forrest. 

The present Forrest-Streator branch 
of the Wabash operated profitable pas- 
r.enger business for a number of years. 
Tv/o or more round trips were made 
daily, or at least si:: days a week, be- 
tween Forrest and Stieator. Pontiac, 
the county seat of Livingston county, 
attracted many visitors from Forrest 
and Fairbury. While court was in ses- 
sion especially, those Wabash local pas- 
senger trains "picked up" perhaps 15 
or 20 passengers each morning both 
at Fairbury and Forrest, discharged 
that many each evening. Those were 
the years when the local passenger 
train v/as in the heyday of its pros- 
perity and popularity. All of this busi- 
ness faded, of course, with the coming 
of modern highways and these For- 
rest-Streator passenger trains v/ere 

The Livingston county history tells 
us there was an old-time hotel and 
depot serving both the T., P. & W. 
and the Chicago and Paducah, in the 
v/est part of Fairbury, where the two 
railroads then crossed, and v/here, at 
prcsGiit, the Streator branch freight 
trains creep onto the T., P. & W. as 
tenants to continue their five mile 
journey into Forrest v/hich is their 

Indian Grove and Fairbury peopl* 

responded heartily to the building of 
the Chicago and Paducah railroad, 
even more so than they did to the con- 
sti-uction of the Peoria and Oquavv^ka, 
now the T., P. & W. 

"The people of this section (Fair- 
bury) seem to have awakened to the 
necessity of extended railroad facili- 
ties, since the building of the T., P. 
& W., as it, v/e are informed, encoun- 
tered much opposition from the very 
inception of the enterprise until its 
success and energy v/on for it a degree 
of independence, while the Chicago and 
Faducah received a hearty and sub- 
stantial support and a stock subscrip- 
tion." (1) 

It is strange, indeed, that m.any Illi- 
nois and Central Western communities 
actually opposed the construction of 
pre-Civil War railroads and even after 
that conflict, and permitted new rail- 
roads to "miss" them or to by-pass 
them slightly. Many present-day 
"Ghost" towns in Illinois owe their de- 
mise to the neglected opportunity of 
allowing a railroad to build past them 
or near them --iri^?-:^ than through 

Forrest tov/nship received settle- 
ments as early as 1833, but the build- 
ing of the T., P. & W. railroad through 
that area in 1857 gave rise to the vil- 
lage of Forrest, v^^hicli v/as not incor- 
porated until 1870. 

The building of the present Wabash 
railroad betv/een Decatur and Chicago 
in 1S78 made Forrest a busy junction 
station. While the T, P. & W. oper- 
ated passenger trains, Forrest was a 
v/ell knov/n point for "changing cars." 
It has always been a heavy inter- 
change for freight between the Wa- 
bash and the T., P. & W. Its popula- 
tion is nov/ about 1,000. Forrest was 
known as Forrestville in its earlj' 

(1) History of Livingston County, 
by Strav/n, Johnson and Franzen, the 
Mundell Companj'-, Chicago, 1909. 


Forrest became a railroad division 
point when the Wabash railroad es- 
tablished a roundhouse, light shops 
and yards. This installation has stead- 
ily diminished during more recent 
years and Forrest is not the railroad 
terminal in 1949 which it was 30 or 40 
years ago. 

The Forrest-Streator branch of the 
Wabash railroad serving Fairbury and 
Pcntiac has been treated under the 
comment on Fairbury. as in its early 
history, it was more identified with 
Fairbury than with Forrest. 


The name of Chatsworth was given 
to the wreck, although it occurred 
about midway between that town and 
Piper City. The wreck happened with- 
in a few rods of the Livingston-Ford 
county line, but v/ithin Livingston 
county. The line between the two 
counties in that area runs north and 
south, as "The Panhandle" of Ford 
county extends far to the north, reach- 
ing Kankakee county. Ford county at 
this position is only one township 
wide, v/ith Iroquois county on the east. 
Piper City is the only station on the 
T., P. & W. in Ford county, v/ith Chats- 
worth. Forrest and Fairbury the only 
T.. P. & W. tov/ns in Livington county. 

Chatsworth today is a town of ap- 
proximately 1,200 population. It has 
an excellent high school, several small 
industrial plants and a v/ell built busi- 
ness center. Besides the T., P. & W. 
railroad, Chatsworth is served by tlie 
Kankakee-BIoomington branch of the 
Illinois Central railroad, which like the 
T., P. & W., maintains only freight 
service. This branch of the Illinois 
Central was projected as the Kanka- 
kee and Southwestern Railroad and 
was proposed at one time to run from 
Chatsworth to Gibson City and thence 
southwesterly to reach St. Louis. At 
Gibson City, it was to join the old Gil- 
man, Clinton and Springfield railroad, 
which is now the route of the Chicago- 
St. Louis division of the Illinois Cen- 
tral. The Livingston County history, 

in mentioning the construction of thij| 
road, says that "It is supposed the 
Illinois Central is the pov/er behind 
the throne in the nev/ road and will 
push it through to completion." Chats- 
worth was platted in 1858, the year 
following the completion of the T., P. 
& W. from Peoria to Oilman. 

Piper City. 

A townsite was laid out in 1867 on 
the Peoria & Oquawka railroad, then 
under lease to the Wabash railroad, 
in the Panhandle of Ford county, III., 
for Dr. William A. Piper, of Philadel- 
phia, and Samuel Cross, of Chicago. 
The town was named, obviously for 
Dr. Piper. 

Dr. Piper and John A. Montelius 
started a general store there almost 
immediately. Dr. Samuel C. Culbert- 
son, a graduate of Jefferson Medical 
College, Philadelphia, located in Piper 
City in 1867, to practice medicine and 
to operate a drug store. John C. Cul- 
ver, who had enjoyed some thrilling 
experiences with the "Pony Express" 
in the West and with Buffalo Bill, 
came to Piper City about that time 
and established a drug store. Mr. Mon- 
telius opened his bank in 1870, and la- 
ter was in the grain business. 

Piper City attracted an excellent 
class of citizens from Pennsylvania, 
Nev/ York and other eastern states. 
Presbyterianism was held in high re- 
pute in Piper City. The United Pres- 
byterian church, founded by godly Cal- 
vinists from Ohio and Pennsylvania, 
v/as opened in 1869, and the Presbyte- 
rian chu.rch in IS'^2. This v/as one of 
three United Presbyterian churches in 
Ford and Vermilion counties, the other 
tv/o being in Paxton and Hoopeston. 
The one in Pa>:ton was united with 
the Congregational church to estab- 
lish the Federated Church. There is 
a strong Presbyterian church in Piper 
City today. 

Piper City, as it happened, was even 
nearer the wreck site than was Chats- 
worth, but Chatsv/orth was a larger 
town. Also, the train, east-bound from' 


Feoria, had reached and had passed 
through Chats worth before the wreck 
oocurred The train, aside from its 
first locomotive, and that minus its 
tender, never reached Piper City. 

However, the fine citizens of Piper 
City rendered every possible aid to the 
unfortunate victims of the wreck, some 
of the injured remainmg days or even 
x^eks with newly-found friends in 
Piper City. 

Piper Ctty has been distinguished 
through the years by a double Main 
Street, one north and one south of the 
IT., P. & W. railroad. The depot is on 
tBe south side of the tracks, and the 
gi'ain elevator on the north side. The 
stores on the north side face the ele- 
vator and those on the south side, 
\yhich are more numerous, face the 

The Montelius Family. 

J. A. Montelius came to Piper City 
from Central Pennsylvania in 1866. He 
was engaged to marry his sweetheart 
in that state and planned to bring 
her to Illinois within a few years. He 
prospered so much that he went for 
his bride in the fall of 1867. They 
lived their lives in Piper City. Mrs. 
Montelius missed so much the spring 
v^agon which her father had driven in 
Pennsylvania. The father sent a two- 
SGated spring wagon to his daughter 
and her husband as a gift in 1870. It 
\ZBs veiy much the classiest "rig" in 
Piper City and created wide interest. 

The T., P. & W.— Its Passenger 
Service in 1916. 

The Official Guide of the Railways 
of the United States, published in May, 
ID16, listed various interesting passea- 
g;er train operations oo the T., P. & W. 

Pealc of Passenger Business on 
T., P. & W. 

The T., P. & W. operated four pas- 
senger trains daily eastbound from 
Peoria. The train at 7.10 a. m. arrived 
act Effner, Ind., at 11:10 a. m. A noon- 
train, leaving Peoria at 12:30, ran to 
Effner, arriving there at 4:25 p. m. 
This train came from Keokuk, leaving 

there at 7:00 a. m. Another train, 
leaving Keokuk at 2:00 p. m., left Pe- 
oria at 6:30 p. m. and ran to Forrest, 
arriving there at 8:45, and forming a 
T., P. & W.-Wabash movement be- 
tween Peoria and Chicago. 

In 1916, there were three railroads 
competing for the Peoria-Chicago pas- 
senger business, these being the Rock 
Island, connecting with the main line 
at Bureau, 111.; the T., P. & W.-Alton 
movement through Chenoa, 111.; and 
the T., P. & W.-Wabash trains through 
Forrest, 111. A midnight train left Pe- 
oria at 12:01, arriving at Forrest at 
2:22 a. m., and also formed a T., P. 
& W.-Wabash Peoria-Chicago connec- 
tion. Still another train, daily except 
Sunday left Keokuk at 4:55 p. m. and 
arrived at Peoria at 9.22 p. m., termin- 
ating there. 

Westbound T., P. & W.-Wabash 
trains left Forrest at 4:00 a. m. and 
3:30 p. m., arriving at Peoria at 7:00 
a. m. and 5:45 p. m. respectively. West- 
bound, also, trains left Effner, Ind., 
at 9:55 a. m. and 6:35 p. m., arriving 
at Peoria at 1:40 p. m. and 10:40 p. m. 
We fail to find listed a third train op- 
erating west-bound, on the vv^est end 
of the road, from Peoria to Keokuk. 

These train schedules provided four 
trains each way daily between Peoria 
and Forrest, and two each way daily 
between Forrest and Effner, Ind., also 
three trains between Keokuk and Pe- 
oria, granting there was an opposite 
train to the daily except Sunday leav- 
ing Keokuk at 4:55 p. m. and arriving 
in Peoria at 9:22 p. m. 

Three connections are listed at Che- 
noa, 111., daily between Peoria and Chi- 
c^To, using the combined T., "^. & W.- 
Alton affiliation. There - -f^rn also 
three round-trips daily except Sunday 
between Hamilton, 111., and Warsaw, 
111., with four movements ^tween 
Warsaw and Hamilton, which is not 
possible in railroad o>;eraf m, as 
there must be as many movenT^its in 
one direction as in the other, to pre- 
vent accumulation of equipment at 
one end of the road. There was also 


a round-trip daily except Sunday be- 
tween LaHarpe, 111., and Burlington, 

Heavy Passenger Business 

The T., P. & W., in the palmy years 
of the local passenger train business, 
was a large carrier of both passenger.^ 
and less than carload freight. Few 
railroads in the Central West did a 
larger strictly local passenger train 
business than did "the Tip-Up." The 
T., P. & W. served no large cities, 
aside from its connections through 
Chenoa and Forrest to Chicago. Pe- 
oria was the largest city served, with 
Keokuk second. But there were nu- 
merous thriving towns on the east end 
especially, such as Washington, Eu- 
reka, El Paso, Gridley, Chenoa, Fair- 
bury, Forrest, Chatsworth, Piper City, 
Oilman, Crescent City, Watseka and 
Sheldon, with many of these having 
important railroad intersections, which 
pro\ided a plenitude of local pas- 
sengers. Canton, Bushnell, Blandins- 
ville. La Harpe, Hamilton, Warsaw, 
contributed much business on the west 
er.d of the T., P. W. 

The transfer of local passengers 
from one railroad to another, especi- 
ally "changing cars," was an impor- 
tant factor in the early 1900s. This 
business has faded entirely from the 
rails with the overwhelming competi- 
tion of automobiles and all-weather 
and all-year highways. 

Its Excursion Business. 

The excursion business was also a 
large item when all trips were made 
by train. The ill-fated Niagara Falls 
excursion of August 10, 1887, termin- 
ating in the Chatsworth Wreck, was 
only one of many operated not only 
by the T., P. & W. in the hey-day of 
local passenger train movements, but 
by many other lines. 

Time brings its certain changes, es- 
pecially on the rails. In railroad oper- 
ation, there is nothing perpetual but 

Difficulties of the T., P. & VV. 

The Chatsworth Wreck c a u .s e d 

claims of more than $300,000 to he 
filed against the company, which at 
length went into receivership July 1, 
1917. The road contiiiued in receiver- 
ship until purchased by George P. Mc- 
Near, Jr., June 11, 1926, for SI. 300,000 
at public auction. The title to tbe 
properties was transferred to the Tp 
ledo, Peoria and Western, 
April 1, 1927. 

The labor difficulties of the T., P. 
& W. began December 28, 1941. The 
Federal Government seized the rail- 
road March 22, 1942, as a vital war 
line and operated it under a. Federal 
Manager until October 1, 1945, when 
it was returned to Mr. McNear. 

The management of the railroad and 
the labor unions reached an agree- 
ment April 17, 1947, and the employes 
returned to work April 22, 1947. 

J. Russell Coulter, formerly chief 
traffic officer of the St. Louis-San 
Francisco Railway Company '"Frisco 
Lines"), was elected president of the 
Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad, 
May 1, 1947, and a board of directors 
selected as follows: Kenry E. Penoy, 
Nev; York City; Arthur D. Welton, Jr., 
Chicago, whose terms expire in April, 
]950; J. Russell Coulter, Peoria, HI.; 
Plenry E. Kelley, New York City ani 
George L. Luthy, Peoria, terms expire 
in April, 1951; and Thomas O. Hunter, 
Peoria, 111.; and W. W. Var.deveer, 
Cleveland, Ohio, who5;e terms expire 
in April, 1952. 

Officers are as follows: J. Russol 
Coulter, President and General Mana- 
ger; Jay T. Hunter, Vice-President; H. 
H. Best, General Superintendent; T. 
B. Durfee, Comptroller; E. H. Gainnic, 
General Traffic Manager; J. J. Dailey, 
Superintendent Motive Power; H. H. 
Main, Chief Engineer; R. B. Gifford, 
Superintendent; L. Rider, Treasurer: 
and Thomas O. Hunter, Secretary'. 

Under the 1949 appropriations for 
federal improvements along the Illi- 
nois waterway in Illinois will be funds 
for the relocation of 4^ miles of the 
Toledo, Peoria and Western railroad 


tracks to be completed in the spring ot 
1950, in the general East Peoria, 111., 
area. This relocation will be a part 
of tlie improvement of Farm Creek, 
Cole Creek and Kerfoot Creek, and is 
designed to protect the East Peoria 
area from flash floods. 

The McNear Family. 

George P. McNear, president and 
principal owner of the T., P. & W. 
railroad in 1947, was shot from am- 
bush March 10, 1947, while walking, 
at bedtime, near his home in Peoria. 
Mr. McNear died almost instantly. Ti e 
tragedy attracted national attentioii. 
Even with the most modernistic de- 
tective and police methods, the assail- 
ant had not been apprehended to Oc- 
tober 31, 1949. 

James Graham McNear, 21, son of. 
the slain railroad executive, met death 
August 17, 1949, while attempting to 
scale Mont Blanc, 15,781 feet in height, 
in the French-Italian Alps, at a point 
known as "The Giant's Tooth." This 
is the highest peak in Europe. He 
was accompanied by Dr. John Freder- 
ick Speck, 27, chemist, Michigan State 
College, East Lansing, Mich., who aiso 
met his death. McNear missed his 
footing, his rope broke, and he drag- 
ged Speck to the chasms below. Their 
deaths were the fifth and sixth to Au- 

gust 17, in the 1949 mountain-climb- 
ing season, which has been reported 
especially treacherous. 

Mrs. George P. McNear now resides 
in Milton, Massachusetts. 

Adams Express on T., P. & W. 

The T., P. & W. for many years, 
while operating passenger trains, car- 
ried Adams Express Company express. 
In the 1880s and 1890s, and even until 
the period of the First World War, 
there were many express companies 
operating in the United States, includ- 
ing the Adams, United States, Ameri- 
can Pacific, Wells Fargo & Co., Na- 
tional, Southern, Northern Pacific, 

Today, all railroads in the United 
States which operate passenger trains 
carry "Railway Express Agency," a 
company of coast-to-coast organiza- 

The old-time express companies still 
survive, in corporate form and one 
occasionally sees their names in finan- 
cial and business news. But the indi- 
vidual companies, like the old Adams 
Express operating on the T., P. & W., 
Pennsylvania, Burlington, other rails, 
are now a chapter of history of an in- 
tensely interesting period of American 



The Romance of the Old-Time, Popular, Low-Rate Excursion Trains. 

The period of low-cost, popular ex- 
cursion trains and special trains forms 
one of the most picturesque eras in 
the fascinating story of American rail- 

While the "cheap" excursion trains, 
as they were so widely advertised 
years and decades ago, have faded 
from the rails, our railroad companies 
continue to operate many special 
trains to outstanding events, such as 
political conventions, presidential in- 
augurations, athletic events and par- 
ticularly football games, and many 
fraternal and business gatherings of 
one type or another. 

The special train or the excursion 
train of 1949 is usually a deluxe, super- 
elegant, or at least super-comfortable, 
train to some national conclave, as 
that of the Shriners or to a nationally 
important convention like the Ameri- 
can Federation of Farm Bureaus of 
1948, which thousands attended. 

Excursion trains and special trains 
still operate to expositions, such as 
the Railroad Fair, Chicago, in 1948 
and 1949, to football games, and to 
many other events vith wide-spread 
appeal. Even these trains are usually 
of the deluxe or the fully comfortable 
type, with diners, fountains and bars 
and with Pullman sleeping accommo- 
dations, if the trip is overnight, for 
all passengers. 

Special train movements to national 
political conventions and to presiden- 
tial inaugurations continue to be oper- 
ations of major importance, with such 
trains equipped with all the last-word 
comforts, perhaps even elegance, of 
travel luxury. 

Low-cost is out of the picture today 
as railroad salaries and wages, as well 
as all purchases by railways, have 
soared so high that the old-time 
"cheap" rates are no longer possible. 
The types of coaches and Pullman 

cars provided in 1949 are far superior 
to those of 50 or 60 years ago. Fares 
have sharply advanced, even round 
trips for the week-ends. For instance, 
the Illinois Central in 1903 sold round- 
trip excursion tickets Champaign, 111., 
to Chicago for football games or week- 
ends for $2. In 1949 the same week- 
end round-trips cost $4.54, or more 
than twice the fare of 45 years ago. 
Old type low-cost excursions from 
the Central West to the Pacific Coast 
and to other long distance points have 
vanished. Rates are quoted in 1949 
which are considered low, with liberal 
privileges. Yet they are tremendously 
high in comparison with old-time low 
fares of $4.75 or $7.50 for the round- 
trip from Illinois points to Niagara 
Falls, as an example 

The Public Loved Old-Time 

A half-century ago, the railroads af- 
forded practically the only means of 
transportation. All railroads provided, 
and they advertised extensively, their 
"Low Rate" or their "Low Cost" ex- 
cursion trains to many distant points 
including the West Coast and the East 
Coast and many points between. 

Frequently, by payment of addition- 
al paltry sums, one could swing around 
in a circle. One man known to the 
writer bought a summer excursion 
round-trip ticket from Des Moines, 
Iowa, to Southern California. He found 
by paying only $5 additional he could 
return through the Canadian Rockies 
— an offer which would be entirely im- 
possible today. Some of these excur- 
sion fares were so ridiculously cheap 
50 years ago they gave rise to the 
old -time quip that it was cheaper to 
travel than to stay at home. Such op- 
portunities no longer exist. 

Sunday Excursions. 

Sunday excursions on special trains 
were operated for many years as "low 
rates, good for this day and date only" 


by many railroads, to some central 
point where a baseball game might be 
t-n joyed, or perchance a short jaunt 
taken aboard a lake or river steamer. 

Such a travel program meant a full 
Sunday — a big Sunday — hardly a rest 
day at all, but one certainly packed 
with many types of recreation and of 
seeing sights for the man or for the 
family usually marooned in their home 
for the entire summer. 

In the Central West, some of the 
focal points were Chicago, St. Louis, 
Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Peoria and 
ether centers which could be reached 
S^unday mornings by a special excur- 
sion train from many local points, 
\7ith the return trip Sunday evening 
or Sunday night. 

Such Sunday excursions left their 
origin at a really early hour, perhaps 
6 a. m., and reached the city of their 
destination by 10:30 or 10:45 a. m., 
perchance an hour or two later if the 
excursion train were "late." The home- 
ward trek was undertaken in the eve- 
ning, leaving St. Louis or Indianapo- 
lis at 7 p. m. and depositing passen- 
gers in their town at 1 a. m. or 2 a. 
m., or later, if the train were running 
'behind time." 

"Enjoy a full day in St. Louis" read 
many newspaper advertisements and 
also handbills issued by the railroad 
companies. It can be truthfully said 
tbat patrons of such excursions did 
spend a full day— albeit a hot, dusty, 
tiresome day in many instances. Such 
a long, hard day may have been "en- 

$1 Bound Trip. 

As for the cost of Sunday excur- 
sfons, the Peoria and Eastern railroad, 
now under lease to the New York Cen- 
tral Svstem, tied an extremely low 
price tag to their Sunday trips to In- 
djnnnnolis from points as far distant 
33 Peoria, 111., and Bloomington, 111. 
Fares from Peoria and Bloomington to 
Indianapolis were $1.50 for the round- 
trip, with $1.25 from Champaign, 111., 
and $1 from Danville, 111. Indeed, it 

did not cost much more to ride a Sun- 
day excursion than to remain at home. 

Sixteen car trains were frequently 
needed by this railroad for its Indian- 
apolis excursions. Many roads used 
trains of ten, twelve, fourteen coaches 
on their Sunday excursion runs as a 
regular feature of their "service" to 
their patrons. In many cases the Sun- 
day round-trip was far less than the 
one-way ticket. If the fare were $3.50 
from Champaign, 111., to Indianapolis, 
the traveler might postpone his trip 
until Sunday — buy the round-trip 
ticket at $1.25, and then sell, give away 
or tear up, his return coupon — and 
still be money ahead 

The Majesty of the Silver Dollar. 

The $1 round-trip excursion was 
really a popular event, especially in 
the days when the silver dollar was 
king among coins. Silver dollars were 
pulled in by the score, at railway sta- 
tions. The agent could not possibly 
put them into the till. Agents kept 
a tin bucket handy Sunday mornings 
when the excursion was leaving and 
tossed the silver dollars into tne pail. 
The bucket was secreted over Sunday 
night in some remote nook in the bag- 
gage room. The agent then made a 
trip to the bank Monday morning 
with his pail, the journey bemg in 
someone's horse-drawn buggy or he 
would be given a ride by some jovial 
and whole-souled baggage wagon driv: 
er friend. 

"Silver Dollar" Movie. 

"Silver Dollar," as reflecting an in- 
tensely interesting historic period in 
our American past, was later made 
the subject of a motion picture, in 
which Edward G. Robinson tooii the 
stellar part and did it exceptionally 
well. Silver dollars have disa^j^eared 
from our \Jentral Western ni.iietary 
media so nearly completely in 1949 
that a silver dollar is actually a col- 
lector's item. 

Religious Reaction Against 
Sunday Excursions. 

In the days of intense religious emo- 


tion, with old-time revivals and con- 
versions, many pious people prayed 
earnestly over the sins of the Sunday 
excursions. The souls of both crews 
and passengers on Sunday excursions 
were remembered in the devotions of 
many church leaders who were deeply 
concerned over such profaning of the 
Lord's Holy Sabbath Day. But not- 
withstanding the criticisms of the re- 
ligious groups, Sunday excursions, es- 
pecially at extremely low fares, re- 
mained popular for many years. Such 
excursion trains did provide probably 
the only travel opportunity of the sum- 
mer for untold hundreds of people who 
were otherwise more or less impris- 
oned on a lonely farm or in an equally 
lonely small town. 

Low Summer Rate Excursions. 

Besides the usual Sunday round- 
trip excursions many railroads operat- 
ed various special forms of low-cost 
summer trip. Extremely popular in 
the land-locked areas of the Central 
West were the low fare round-trips to 
Put-In Bay, a beautiful and popular 
resort in Lake Erie off Sandusky, Ohio. 
Such rates were usually good for sev- 
eral days as were the $5 or $8 round- 
trip fares to Niagara Falls. Also pop- 
ular were train-boat trips, with a ride 
on the Mississippi River from St. Louis 
or on the Illinois River at Peoria as a 
special feature of a week-end, or even 
of a Sunday. People living on farms 
or in small towns welcomed these op- 
portunities to spend a few hours on 
lake or stream. 

Political Excursions. 

Campaign years in which a Presi- 
dent was elected required many spe- 
cial excursion trains and rates. "Ral- 
lies" were held in important centers, 
frequently large cities or state capi- 
tals, such as Indianapolis, when the 
faithful of both the Republican and 
the Democratic parties would be con- 
veyed by the trainload to march in a 
torchlight procession and otherwise do 
their bit towards saving the beloved 
republic through the election of their 
own party candidates. 

In 1888 Grover Cleveland was the 
Democratic candidate for re-electon as 
President of the United States with 
Benjamin Harrison a? his Republican 
opponent. Joseph W. Fifer 31ooming- 
ton, 111., was the Republican candidate 
for governor of Illinois. 

Fifer was distinguished during the 
campaign as "Private Joe Pifer," in 
recognition of his services as a Civil 
War private soldier in contrast to the 
political ambitions of many army offi- 
cers, or "generals," as they were 

Illinois Republicans arranged a mon- 
ster rally in Springfield to whoop it 
up for "Private Joe," who was, inci- 
dentally, elected. The Springfield rally, 
October 31, 1888, was one of the most 
spectacular ever held in the United 
States. It is said that 7.000 men 
marched in a torchlight procession 
that night. The parade was miles in 
length. Delegations came fixjm all 
parts of Illinois — Young Republicans, 
First Voter Republicans, Chicago 
Fourth Ward Republicans, Marching 
Clubs. Zouaves, Fife and Drum Corps, 
a hundred and one groups, gaily and 
even gaudily attired, each man cacry- 
ing a smoking and leaking kerosene 
torch to help carry the election within 
a few days for the Grand Old Parjty, 
and thereby assure the election of Re- 
publican candidates and the guaran- 
teed saving of the United States of 
America. Today, with our i^dio po- 
litical talks and our fireside chats we 
can with extreme difficulty envisage 
the tremendous political enthusiasm 
which attended political campaigns In 
the 1870s, the 1880s and the 1890s, 
just as we cannot understand the te- 
ligious devotions of revival meetings, 
camp-meetings, experience meetings, 
love-feasts and other forms of x'eligious 
expression in the days of the pictm*- 
esque Illinois minister and presidii^ 
elder, Peter Cartwright. 

Equipment for Political Excursions. 

Railroads entering Springfield i»t- 
hausted their equipment in providing 
transportation for several thousands 


of Republican workers. Every old 
shell of a passenger coach which 
would remain astride the rails was 
pressed into service. Most hard-put 
was the Alton Railroad, then known 
as the Chicago and Alton, which 
served Bloomington, 111., the home city 
of Mr. Fifer. (1) Hundreds of people 
milled about the Chicago and Alton 
station in Bloomington that day and 
evening seeking and even demanding 
train transportation to Springfield, 60 
miles distant. In their desperation, 
Chicago and Alton officials ran out 
coal cars, placed planks across the 
tops for seats and used these for 

, (1) Former Governor Joseph W. El- 
fer, of Illinois, died in his Blooming- 
ton, HI., home in August, 1938. He 
.would have been 98 years of age Oc- 
tober 28, 1938. He was truly one of 
the "Grand Old Men" of Illinois and 
the Central West. He came as a lad 
46 years of age to the Bloomington 
area in 1856. He heard both Abraham 
Lincoln and Stephen A. Dougles speak 
in the court house square in Bloom- 
ington. He and his brother George 
walked 10 miles from their home farm 
near Danvers, 111., into Bloomington, 
in ■ August, 1861, "when the corn had 
been laid by," to enlist in the 33rd 
Illinois Volunteer Regiment, command- 
ed by President Charles E. Hovey, Illi- 
nois State Normal University, which 
was known as "The Schoolmasters' 
Regiment," as so many normal school 
students enlisted in this unit for serv- 
ice. George Fifer was killed in the 
siege of Vicksburg in the summer of 
1863. Joseph W. Fifer was seriously 
wounded. Gruff army surgeons as- 
sured him he would not survive the 
night. "I'm not going to die — not this 
time." And he lived not only through- 
put the night, but 75 years thereafter. 
He was inaugurated governor of Illi- 
nois, January 14, 1889. A Republican 
candidate for re-election in 1892, he 
was defeated by his Democratic oppo- 
nent, John Peter Altgeld, who, like- 
•wise, became one of the honored, pic- 
turesque and historic figures in our 
Illinois background. 

coaches, to the delight of many parti- 
sans eager to march in the great 
torchlight parade that evening. Many 
Republicans rode the planks, some of 
them astride them for greater safety, 
for the trip to Springfield and return. 
Such forms of traveling would be im- 
possible in 1949, but in 1888 were ac- 
cepted with high glee by those unable 
to ride in any other equipment. 

The Gold-Standard Gampaignn. 

Another major political campaign 
which called for excursion train and 
special train movements on an unprec- 
edented scale was the first McKinley- 
Bryan struggle for the Presidency in 
1896. The astute Mark Hanna, Re- 
publican campaign manager, kept his 
candidate, William McKinley, at his 
home in Canton Ohio, and did not per- 
mit him to barnstorm the nation as 
did his rival, William Jennings Bryan, 
"The Great Commoner," "The Boy Or- 
ator of the Platte," the Democratic 
candidate, who traveled 18,000 miles 
in one of the greatest special train 
movements ever held in the history 
of American railroads. 

McKinley staged his famous "Front 
Porch" campaign at his Canton, Ohio, 
home. The Mountain went to Moham- 
med instead of Mohammed going to 
the Mountain, Special train after spe- 
cial train at now considered ridicu- 
lously low excursion rates for their 
passengers, rolled into Canton that 
summer and fall. Only the books of 
the Recording Angel will ever reveal 
just how many people were conveyed 
to Canton, Ohio, to greet McKinley on 
his "Front Porch." Lawns of the Mc- 
Kinley home and of homes adjacent 
were worn dusty by the milling crowds. 
Without question, this campaign, both 
by the Republican and the Democratic 
parties, called for as extensive use of 
special trains as was ever experienced 
in American political history. 

Football Excursions. 

Football games in t'ne 1920s also pro- 
vided abundant opportunity for the 
use of special trains. The Illinois Cen- 
tral in the fall of 1925 operated 24 spe- 


cial trains Chicago to Champaign, 111., 
for the University of Chicago — the 
University of Chicago was then play- 
ing football with gala college spirit 
under the leadership of Coach Amos 
Alonzo Stagg, "The Old Man" — when 
"Red" Grange was "running wild" for 
Illinois. These trains left Central Sta- 
tion, 12th street, Chicago, every ten 
minutes for Champaign. Each train 
was named, "The Blue Train," "The 
Red Train," "The Green Train," "The 
Orange Train," et cetera, almost ad 

Football games still provide, even in 
the later 1940s, opportunities for spe- 
cial excursion trains, but it is doubted 
if any railroad in America is handling, 
or has ever operated within recent 
years, as many as 24 specials to any 
one game as Red Grange and his bril- 
liance demanded in 1925. 

Some railroads provided low-cost ex- 
cursions for employes at some park 
during the summer. The Chicago and 
Eastern Illinois railroad operated, for 
a number of years, special trains for 
its employes for a day's outing at 
Island Park, on the Kankakee River, 
at Momence, 111. The Chicago Histori- 
cal Society preserves a bill advertis- 
ing one of these excursions which 
seemed open to the public as well as 
to employes. 

Speaking of railroad companies op- 
erating special excursion trains for 
employees to attend summer picnics, 
the New York Central System, in the 
summer of 1949, operated special 
trains, or attached extra cars to regu- 
lar trains for employees to attend the 
annual summer picnic given by tne 
company. Other railroads may be do- 
ing this, or other similar plans, for a 
summer outing for the men and wom- 
en in the service of the company. 

The World's Columbian Exposition 
in Chicago in 1893 and the Louisiana 
Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 
1904, each provided incentives for a 
tremendous patronage of special ex- 

Home Seekers — ^Home Visitors. 

We should not overlook the "Home- 
Seeker" Excursions operated by nu 
merous railroads in the 189Gs and into 
the present century which conveyed 
many land-buyers and those seeking 
farms and homes in the Dakotas, Kan- 
sas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and other 
states newer than Illinois, Indiana and 
other more mature, and older states. 
There were also the "Home-Visitors" 
or "Old Home" excursions by which 
homesick Illinois, Iowa and Missouri 
residents were able to visit once again, 
presumably the last time before they 
died, the beloved old scenes — the 
places of their lost youth — in Ohio, 
Pennsylvania, "Old York State," New 
England, and old "Vlrginny." 

A Tragedy of HomecMning Week — ^A 
Great McCutcheon Cartoon. 

John T. MoCutcheon, famous car- 
toonist of the Chicago Tribune and 
the dean of American cartoonists, who 
died June 11, 1949, used the appeal of 
the Home-Visitors Excursion as the 
theme of one of his great cartoons. 
This was entitled "A Tragedy of Home- 
coming Week," and was republished In 
the Tribune, October 29, 1949, as one 
of a series of weekly repeats of the 
McCutcheon masterpieces, one appeai"- 
ing each Saturday for many weeks. 

This cartoon showed a seedy, down- 
at-the-heel vagrant standing in the 
dripping rain before "The City Ticket 
Office" of "The Midwest and Oceanic 
Railroad," studying a sign in the win- 
dow, advertising "Excursion Rates for 
Homecoming Week. Go back and give 
the old folks a treat." 

What were the feelings of the for- 
lorn window-gazer may be left to the 
imagination Also, displayed in the 
City Ticket Office windows were cards 
advertising "California Beaches" and 
"See Florida and Live." Charging by. 
oblivious to the rain, the worried home- 
sick vagrant and the alluring ads was 


a rich city man, doubtless a banker 
or a broker. 

Niagara Falls Excursions. 

Finally— as fai- as this brief narra- 
tive may be permitted to extend — 
there was always the lure of Niagara 
Falls, whether for honeymooners or 
for those long and happily or unhap- 
pily married. Excursion trains were 
operated for many years to the great 
scenic cataract, at really low cost, say 
from $4.75 to $8 for the round-trip. 
Long, delayed trains ground their 
way to the brink of the Falls with 
many hundreds of excursionists 

Those Niagara Falls excursions rep- 
resented a slice of Americana never to 
be w^"tnPSRed again. Americans then 
really rode the rails. They sat up all 
night in day coaches, unvestibuled, 
^vith t>e dnst and cinders beating with 
tornadic fury unon them. They ate 
from shoe-box lunches or sat on high 
stools at a lunch counter at some rail- 
way transfer point— "fifteen minutes 
for dinner" — like Danville Junction, 
HI., or Bellefontaine, Ohio, to name 
these two only. 

But, in truth, these tourists delight- 
ed in a few wonderful days av/ay from 
the doldrums of home and farm and 
village. They really enjoyed a sight 
of the Falls. Many of them "crossed 
to the other side," experienced the 
thrill of being "outside the United 
States," usually for the only time in 
their lives. They lived upon these 
memories for months. Canada had 
been seen, if only across the Niagara 
River. What a thrill— in 1887! 

America will never again see the 
tidal wave of low-cost, popular excur- 
sion trains to Niagara Falls especially. 
That mode of travel has vanished with 
the passing of other decades. 

The T., P. & W. railroad was only 
one of many railroads which operated 
Niagara Falls excursions over a pe- 
riod of years. 

All Destinations Not Included. 

And it was just such an excursion 
train, with over 800 passengers 
crowded into 20 heavily loaded coaches 
which began its trek from Mississippi 
River towns in August, 1887. 

This train did not reach Niagara 
Falls. Instead — it reached "The Chats- 
worth Wreck." 

The fare for the round-trip was 
$7.50. However, the journey included 
some points not designated on the 
ticket. Among these were many lonely 
graves ranging from beautiful Spring- 
dale Cemetery, Peoria, to numerous 
quiet resting-nooks in remote rural and 
village burial grounds and church- 
yards in Illinois and Iowa. 

And, we hope, Heaven itself was 
included for many who had thrown 
themselves before the mercy-seat in 
old-time churches while the evangelist, 
in his fervor, preached upon reaching 
the Glory Land in the revivals of 1887. 

Sandburg Tells It Best. 

Carl Sandburg, noted Lincoln biog- 
rapher, in the closing sentences of his 
massive, four-volume study, "Abraham 
Lincoln: the War Years," (1) poetically 
mentions "a great quiet" which de- 
scended over Oak Ridge Cemetery, 
Springfield, 111., May 6, 1865, as the 
tired body of the martyred President 
was laid to rest. Just so, many bits 
of God's Acre provided "a great quiet" 
for the many persons who were killed 
in the Chatsworth Wreck, or for those 
who survived days, weeks, or months 
after the tragedy and then slipped 
from this world, their lives shortened 
by injuries, shock and worry sustained 
as a result of the catastrophe. With 
over 800 passengers on the ill-fated 
train, it can never be determined how 
many lives were cut short because of 
such harassing. Doubtless, the total 
number of "casualties" would spring 
from 81 or 85 to 200 or 300 if all the 
facts could be knovv^ and assembled. 

(1) (Copyright, Harcourt, Brace and 
Co., New York. Used by Permission.) 


The Fatal Excursion Train. 

The Special Excursion Train on the 
T., P. & W. railroad, August 10, 1887, 
originated at La Harpe, 111., a few 
miles oast of the Mississippi River, or 
possibly at Keokuk or Burlington, la. 
Many Iowa residents and many people 
from Western Illinois were passengers 
on the ill-fated train. 

Origin of the Train. 

The Chicago Tribune of August 12 
stated that the train came through 
Abingdon 111., and Galesburg, 111., 
which meant it traveled from the 
western part of Illinois over the Chi- 
cago, Burlington and Quincy railroad 
into Peoria. This could have been 
true, but this is the only reference 
made to the train traveling this route. 
In conversing with former residents of 
Western Illinois, they believe the pas- 
sengers from tlie Galesburg area trav- 
eled on a Burlington train to Bushnell, 
HI., and boarded the excursion train 
there. Such a train movement would 
have kept the excursion on the T., P. 
& W. rails — a more likely assumption. 
There were many Abingdon ai^d Gales- 
burg people aboard the wrecked train 
—with a number killed. 

At any rate, the train left Peoria at 
7:15 Wednesday evening, August 10, 
with 20 coaches. The Tribune states 
additional coaches were added at Ab- 
ington and Galesburg, supporting the 
theory that the train went into Peoria 
over the Burlington Route. But, again, 
the coaches might have been added at 
Bushnell. Extra coaches were also 
added at Eureka. 

Second Locomotive Added. 

A second locomotive was attached 
to the train on the east side of the 
T..) P. & W. bridge across the Illinois 
River, opposite Peoria. According to 
the Tribune, the final train consisted 
of two locomotives, one baggage car, 
one "pay-car," or official car, eleven 
passenger coaches, three chair cars 
and six Pullman sleeping cars. This 
makes a total of 22 cars, so the figure 

of 20 cars in the Tribune does not 

tally with the breakdown. But through- 
out the story, we will find many dis- 
crepancies of details. Few, if any of 
them, alter the full importance of 
the tragedy. Other accounts say there 
were 17 cars in the train. The "pay- 
car" is also described as the superin- 
dent's car and the official car in some 
accounts. E. N. Armstrong, the super- 
intendent, was riding in this car when 
the wreck occurred. 

The train apparently stopped at all 
important stations as passengers were 
"picked up" at Washington, Eureka, 
El Paso, Chenoa, Fairbury, Forrest 
and possibly Chatsworth, although one 
record says the train did not stop at 
Chatsworth. Many people boarded the 
train at Peoria, coming from Pekin, 
Mossville, Metamora, Chillicothe, Hen- 
ry and other points in the general 
Peoria area. 

The Weather in the Summer of 1887. 

Newspapers uniformly reported the 
weather that summer as dry and hot. 
It had not rained for weeks. There 
were many reports of prairie fires 
over the Central West. New York 
papers gave much attention to the 
drought throughout many states. The 
Bloomington Pantagraph, the day be- 
fore it carried the story of the wreck, 
gave much of the same space to items 
of the drought and damage to crops. 

The stream where the v^rreck occur- 
red was the north fork of the Vermilion 
River, which enters the Illinois River 
slightly east of La Salle, 111. This 
stream is not to be confused with the 
Vermilion River of Vermilion County, 
111, which enters the Wabash River a 
few miles southeast of Danville, HI. 

>Vhat Started the Fire? 

Grass was extremely dry in the area 
of the wreck site and there had been 
many fires along the right-of-way of 
all Illinois and Central Western rail- 
roads. There was constant danger of 


fire spreading from grass and weeds 
to timber railroad bridges and this 
was exactly what caused the Chats- 
worth Wreck. But who or what force 
started the fire was a controversial 
topic for many years when the Chats- 
worth wreck was mentioned. Did sec- 
tion men start the fire, to destroy 
weeds? Did they put out the fire, or 
did they just think they extinguished 
it, with sparks smouldering here and 
there, only to break into flames once 
more? Did the last train over the 
bridge, before the wreck, at approxi- 
mately 5 p. m. cause the fire to start 
by emitting sparks from its engine? 
This controversy will probably never 
be settled. What does it matter today 
— 62 years afterwards? 

The bridge was built of timbers or 
logs and planks. The logs were said 
by the Chicago Tribune reporter to 
have been from seven to 10 inches in 
diameter. There were four upright 
timbCTS of this size, topped with cross- 
cut logs nine or 10 inches square, and 
with 3-inch planks laid upon those 

timbers as a base. Such was the 
bridge which was to carry two loco- 
motives and a train of approximately 
20 heavily loaded coaches. 

The Chicago Tribune estimates the 
length of the bridge as 12 feet, the 
height over the dry creek bed six feet. 
Other papers say the bridge was 20 
feet in length with eight or ten feet 
in depth. Today, the water in the 
stream is carried under the T., P. & W. 
tracks by two drain tile, each perhaps 
four feet in diameter. This writer 
has studied these drain tile and knows 
that the stream could not have carried 
much water, aside from periods of 
floods and freshets. Obviously, it was 
hot and dry that summer and had 
been for some time. 

The bridge was practically destroyed 
by the fire which enveloped it, even 
to the upright timbers breaking off, 
so badly were they burned. It was 
estimated that the fire had raged for 
two hours before the train dashed 
upon the bridge. 


The Zero Moment— The Wreck. 

Progress of the Train. 

The train, heavily loaded as noted, 
and constantly delayed, v/as due at 
Chatsworth at 10:33 at night. How- 
ever, it vi^as appw-oaching midnight 
when the train passed Chatsworth. 

The speed of the train as it ap- 
proached the bridge, traveling down- 
grade, has been reported at 20, 25 and 
40 miles an hour. There is a grade up- 
ward upon leaving Chatsworth, which 
extends about two miles, and is fol- 
lowed by a down-grade. It was on 
t'-p of this slight divide that Engineer 
David Sutherland, in charge of the 
first locomotive. No. 21, sighted the 
blazing bridge directly ahead, with no 
time to stop his heavy train. Some 
reports were that the train had delib- 
erately increased its speed to make up 
for lost time. 

The burning bridge was still strong 
enough to bear considerable weight, 
for Sutherland's engine passed over 
it, but the tender broke through and 
went down, becoming uncoupled. The 
disabled engine then traveled about 
1,000 feet before Sutherland was able 
to bring it under control. He realized 
the enormity of the tragedy and sped 
on to Piper City, about two miles east 
sans tender. He had presence of mind 
enough to shut off the water from 
the tender to the engine and thereby 
saved 1,000 gallons of water to be used 
at the wreck site. 

Stories vary about Sutherland's en- 
gine upon its arrival in Piper City. 
One report says his engine "went 
dead," another that he backed to the 
wreck site. His fireman, Rogers, had 
jumped and was uninjured save for 
slight cuts. Sutherland rang the firt 
bell and aroused the town. Some re- 
ports said he blew his whistle, did not 
ring the fire-bell. One story goes that 
he and the men who answered his 
alarm broke into the section house 
and removed the hard-car to convey 
helpers to the wreck site. 

The second engine. No. 19, and the 
smaller of the two, with Engineer E. B. 
McClintock in charge and Alex Apple- 
gren, fireman, "went clean through" 
as one reporter expressed it, the ditch 
after falling downwards through the 
collapsing bridge and overturned in 
the creek. McClintock, Peoria, 111., was 
instantly killed, after being decapi- 
itated and his brains were said to have 
been scattered over the cab of the en- 
gine. J. W. Stillwell was the con- 
ductor. He was uninjured. 

The reports also say that a brak.'i- 
man on one of the Pullman cars ran 
the entire three miles to Chatsworth 
and gave the alarm. 

Unfortunately, another tragedy, 
slight indeed compared to the Chats- 
worth Wreck, occurred for the T., P. 
& W. that fatal night. The depot at 
Farmdale, just east of Peoria, burned, 
cutting off telegraphic communica- 
tions into Peoria for several hours. 
Ever notice — that one catastrophe 
leads to another? Usually one fire in 
a city means two more. Bad luck 
comes in bunches, runs an old saying. 

A special train was made up at Gil- 
man, about 15 miles east and reached 
the wreck at 1 a. m. Another relief 
train was organized at Forrest and 
reached the wreck at 12:45. It hap- 
pened there were engines on hand at 
both points, probably the Illinois Cen- 
tral at Oilman and doubtless the Wa- 
bash at Forrest. 

The actual split minute timing of 
the wreck is given at 11:55 p. m., the 
date Wednesday, August 10, 1887. We 
use the dates August 10-11 in this 
study. Watches of victims of the 
wreck were found to have stopped a 
few minutes after midnight, but there 
were, of course, variations in watches. 

We are told the Oilman special train 
and the Forrest special brought phy- 
sicians, medical appliances and band- 


ages. In villages there could be only 
a few physicians at best, and at mid- 
night some of them might be out in 
the rural districts on horse and buggy 
calls remote from town, with no local 
or farm telephones available. How 
many bandages could suddenly and 
immediately be found at the hour of 
midnight which was absolute dead of 
the night in small towns like Piper 
City, Chatsworth, Forrest and Oilman, 
is problematical. 

Bandag^es Available. 

However, there is one fact which 
looms large in our consideration of the 
life of the people ti'aveling and at 
home in 1887 — and this study is funda- 
mentally a review of the life of the 
people in the Central West over 60 
years ago. It must be remembered 
that farm-wives and village home- 
makers six decades ago bought largo 
quantities of dry-goods in yardage or 
"from the bolt" in local stores. "Ready- 
made" was not ready made then — was 
unknown. All sev/ing was done by 
local dressmakers as seamstresses 
were known, and much of it was done 
in small town and village home?;. 
Women, in 1887, kept in their homes 
far more yards of muslin and other 
goods available for bandages than 
would possibly be available at present. 
Yards of muslin could be immediately 
seized in homes 62 years ago v^hich 
would simply not exist today. This 
will explain why "bandages" were in- 
stantly to be found, in the dead of the 
night, at a time when first-aid outfits 
were undreamed-of. 

The Stroke of Midnight — 
The Zero Moment. 

Assuming midnight as the exact 
hour of the plunge of the second en- 
gine and the coaches either into the 
dry ditch or, even more hazardous, 
into and above each other, the many 
interviews with survivors of the 
wreck, or with the injured, or "the 
wounded," agree substantially with 
each other in general content. 

A Suggestion of Hell. 

First — there was a moment of in- 

tense stillness, and a shock. What 
this shock might have been is anyone's 
surmise. It is like the split second in 
an automobile accident or in a plane 
plunge when people, facing either 
death or serious injury, have that feel- 
ing of inescapable, impending doom. 
Several hundreds of people were on 
the train, just as passengers now ride 
in motor cars or in planes. There was 
that consciousness, for seconds — and 
seconds can sometimes seem like the 
Eternity which the theologians tell us 
about — that something terrific, tre- 
mendous, involving life and death it- 
self is immediately to occur. Practi- 
cally every person interviewed by the 
reporters — and there were many of 
them — relayed the fact of a breathless 
stillness, followed by the feeling of 
shock, and then a mighty crash as the 
wooden coaches, striking either the 
yavv'ning chasm, small enough yet wide 
enough and deep enough to create a 
real tragdey, began tc smash into the 
ditch or, worse yet, into and on top of 
either other with demoniac fury. It 
is not profanity in the least to say 
that Hell itself had broken loose. If 
we, reading these lines, had been 
trapped passengers in any one of a 
number of the railway coaches at mid- 
night, August 10, 1S87, on the T., P. 
& W., when "The Chatsworth Wreck" 
was indeed making railroad history, 
we would have thought that Dante 
had been mild in spea'fing of the deni- 
zens of the Inferno. We would have 
thought, that for a terrible zero mo- 
ment, that Satan and his legion of 
devils had suddenly secured the mas- 
tery over the powers of righteousness 
and were speedily waging instant war- 
fare upon hapless and incompetent 

Cries of the Injured. 

As the car timbers crashed with a!l 
the deafening roar of heart-rending 
screeches of splintering lumber, theie 
arose the cries and groans of the in- 
jured — hundreds of them. 

Men and women, in their anguish, 
prayed to a Merciful God for relief 
or for death. They sought, often in 


Chaos — Confusion — Calamity. 

Cut, Courtesy Bloomington, 111., Pantagrapb. 


The Tunis — the First Pullman Car Reposed in Mid- Air. 

Cut, Courtesy Bloomington, 111,, Pantagrraph. 


vain, their husbands and wife and chil- 
dren in the maddening chaos. Pierc- 
ing cries of human anguish immedi- 
ately rent the otherv/ise perfect sum- 
mer night. 

Hades may be worse — but the Chats- 
worth Wreck might have given both 
Dante and Milton some suggestions 
as to the height and depth of man's 
suffering and misery. 

The entire string of wooden coaches 
vaulted at once into each other and 
upon each other. The mass was 200 
feet in length and 50 feet in width, the 
peak of the wreckage said to have re- 
sembled a church tower. Cars tele- 
scoped into each other with death and 
torture for hundreds of imprisoned 

Wooden Coaches — ^In their Pahny 

Wooden passenger cars were then 
in the hey-day of their popularity. 
Floors — ceilings — sides — and ends of 
coaches were made of lumber — simply 
wood and nothing more. There were 
no vestibules. Cinders, soot, ashes, 
dirt were wafted into the coaches. 
Patrons attending the outstanding 
pageant at the Chicago Railroad Fair 
in the summers of 1948 and 1949 re- 
ceived a baptism of cinders from the 
tiny, screeching locomotives running 
to and fro upon the stage. Such cin- 
ders and dust our grandsires assumed 
as part of a trip. Grandfather wore 
his "linen duster." Seats were screwed 
into the wooden floors. 

Toilets were mere enclosures in 
each end of the coaches. There were 
no flush toilets, no running water. Tho 
toilets were mere open vents through 
which excreta and urine were precipi- 
tated to the ties and what ballast there 
was below. One could, of course, see 
through the vents, the sides of which 
were frequently clogged with human 
excreta. The doors of the toilets were 
usually locked on the outside while 
standing at stations. 

The Common Drinking: Cup. 

Cars were heated in winter with 
heating-stoves. Drinking v/ater was 
available at each end. The common 
drinking cup was in universal service. 
There were no bacteria, of course, at 
that time! The common drinking-cup 
was held in high favor — no one had 
any other thought against this evil 60 
years ago. The tanks were iced at 
division points; in fact, much of the 
water came from huge chunks of melt- 
ing ice which filled the receptacles. 
When the ice melted — then passengers 
enjoyed warm water on hot days. 
Some passengers carried their own 
drinl<ing cups, usually a tin cup 
bought at two for a nickel and hence 
they escaped the perils of the common 
drinking cup. How many people sur- 
vived in spite of the microbes and bac- 
teria in 1887 of which we hear so much 
today will never be known until the 
Books of the Better Land are audited. 
Marvelous to relate, children did not 
seem to have poliomyelitis; at least 
we did not have many crippled or par- 
alyzed children in the 1880s as we have 
them today and as we are threatened 
with hundreds of them during the 1949 
polio epidemic. After all, is polio a 
disease of civilization? Do we need 
that certain peck of dirt which folks 
secured in 1887 but which we are ban 
ishing in our ultra-modern days of 
1949? We do not answer this prob- 
lem, simply leave it for your consid- 

No More Excursion Trips? 

We may well ask the question — did 
the terrifying Chatsworth Wreck so 
stagger people that they vowed, with 
one voice, "Never again — never will 
we set foot in another excursion train. 
Such trains are instruments of death 
and destruction, with men and women 
killed by the dozen, injured by the 
hundred — down with them." 

Let us see. We noted in the Bloom- 
ington, 111., Pantagraph that a special 
Niagara Falls excursion on the Lake 
Erie and Western railroad (now the 
Nickel Plate Road) left Bloomington, 


Kindling — Once Railroad Cars. 

Cut, Courtesy Bloomington, 111., Pantagraph. 

•'*, « 

Searching — Or Mere Curiosity? 

Cut, Courtesy Bloomington, 111., Pantagrapli, 

August 17, 1887 — one week to a day 
after the Chatsworth Wreck, with 20 
coaches and 850 passengers. This train 
made the trip safely. Passengers were 
as safe as a tabby cat snoozing on 
the home hearth. The "Lake Erie" 
special to Niagara Falls with 20 ca- 
pacity-loaded wooden coaches crossed 
hazardous bridges and leaped intersect 
ing railroad tracks by the score be- 
tween Bloomington, 111., and the great, 
bewildering gorge — without ev^u 
scratching the faded paint of any one 
of the 20 wooden coaches. 

Why did 850 people ride the Lake 
IDrie and Western Niagara Falls ex- 
cursion exactly one week after the T., 
P. & W. special to the Falls had been 
wrecked with such terrifying results 
in a mere culvert ditch at Chatsworth? 

Frequently, we can answer a ques- 
tion by asking another, or others. Do 
people in 1949 refrain from driving 
automobiles, or riding in motor cars, 
because scores of people whom they 
have known, perhaps even members of 
their own families, have been killed or 
crippled for life in an automobile acci- 
dent — hundreds of which occur each 
month on our far-flung highways in 
the United States? 

Planes fly out from LaGuardia 
Field, New York, and from the Chi- 
cago airports v/ith capacity groups, 
eager, happy, to enjoy a flight when 
they know that a l,boO-foot crash will 
mean instant death to each one of the 
40 crew men and women and passen- 
bers aboard. 

Piilinian Cars Remain on Track — 

The six Pullman cars at the end of 
the train hovered closely behind the 
splintering, smashing clatter of wood- 
en coaches at the front of the train. 
Naturally, the Pullman cars, while of 
wooden construction, were much heav- 
ier than the ordinary passenger cars 
in front. Also, the momentum of the 
train had been checked, to a large ex- 
tent, or to some extent at least. Fur- 
thermore, as the v/ooden coaches 

smashed into kindling, their trucks 
dropped from beneath them and accu- 
mulated in the creek bed. This, of 
course, formed a barricade. When the 
first Pullman, "The Tunis," roared up 
to the actual locale of the wreck, it 
struck this pile of discarded trucks. 
The Tunis tottered dizzily over the 
yawning chasm. A chasm does not 
need to be over eight feet deep to en- 
able a passenger car cr an automobile 
to plunge head first into its depth. 
But the Tunis stopped then and there, 
its front trucks swaying over the open 
space where the timber bridge once 
stood, its rear trucks remaining on 
the rails. There, the Tunis hung, al- 
most ready to drop. Later, timbers 
were supplied and the Tunis was bol- 
stered in such a way that it would 
not collapse into the creek bed. The 
other five Pullman cars remained in 
their place on the rails. 

No Dining Service. 

There is no indication whatever, in 
the newspaper accounts, of Pullman 
passengers having any dining car priv- 
ileges or any food service whatever, 
not even a snack bar, in the parlance 
of 1949. There is every belief that 
the Pullman passengers ate from their 
own hampers or lunch baskets or even 
shoe-boxes, or that they enjoyed the 
usual sandwich and cup of coffee at 
a railway lunch counter. If the porters 
served food or drinks to their Pull- 
man passengers, there is nothing indi- 
cated to sustain such a belief. 
The Train "Butcher." 

Aiding the food proposition were 
the train newsboys, or "butchers," 
v/ho sold fruit, candy and peanuts 
through the cars. They usually sold 
oranges, peaches and pears at three 
for a dime. Mixed candy of the old- 
fashionod type, was sold, as v/ere choc- 
olate drops and caramels. Butchers 
did a lar,?o business on special trains 
and excursion trains. People were 
traveling on a holiday trip or what 
might be called a "lark." People did 
not take vacations in 1887 — vacations 
were not needed then, but they are in 
1919. But people took trips or made 


visits 60 years ago. Parents bought 
candy and peanuts for their children 
from the butcher. The children then 
drank ice water, and with certain car- 
sickness or train sickness, the children 
— and many adults as well — became 
ill. Vomiting was more or less com- 
mon amid such crowded traveling con- 
ditions. But such inconveniences were 
smiled or laughed aside under the 
glory and the pleasure of a trip to 
Niagara Falls — the travel event of the 
summer season. 

None Injured in Pullman Cars. 

No one was injured in the six Pull- 
mans, aside from an occasional scratch 
here and there, which slight mishaps 
were immediately forgotten. Pullman 
passengers swarmed out of their 
berths or their seats, if they had not 
retired, eager to help with the stupen- 
dous task of bringing out the dead 
and caring for the injured. One prom- 
inent Peoria man, Will O. Clark, and 
his vdfe, who had not retired, worked 
through the terrible night in their 
nightgowns. Mr. Clark called to his 
wife that the train had been wrecked 
and not to take time to even discard 

nightie for any semblance of street 
clothes. But there were so many peo- 
ple that awful night dressed — or im- 
dressed — in any and all conceivable 
types of clothing, or the lack of it, 
that a man and woman in flowing 
nightgowns were only two more per- 
sons to succor "the wounded." 

But if no one was injured in the six 
Pullman cars, hundreds were really 
wounded in the eleven passenger cars 
and the three chair cars. The "furni- 
ture" of the chair cars was broken 
into bits by the terrific impact of tne 

The Pullman car, "The Tunis," which 
approached the gaping vacuum caused 
by the collapse of the burned culvert, 
and whose eastern door and truck 
wheels tottered over the chasm, was 
pulled to safety a few days after the 
vvTeck and was returned to Peoria 
through Chatsworth, Forrest and Fair- 
bury on a T., P. & W. work train. The 
Pullman naturally attracted wide at- 
tention from spectators in all T., P. & 
W. towns. 


Note Chatsworth, Piper City, Gilman, Forrest and Fairbury about nv! 
42 were near, on 





O 5 10 

To 5bMi. 

aj^^ay between Peoria and the Illinois-Indiana state line. No large cites 
n)[ small towns. 43 


Aid and Succor at the Wreck Site. 

Wreckage Takes Fire. 

And now the real horror of the event 
occurred. The wreckage became ig 
nited, either from the burning bridge 
timbers, or from the overturned oil 
lamps in the coaches, as kerosene was 
the only source of ilhimination for the 
cars. Happily, many of these oil lamps 
had been extinguished, as midnight 
approached, so that passengers in the 
day coaches might possibly catch for- 
ty v/inks of sleep while sitting almost 
upright in their most uncomfortable 

Aid From Farmers, 

Aid cam.e first from the uninjured 
and from those so slightly injured that 
they laughed their ov/n hurts aside. 
Some nearby farmers arrived with 
shovels and spades. However, the 
number of neighboring farmers who 
came to help has been overstated, we 
believe, in the newspapers. There were 
no telephones. There were only a few 
farmhouses in the immediate vicinity 
near enough to hear the crash or to 
see the lights of the burning bridge 
and wreck. There are only a few 
farmhouses in that vicinity today. The 
wreck was in the open country. It 
must be recalled that the summer was 
dry and hot. Farmers worked long 
hours, with slow horses, in the fields 
and around their premises. They went 
to bed early, slept soundly. Those 
farmers who went immediately to the 
wreck were so overwhelmed with 
amazement at its magnitude and so 
anxious to aid with the injured that 
doubtless they gave little heed to 
arousing other farmers. Besides, the 
only means farmers had of reaching 
the wreck was by walking and run- 
ning, or by riding horseback or driv- 
ing horses. 

Horses were tied to fences along 
the highways near the v^reck-site. 
Above all, we must recall that a great 
fuming wreck is no place for horses, 

easily and quickly terrified by fire. 
This is no attempt to minimize the 
contribution of neighboring farmers, 
for many of them labored heroically 
digging dirt and clay to throw upon 
the burning wreckage and even dug 
dirt with their bare hands, as did sur- 
viving passengers, until their fingers 
and thumbs were bleeding. 

Many people in Chatsworth hurried 
to the wreck "on foot," that is, walk- 
ing or running. A number came also 
from Piper City before the arrival of 
the special ti^ain from, just as 
Chatsworth people, on foot, or using 
horses, reached the wreck before tht? 
special from Forrest came. 

Real Heroism Displayed. 

Heroism of the first order prevailed. 
Villagers, passengers , farmers, one and 
all, laid their willing hands to the task 
and gave first attention to extinguish- 
ing the fire which was rapidly con- 
suming the splintered cars and which 
would have increased the death toll 
and the amount of suffering. Only 
a Gracious Heaven can reward those 
who worked so hard in utter disregard 
of their own comfort or their own in- 
juries. The Chicago Tribune com- 
mented, very appropriately, that only 
in the next world would "The Good 
Samaritans" of Chatsworth be re- 

The Rain Came — A Blessing, a Trial. 

About 3 a. m., rain — thanks to a 
Kind Providence — began to fall. One 
of the worst droughts in the history 
of the Central West and of the nation 
was broken. Rain fell in torrents for 
about two hours. The dust and grime 
through which the Samaritans waded 
was soon turned into mud, through 
which these willing souls again wal- 
lowed. Dust or rain — made no differ- 
ence to those who were doing their bit 
under the most distressing circum- 
stances of wreckage, fire, death, suf- 
fering, rain and mud. 


People Could Not Believe This Until It Happened. 

Cut, Courtesy Bloomington, 111., Pantagraph. 

Was This a Train? 

Cut, Courtesy Bloomington, 111., Pantagrapji. 


The question naturally arises, what 
would have been the happy result if 
the rain had begun at 3 p. m. the day 
of the wreck instead of 3 a. m., the 
early morning following the tragedy? 
A real rain, and that was what actu- 
ally came, would have extinguished 
the bridge fire in all probability — 
there would have been no Chatsworth 
Wreck. But the rain v/as delayed. 
The fire burned briskly through the 
evening hours. The bridge was weak- 
ened. It went down. The long, heavy 
train plunged into it. There was a 
Chatsworth Wreck. Man is indeed 
futile in regulating the affairs of Na- 
ture or of Divinity, as we may choose 
to regard the Overall of the Universe. 

Removal of the Dead and Injured. 

As rapidly as the comparatively 
small number of helpers could work, 
the remp.ins of the dead and the tan- 
gled bodies of the injured were re- 
moved from the burning cars. 

By 1:30 a. m. enough of the dead 
and injured had been removed from 
the burning wreck to have them load 
ed upon the train v/hich came from 
Forrest for a back-up train movement 
to Chatsworth. The charge was made 
immediately, and we will consider- 
some accusations later, that the rail- 
road company deliberately transported 
dead bodies to Chatsworth and let in 
jured people lie in the adjoining field 
so as to possibly minimize the knowl- 
edge of so many deaths and injuries. 

The dead bodies w«re first laid out 
in rows in "the oats stubble," accord- 
ing to one paper and in "the wheat 
stubble" in another newspaper, then 
transported to Chatsv/orth. 

The injured were removed as rap- 
idly as the comparatively few m.en, 
who had to fight the blaze for the 
first hour or two, could make their 
way to where the cries for help were 
originating. Every^z/here, there were 
cries of "Water, Water" with no water 
at hand to either combat tlie flames 
or to succor "the wounded." 

Some farmers brought with them 
shovels, spades and axes, but there 
were too few utensils to attack a real 
mountainside of infeino plus several 
hundred more or less seriously injured 
men, women and children. 

There were tools in each of the bat- 
tered coaches, for even then railroad 
companies provided a glass front com- 
partment in each coach, equipped with 
a saw, an ax, a sledge hammer, or an 
adz. However, some of these cases 
were far out of reach, and their tools 
could not be secured instantaneously, 
hence this source of relief was reduced 

Chatsworth — One Large Morgue 
and Hospital. 

The village of Chatsworth was soon 
transformed from a typical Illinois 
small town of the 1880s into a bleak 
sanctuary for the dead and a hastily 
improvised hospital for the injured. 

By noon, Thursday, August 11, the 
Chicago Tribune reporter counted 71 
dead bodies in Chatswox^th, distributed 
as follows: Filber Building, 27; bag- 
gage room of the T., P. & W. station, 
24; and the school house, 20. 

Both floors of the town hall were 
covered with the injured, to whom the 
fine women and men of Chatsworth 
were rendering every possible aid. 

With the arrival of relief trains, es 
pecially the first one from Peoria, 
upon which many relatives of the dead 
and injured were transported, Chats- 
worth became a seething camp of 
seekers for bad news, even the worst 
of information. The crowd was vari- 
ously estimated at several — or many 
— thousands. 

So many persons sought entrance 
to the T, P. & W. depot that armed 
guards v/ere posted at the doors and 
only those who were really qualified 
to enter, were permitted to try to iden- 
tify their dead. Seekers for their loved 
ones made the grewsome rounds of 
the three temporary morgues, lifting 
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thing in the way of cloth from each 
face and attempting to find someone 
dear to their hearts. As rapidly as 
identification was established, the 
dead were ticketed by the Chatsworth 
mortician and the Livingston county 
coroner, and hastily placed into plain, 
pine racks or cases. A crew of car- 
penters was suddenly marshalled into 
duty, and securing pine boards from 
the lumber yard, at once began their 
duties of marking the final resting 
places of 70 or 80 persons. 

Lr J. Haberkorn, Chatsworth, 111., 
says that these racks or cases were 
not coffins or caskets in the usual 
sense of the word "casket." Work- 
men secured 12-inch boards from the 
lumber yard, sav/ed them into two si::- 
foot lengths. 

Three cleats were placed inder each 
six-inch board, to make them stand 
upright. The dead were then laid upon 
these boards, with something in the 
way of cloth, carpet, rug, (or what 
could the people of Chatsworth find?) 
thrown over them to serve as a tem- 
porary shroud. 

Mr. Haberkorn says no caskets were 
brought overland from Bloomington, 
as that process would have been too 
tedious, bringing them on horse-drawn 
hay-racks. He also says no caskets, 
as such, were made instantly in Chats- 

Condition of the Injured. 

The English language is an inade- 
quate vehicle to convey the scene of 
desolation at the wreck. 

Men, women and children were 
found in every degree of mangled form 
in the splintered coaches. Bodies were 
found hanging head or feet down. A 
child v/as found embedded on the roof 
of a car. Legs and arms and even 
heads Vv^ere found about the v/reckage. 
Persons picked up extremities of the 
human body hither and thither and 
yon about the shattered cars. 

Reporters tell the stories of at least 
two men who drew pistols and ended 

their lives, amid their suffering. One 
man, with mangled body, exclaimed, 
"I have nothing to live for," and draw- 
ing his revolver fired a bullet into his 
head. The stories of the two suicides 
may have been repetitions — this could 
well be, as the confusion was inde- 

Civil War Veteran Lauglied. 

One Civil War veteran, whose leg 
was fractured in the wreck, sneered 
and sniffed at the carnage about him. 

"You folks think this is awful, of 
course," he laughed, "but I went 
through such hell down in Dixie that 
I don't pay no attention to an affair 
like this." And he could have been 
right, if he had been through the ter- 
rible days at Gettysburg, Antietam 
Fredericksburg, where thousands, not 
hundreds, were killed and wounded. 
After all, disasters are terrible, yet 
they are, unfortunately, historic. Who 
was any more correct than Geneial 
Sherman when he said, "War is hell'"? 

Many exciting stories were relate<:l 
about escapes from death or injur.'' 
by survivors such as the story of hus- 
band meeting death from splintering 
timbers while his wife beside him was 
only slightly injured. Some of these 
stories may have grown with the tell- 
ing. Others, however, were minimized. 

Serious injuries consisted of frac- 
tured arms, legs, ribs, chest and breast 
bones, cuts, bruises, sprains and every 
conceivable form of bodily injury as 
hundreds of people were hurled sud- 
denly from their seats onto the floor 
or to the ceiling of coaches or dashed 
through windows. 

Refreshments at the Wreck. 

Even a reporter, who is supposed to 
take everything in his stride, became 
v.-eary of the depressing sights. 

"I had to take refuge in a good 
snort of brandy," wailed one reporter. 

A prominent citizen of Piper City 
brought blankets, medicines, coffee 
and whisky. Another sympathetic resi- 
dent of Piper City brought a demijohn 
of whisky. 


9 ^ 

O el- 



L. J. Haberkorn and His Experiences at the Wreck, 

A business man of Chatsworth for 
more than 62 years, L. J. Haberkorii 
was the first man aroused in Chats- 
worth following the midnight wreck. 
He led the original group of about 
15 men from that town to the site of 
the wreck. 

Mr. Haberkorn operated a restau- 
rant and hotel in Chatsworth in the 
summer of 1887. He and Mrs. Haber- 
korn decided, at the last moment, to 
cancel their plans to take the ill-fated 
Niagara Falls excursion train because 
of an injury to one of Mrs. Haber- 
korr'G lingers. What a fortunate es- 

When a brakeman walked or ran 
into Chatsworth to sound the alarm 
there, he met a man on the street who 
was employed at the tile factory and 
who was going home. Doubtless this 
tile factory employee was a fireman 
or was engaged in night work. 

The depot was closed, after the ex- 
cursion train had passed. The brake- 
man asked the tile factory employee 
where the agent lived and to get him 
to come to the station to send out the 
terrible news. 

"The excursion train is out there ir> 
the ditch," was the alarm Nvhich Mr. 
Haberkorn received, when the agent 
had aroused him from sleep. Obvi- 
ously, as the owner of the hotel and 
restaurant, Mr. Haberkorn was noti- 
fied first. 

Haberkorn ran to the fire alarm 
tower immediately and sounded a vig- 
orous clanging of the fire bell. Men 
soon began running from all directions. 
Not seeing any flames or smoke, they 
demanded to know where the fire was. 

"The excursion train is out there in 
the ditch," Mr. Haberkorn assured 

Forthwith, a group of about 15 me a 
followed Haberkorn to the scene of 
the ghastly wreck. They walked down 

tlie track and rendered all assistance 

When Mr. Haberkorn reached the 
actual scene of the wreck he heard 
the voice of a distressed man calling, 
"Oh, my God, Oh, my God" in a piti- 
able voice. 

Haberkorn reached the side of this 
man, who was wandering in the field 
beside the wreck. 

"What can I do for you?" asked 

"Oh, my God" screamed the man 
again. "I want water," the injured 
wreck victim continued. "My wife and 
three children are dead in this ter- 
rible wreck. Oh, my God." 

Mr. Haberkorn supplied the water 
to the man's lips. In an instant, there 
was the sound of a pistol shot. The 
man had taken his own life. Whether 
there was a second suicide at the 
wreck, as was indicated by one of the 
newspaper reporters, is a mooted 
question, which will never be verified. 
However, Mr. Haberkorn was able to 
verify that this man's wife and three 
children had been killed in the wreck. 

Wagons Hastily Assembled. 

Mr. Haberkorn also recalls that hay- 
racks, or wide, horse-drawn wagons, 
were hastily rigged up to convey men 
and supplies to the wreck site. A road 
was worn along the side of the rail- 
road track by these wagons, taking 
out supplies and helpers and bringing 
into Chatsworth the dead and "wound- 
ed" As Chatsworth is on the half-sec- 
tion line, it would have been necessary 
for teams and wagons to have driven 
a half-mile south to what is now U. S. 
24, then east about three miles, and 
then north the additional half-mile to 
reach the wreck. By wearing a road 
along the railroad track, a mile was 
saved, which was all-important at a 
time when horses provided the sole 
motive power. 


L. J. Haberkom a Hero. 

L. J. Haberkom, operating a music 
store in Chats worth, and now over 88 
years of age, and Mrs. Haberkom, had 
made all of their arrangements to ride 
the special excursion train. But the 
day the ill-fated train was to pass 
through their town, Mrs. Haberkom 
developed a serious felon on her finger 
and they cancelled their plans for the 
trip. Mr. Haberkorn v/as then oper- 
ating a hotel and restaurant on the 
principal business corner in Chats- 
worth. He recalls seeing the dead 
bodies laid out in rows on the depot 
platform about one block south of his 
restaurant. The Chicago Tribune re- 
porters boarded with him while in 
Chatsworth. He and his son believe 
that there was no truth in the stories 
of the dead and injured being robbed 
by ghouls. 

The train did stop at Chatsworth, 
according to L. J. Haberkorn, one of 
the acknowledged authorities upon the 
details of "The Chatsworth Wreck." 
Mr. and Mrs. T. Y. Brown, Chatsworth, 
intimate friends of Mr. and Mrs. Hab- 
erkom, boarded the train at their 
home town. Further mention of the 
Browns is given in the Haberkom 
story in this volume. (See next col- 

Preserves Lantern. 

Mr. Haberkom preserves the lantern 
which he used the night of the wreck 
to guide the group of about 15 men 
through the darkness to the site of the 
tragedy. He displayed it one time in 
the window of his store when various 
trophies of the wreck were shown. He 
does not believe that any one of the 
15 men who followed him to the wreck 
is living today. Mr. Haberkom is now 
88 years of age, yet went to his store 
daily during the summer of 1949. He 
writes upon his own typewriter. He 
hears well, and reads and writes with- 
out glasses. He is among the few per- 
sons living who rendered valiant aid 
at the wreck as he was then 26 years 
of age. 

He served as chairman of the pro- 
gram when the last meeting of the 

survivors of the wreck was held in 
Chatsworth August 32, 1937, or 50 
years after the wreck. 

Food Exhausted in Chatsworth. 

As the owner of the restaurant and 
hotel, Mr. Haberkorn faced an embar- 
rassment of riches in trying to supply 
the needs of the hungry crowd which 
milled through the streets of Chats- 
worth August 11, the day after the 
wreck. He was sold out of every sub- 
stance of food. People begged for food 
which he could not supply. One man, 
apparently famished for food, was as- 
sured the Haberkorn larder had been 
exhausted. This man sat down at a 
table and went through the motions 
of eating with his knife and fork. 

Grocery Stores Depleted. 

So many people assembled in Chats- 
worth especially that food supplies 
were exhausted. The hotel and res- 
taurants were entirely unable to care 
for the food demands made upon 
them. Grocery stores were depleted 
of crackers, cheese, canned goods, sar- 
dines, anything which would serve for 
a lunch. Meat markets were sold out 
of bologna and dried beef. 

T. Y. Brown, Chatsworth, and Mrs. 
Brown boarded the excursion train 
when it pulled into their home town. 
In fact, several persons from Chats* 
worth took the train. Mr. and Mrs. 
Brown happened to be inside one of 
the Pullman cars when the wreck oc- 
curred and were not injured No one 
from Chatsworth was injured. 

At the wreck site, Mr. Haberkorn 
was happy to meet Mr. and Mrs, T. 
Y. Brown, Chatsworth, and his warm 
personal friends, who had boarded tne 
excursion at Chatsworth, and who had 
seats in one of the Pullman cars. When 
the train stopped at Chatsworth, the 
Browns were told to board one of the 
coaches and then to walk back through 
the cars to their Pullman. They had 
just entered the front part of the first 
Pullman when the zero moment occtuv 
red. The last coach through which 
they had walked was smashed up 


against the end of the first Pullman, 
which remained on the rails but with 
its front truclts suspended in mid-air 
over the small chasm which had 
caused the wreck. The Browns were 
saved. Had they been a few seconds 
later, they would have been in the 
wooden coach and would have perished 

Mr. Haberkorn was overjoyed when 
he saw Mr. and Mrs. Brown, then each 
about 80 years of age. He embraced 
them for sheer joy. Both Mr. and 
Mrs. Brown lived several years after- 

Armstrong Injured In the Wreck. 

C. C. Kingdon, cashier, Woodford 
County National Bank, El Paso, 111., 
writes that J. A. Smith, Jr., El Paso, 
has loaned him the original sign whicn 
E. N. Armstrong, General Superinten- 
dent of the T., P. & W., who was rid- 
ing in the official car on the ill-fated 
train, tacked on the door of the hall 
in the Filber Building, Chatsworth, 
used as a temporary hospital, which 
read, "Chatsworth, 111., August 11, 1887. 
No one allowed in this room except 
on business. By Order of E. N. Arm- 
strong, General Supt." 

Mr. Smith also says that Armstrong's 
car was thrown across the track and 
that he was scalded by steam from 
the engine. Mr. Smith says he stayed 
at their home. He saw Armstrong 
take off his shirt and unloosen his 
trousers and that the sltin came off in 
quite an area. Armstrong took butter 

or lard and applied it and then went 
bock to the work of which he had 

J. A. Smith, St., father of J. A. 
Smith, Jr., was mayor of Chatsworth, 
or rather, president of the village 
board, also the editor and publisher 
of the Chatsworth Plaindealer, which 
published at least three special edi- 
tions. J. A. Smith, Jr., has a copy of 
the third special edition. This carries 
the list of Chatsworth homes which 
were used as hospitals. 

Threatened Trial of Railroad Officials. 

The newspapers of the period fairly 
rang with demands that the officials 
of the T., P. & W. railroad be tried 
for some crime, possibly criminal care- 
lessness. There was a demand that 
Track Foreman Sullivan, who was 
charged with not extinguishing the 
grass and v/eeds fire along the right- 
of-way, be tried. However the charge 
could not be proved and there was no 
trial either of Sullivan or any other 
employe or official. 

Balloon Aviator Safe. 

As a sidelight upon the depths of 
the tragedy, it happened that there 
was a balloon ascension at CuUom, 111,. 
nine miles north of Chatsworth. The 
aviator was "Prof." Talbert, who, 
when 1,000 feet in the air, was forced 
to make a quick landing. "He escaped 
serious injury" and v/as conveyed to 
Cullom in a buggy. Talbert was sim- 
ply lucky — safer in the air than on 
the T., P. & W. train, it seemed. 



L. J. Haberkorn stands in front of wreck. He was the first man aroused 
his Chatsworth store. He holds in his in Chatsworth by the bralveman of the 
left hand the lantern he carried to the wrecked excursion train. 



Newspaper Coverage of the Wreck. 

The Newspapers of 1887. 

This writer has made a thorough 
study of the New York Herald, the 
New York Tribune, the Chicago Trib- 
une, the Bloomington, 111., Pantagraph 
(which gave one of the best reports 
of all), as well as having collected 
items and news reports of the catas- 
trophe for many years. 

He has lived his entire life in Cen- 
tral Illinois and during his childhood, 
boyhood and youth, he constantly 
heard his elders talk about the Chats- 
worth Wreck. He little thought then 
that he would prepare a book account 
of the tragedy. He has also visited 
the site of the wreck and has talked 
with numerous people who lived in 
the wreck area and who were either 
helpers at the wreck or who were 
reared in the intimate knowledge of 
the accident. 

No Survivors to Be Interviewed. 

Now — over 62 years after the wreck 
— it has become impossible to converse 
with actual survivors. A careful check 
at Chatsworth in August, 1949, reveal- 
ed no survivors of the accident are 
living. Many people still live in Piper 
City, Chatsworth, Forrest, Fairbury, 
other towns, who recall, vividly in- 
deed, the wreck. A lad 16 years of 
age in 1887 would obviously be 78 to- 
day. Some youths who helped at the 
wreck or who went to the wreck-site, 
are still living and they carry stirring 

The idea of publishing as accurate 
a description as possible of the wreck 
over six decades after it happened is 
to preserve a historical review not 
alone of the tragedy itself, but fully 
as important, a picture of the period 
in which it occurred and the mode of 
travel in use at that time. The latter 
is sought in this work as much — or 
even more — than many sordid facts of 
the wreck itself. 

No Bannerlines. 

Newspapers in 1887 did not use 
screaming headlines, or bannerlines. 
Type was set into molds, so that col- 
umns were never broken, could not be 
broken — even for the Chatsworth 
Wreck, one of the greatest tragedies 
to that date. Banks of headlines were 
used, down the single lead column, 
usually from four to seven tiers of 
"heads" appearing in the metroiJolitan 

Chicago Tribune Buns Special TraJiv. 

The Chicago Tribune did not use 
the story until Friday, August 12. The 
facts of the wreck were not generally 
known until after the August 11 morn- 
ing papers went to press. 

The Tribune sent a special train 
with reporters leaving Chicago at 12:35 
Thursday afternoon, August 11. This 
train then proceeded dovim the present 
main line of the Illinois Central from 
Chicago to Kankakee. We must al- 
ways remember that the original 
"main line" of the Illinois Central was 
through Decatur, Clinton, Blooming- 
ton, El Paso, La Salle, Dixon and Am- 
boy to Freeport. From Kankakee, the 
train moved south westward on its 
Kankakee-Bloomington branch to 
Chatsworth itself. The train carried 
three reporters, two "expert" tele- 
graph operators and two young men 
who had brothers in the wreck. These 
brothers, incidentally, according to the 
Tribune, had ridden bicycles from Chi 
cago to Peoria and were then on their 
way home, doubtless riding the T., P. 
& W. from Peoria to Gilman, then 
changing to the Illinois Central to 
Chicago. Regular passengers were 
carried just as patrons of the Niagara 
Falls excursion. How the Tribune re- 
porters reached the actual wreck-site 
from Chatsworth is not noted in their 
story, but they were probably con- 
veyed there by a livery "rig." 

The story appeared in the New York 


Herald and the New York Tribune the 

same morning, August. 12, interesting- 
ly enough, as the Chicago Tribune. 
Abundant space was allotted to the 
tragedy in all of these newspapers as 
well as in the Bloomington Pantagraph 
and other Central Western newspapers. 

Reporters Have Gala Time. 

This assignment was a real coverage 
for the reporters. They were given 
plenty of space — always a desirable 
but usually unattainable goal for a 
reporter. The usual fate of a reporter 
on a hot story is to have his story cut 
to pieces and to have most of it, at 
least much of it, eliminated, or pos- 
sibly "murdered," probably because of 
"lack of space." But in 1887 news- 
papers seemed to have had plenty of 
space. Lack of space seems to have 
arisen in the 1940s with the shortage 
of food, tires, printpaper and other 
commodities. But in 1887 a reporter 
sent to cover a grim disaster like the 
Chatsworth Wreck may have had a 
gruelling experience but at least he 
would have the satisfaction of seeing 
columns of his story in print. In fact, 
the Chatsworth Wreck was a real field 
day for an energetic reporter. There 
is much fine writing in the various 
newspaper accounts, also much ordi- 
nary reporting. There is, of course, 
much repetition among the various 
stories, indicating that many news- 
papers used the same telegraphic ac- 
counts, which was only a sensible and 
efficient way of hurriedly covering the 

Divergent Facts Presented. 

There are also widely differing com- 
ments with divergent facts among the 
reports. This is entirely natural for 
five persons witnessing an automobile 
accident in 1949 would tell substan- 
tially the same story, but each would 
relate different details and would give 
divergent interpretations of the causes 
of the mishap. Human nature runs 
true to a general pattern whether the 
years are 1887 or 1949. 

Sidelights on the News. 

There are interesting sidelights upon 
the current events of 1887. Advertis- 
ing v/as much more limited than at 
present — probably the reason why the 
reporters got a lovely break. Perhaps 
too abundant advertising is the 1949 
reason for "lack of space." Display 
ads were used in great moderation. 
Want ads at 10 cents a line in the Chi- 
cago Tribune were used by the dozen. 
The Tribune was 15 cents a week. Pic- 
tures were used rarely. The Chicago 
Tribune carried August 12 an excellent 
map of the Chatsworth area, and two 
small pictures in the August 14 issue. 
But "pix," so much a part of journal- 
ism today, were not used even in the 
metropolitan newspapers 62 years ago. 
One reporter spoke of seeing "a pho- 
tographer with a lot of negatives" at 
the wreck site. Where are his pictures 

Variation in Casualties. 

Reports varied widely as to casual- 
ties. A Peoria paper first reported 
there were four killed and four in- 
jured. Some newspapers a day later* 
reported "hundreds killed." In the 
first days after the wreck, the num- 
ber of dead was reported at 118, 109, 
90 and numerous other figures. 

Influence of Civil War, 

As previously noted in this volume, 
the injured were usually spoken of as 
"the wounded," clearly reflecting Civil 
War influence. It is possible that the 
reporters were Civil War veterans. A 
man leaving "the army" as it was 
designated by its veterans in 1865, at 
the age of 23, would have been only 
45 years old at the time of the wreck. 
Without question, many of the crew 
members, the passengers, the people 
who aided the survivors of the wreck, 
were Civil War veterans or the wives 
of veterans. Hence, the common use 
of the word "wounded." 

New York Newspaper Coverage. 

The New York Herald Saturday, Au- 
gust 13, carried headlines such as 
"The Dead and Dying"; "Who is to 
Blame for the Suffering in Illinois?"; 


"Parsimony — One Cause of Disaster"; 
'•Identifying the Dead," and "Suffer- 
ing Peoria." This issue of the Herald 
tells us that the T., P. & W. wrecking 
crew had the track restored and serv- 
ice restored at 3 p. m. Friday, August 
12, or 39 hours after the zero moment. 

The Herald, Sunday, August 14, 
headlined such topics as "Clearing the 
Wreck"; "Peoria m Mourning"; "Cor- 
oner Investigates"; "Who Is Respon- 
sible?" and follows this with news that 
Mrs. Grover Cleveland, wife of the 
President of the United States, had 
left her summer home at Marion, 
Mass, and had returned to Washing- 
ton, D. C. 

Monday, August 15, the Herald 
speaks of "The Lesson of the Disas- 
ter"; "Bridges Must Be Made Fire- 
proof" and "An Official Inspection" to 
be made by members of the Illinois 
State Railroad and Warehouse Com- 
mission, the predecessor of the Illinois 
Commerce Commission. 

The New York Tribune gave an am- 
ple coverage to the disaster, present- 
ing several pages daily for three or 
four days. It gave the train length 
as "17 coaches and sleepers." It spoke 
of the torrents of rain which fell soon 
after the wreck, saying "Rains Break 
the Drought." Its headlines Saturday, 
August 13, were "The Calamity in Illi- 
nois"; "Caring Kindly for the Wound- 
ed," and "Searching Among the Bodies 
of the Dead." 

Many human interest stories appear 
throughout the comment on the wreck. 
One traveling man "running" for a 
wholesale grocery house slept past his 
station (which was probably Fairbury 
or Forrest) and was Icilled. R. G. Ris- 
ser, Kankakee, 111., missed the train 
at El Paso and had to ride on a follow- 
ing freight train. He lived. 

The Chatsworth Wreck disappeared 
from the New York papers by Tuesday, 
August 15. Life goes on — regardless 
of suffering and death. 

Newspaper News and Style in 1887. 

The New York Herald was then pub- 
lished "With Supplement" and with 
"Quadruple Sheet" and with "Quintu 
pie Sheet." 

A glance of other news is interest- 
ing. Considerable attention was given 
to sports and recreation, which may, 
at first glance seem strange, as we 
more or less assume that sports and 
recreation are a modernistic creation. 
Financial news appeared in abundance. 
We noted the sale, in a small display 
ad, of "Dakota Territory 5% Bonds." 

Who was H. W. Weiss? His name 
appears, in bold and beautiful pencil 
writing on the upper right-hand cor- 
ner of the New York Herald for two 
days as this newspaper carried valu- 
able stories of the wreck. Probably 
the writing is that of a clerk in a drug 
store or news-stand— where? — reserv- 
ing the paper for Mr. Weiss. The au- 
thor of this study will appreciate any 
information as to the identity of H. W. 

All papers of that era used extreme- 
ly small tvpe. No effort was made 
to "streamline" pages. Tv^e w^s so 
small in almost all newspapers as to 
constitute a real eve hazard. Sight 
saving phvsicians and social workers 
would instantly rebel todav at the 
over-use of such infinites'mai tvpe. 
Small wonder, then, the reporters were 
enabled to market such long stories, 
which would be utterly impossible at 

Advertising appeared on the first 
page of the New York Herald of Au- 
gust 12, 1887. There were ten banks of 
headlines over the Chatsworth Wreck 
article, with an excellent map. The 
Herald was to be congratulated for 
its accurate map This writer could 
see no flaws in its map. 

The Headlines. 

The headlines read, "Plunging Down 
to Death"; "Peoria Weeps for Her 
Dead"; and "How the Train Met 
Death." The Herald gives the length 


of the train as "six sleepers and 15 
cars," a total of 21 coaches. The Her- 
ald also tells us that T., P. & W. offi- 
cials were jubilant over the success of 
the train as it left Peoria. "It was 
their most successful excursion"^all 
right, says this author, so far, so 
good, at least as far as Chatsworth. 

The Grief and Anxiety in Peoria. 

Much space is given to the intensity 
of the excitement in Peoria concerning 
the wreck. There were 28 Peoria per- 
sons killed in the wreck, according t'j 
one commentator, as well as dozens 

Business was suspended and people 
went about the streets, to the news- 
paper offices, to the telegraph offices, 
and to the Union Station to secure 
news. One man said he went into a 
large store to make a purchase, and 
could find neither proprietor nor 
clerks. The store was open, but the 
personnel had fled to secure news. 

The first train to arrive from the 
wreck scene was at 4 p. m. Thursday, 
but it brought in only dead bodies and 
many survivors, with few injured. A 
second train came in that evening. It 
is said that 5,000 people milled around 
the Union Station awaiting the trains. 
A number of Peoria physicians had 
been conveyed to the v/reck scene with 
Dr. Dunkert mentioned as one of the 
first physicians to reach the wreck 
scene. Many names of people from 
Peoria and adjacent towns are men- 
tioned, among them C. Filrath, of 
the Pardee-Day Company, dry-goods 
house. A Mrs. Neal, Mossville, was 
reported "quite dead." 

The baggage of the- victims of tao 
wreck was removed, first to Chats- 
worth, and then to Peoria. "There 
were all kinds and conditions of va- 
lises and handbags from old, fat car- 
petbags to the neatest reticules." Con- 
tents were in fearful condition — dirty, 
torn, wet, and in utter turmoil. 

Forty persons from Knox County, 
ni., were victims of the wreck, with 
20 from Galesburg, 111. 

The Peoria Transciipt issued bvillo- 
tins as rapidly as news could be se- 
cured, as the broken telegraph wire at 
Farmdale added to the confusion. 

Mayor Samuel W. Kinsey, of Peoria, 
ordered handbills printed for circula- 
tion which called a special meeting of 
citizens Thursday evening at the city 
hall. The throngs were so large the 
meeting was moved to the court house 
lawn, with Judge Jones presiding. This 
meeting arranged for help for the in- 
jured in the v/reck and for their 

Many funeral services were held in 
Peoria, Sunday, August 14. "Corteges 
wound their dreary way all day Sun 
day to Springdale Cemetery." Many 
of the funerals in Peoria were long 
and impressive. 

Robbery at the Wreck-Site. 

The New York papers, especially, 
carried many thrilling stories of ghouls 
who pillaged the dead, the injured, 
and the baggage of both. This author 
has talked to Chatsworth people aiid 
they do not believe that robbers were 
present just after the wreck occurred. 

No doubt, a number of newspaper 
reporters made capital out of the pos- 
sibility that robbers preyed upon the 
unfortunate victims of the wreck. This 
made a great story — coupled with the 
tales of the wreck itself. 

Robbery was even assigned as the 
reason for the wreck. It was told that 
thieves knew of the movement of the 
excursion train, for it had been widely 
advertised, that they burned the 
bridge, with malice, just to create 
havoc and to rob the people who met 
either death or agonizing injuries. 

This writer, after careful study, 
does not support the robbery motive 
for the catastrophe He believes the 
fire which destroyed the bridge was 
one of many similar blazes which ter- 
rorized several states during the long 
drought and heat of the summer of 


To the Right: 

William MeCanibridge, of the night 
staff, Bloomington, 111., Pantagraph, 
in August, 1887. A telegraph operator, 
he caught the first incoherent reports 
of the wreck "off the wire" and wrote 
his own story. He had papers on the 
Bloomington streets by 6:00 a. m., 
"scooping" the New York and Chicago 
newspapers. This was one of the most 
famous newspaper "beats" in the Cen- 
tral West. In 1887, a man by the name 
of "William" was never called "Bill." 
He might be called "Billy," as was 
McCambridge, by close associates, but 
not by the general public. 

No Planned Bobbery at Wreck. 

For these reasons, he believes that 
robbery was not the cause of the 
wreck nor does he believe that ghouls 
preyed upon the passengers. Anyone 
picking up a watch or a pocketbook or 
purse, to be turned in later, could 
have been declared a robber. Besides, 
how would the robbers have reached 
the site of the v^rreck? Obviously, on 
the train, as the excursion was open 
to all passengers. But how would 
these thieves have known that the 
wreck would occur? It is, of course, 
possible that there was some thiev- 
ing at the wreck, but the reports of 
wholesale robberies cannot be support- 
ed by this writer. The wreck must 
be blamed upon weather conditions, 
rather than upon man; but this author 
still holds that more diligent patrols 
over wooden bridges in a period of 
all-out drought, would have averted 
the tragedy. 

Pantagraph Gives Ample Coverage. 

Bloomington, 111., and Peoria, 111., 
were the two nearest large cities to 
the site of the wreck. As a matter of 
fact there are no large towns or cities 
in the vicinity of Chatsworth. After 
leaving Peoria and Bloomington, one 
must travel northward in the state 
many miles before reaching Kankakee, 
Joliet and other sizeable communities. 

The Pantagraph Thursday, August 
11, emphasized the drought and heat, 
and loss of crops. Ironically, the 
next day, Friday, August 12 the Pan- 
tagraph gave the same space, and 
much more, to the catastrophe. 

The Pantagraph "Scoop." 

At this point, this writer wishes to 
comment, most favorably, on an in- 
teresting story associated with the 
Bloomington, 111., Pantagraph, one of 
the best small city newspapers in the 
United States, which he has heard 
throughout life. The story went that 
the Pantagraph "scooped" the press 
of the United States — Chicago. New 
York, all of the big papers — on the 
wreck story. However, the story has 
some qualifications. 

The Pantagraph, a morning paper, 
was about "to be put to bed" when 
the Chatsworth aroused operator sent 
out his thrilling SOS call which elec- 
trified the world. This message was 
picked up by William McCambridge, 
of the Pantagraph night staff, who 
had learned telegraphy as a boy in 
Normal, 111. McCambridge had a 
story, which he admitted was inco- 
herent enough as everything was utter 
confusion at the wrecit-site, ready for 
the Pantagraph and had the paper on 
the streets at 6:00 a. m. Thursday, 


August 11, beating all metropolitan 

limited Scoop Edition Apparently. 

However, it must be noted that this 
must have been a limited edition scoop, 
for the Pantagraph of August 11, 1887, 
in the files of the great newspaper 
room of the Univeisity of Illinois, 
where this author has carefully stud- 
ied that issue, carried only the story 
of the drought. No mention was made 
of the wreck. Apparently, the scoop 
of the Pantagraph must have been 
limited, possibly only to street sales 
or probably deliveries in Bloomington 
itself. The scoop did not reach into 
the mails, it seems. 

The Pantagraph for August 12 car- 
ried approximately the same general 
news of the v^^eck as did the New 
York, Chicago, St. Louis, Peoria and 
other large papers. The facsimile of 
the Pantagraph's story in its Centen- 
nial Edition November 20, 1946, which 
this author has on his desk, is dated 
"Chatsworth, 111., Aug. 11, 6 p. m.," 
which made it available only for the 
August 12 edition. But three cheers 
and nine rahs for McCambridge and 
his scoop, even if "the beat" seemed 
apparently limited. 

Responsibility for the Wreck. 

In spite of the blistering editorials 
which this writer has read in various 
newspapers including one attack upon 
the T., P. & W. railroad in a cable 
from London, England, he will attach 
no real blame at the door of the rail- 
road officials. 

There is no question the train was 
far too heavy to be moved as one unit. 
It is also said that Engineer McClin- 
tock remonstrated with Superintendent 
Armstrong, as the train was leaving 
Peoria, to divide the train — but to no 
avail For that matter, the first sec- 
tion of the divided train would doubt 
less have gone through the burning, 
collapsing culvert bridge, which would 
doubtless have fallen, regardless of 
how the train might have been divided 
or "broken up" in railroad parlance. 

Timber bridges were then in general 
use The T., P. & W. has timbei 
bridges in 1949 in the immediate vi- 
cinity of Fairbury, 111., only a few 
miles from the wreck site. The spe- 
cial train on the Lake Erie and West- 
ern (now the Nickel Plate) a week 
later made the Niagara Falls trip with 
20 coaches and 850 passengers over 
identical wooden bridges. Timber cul- 
verts and bridges were in common use 
at that time. 

The author of this volume vividly 
recalls, in his boyhood, timber or 
wooden bridegs at Farmer City, HI., 
used by the Illinois Central and the 
present New York Central. 

The summer was hot and dry. Piai- 
rie fires were reported even by the 
New York papers. Perhaps more dili- 
gence should have been used in keep- 
ing watchmen patrolling the tracks. 
This would have been expensive — but 
not nearly as expensive as the $500,000 
in damage suits filed against the T.. 
P. & W. after the wreck. 

Editorials on Responsibility. 

The Pantagraph used many head- 
ings in its story, entitled "The Bridge 
of Death"; "A Graphic Description", 
"First Car of Wounded"; and "Even 
in Her Cruelty Fate Was Lenient." 

The Pantagraph also carried a blis- 
tering editorial on the resnonsibility 
for the wreck. "Who will be respon- 
sible here and in the hereafter?" 
"There was recklessness, carelessness 
and blundering by someone." This 
paper, in its August 12 issue, carried 
three columns on page 1 and four col- 
umns on page 4 and the last page. It 
gave the number of dead as 109. 

This paper gave special attention to 
the scene in Chatsworth Thursday 

"No language will express the scen-t" 
at Chatsworth It was one huge hos- 
pital. The afternoon was an oppres- 
.sive one, and people went about their 
work with an energy born of desper- 
ation. Six thousand people milled 



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Headlines — Bloomington, fll., Panlagraph — August 11, 1887. 
The Famous "Scoop" Story. 

The Pantagraph listed dead and in- 
jured from Peoria, Wyoming, 111 , 
Washington, 111., Pontiac, Bushnell, Eu- 

reka, Keithsburg, Jacksonville, Meta- 
mora and Abingdon, among Illinois 


through Chatsworth. Survivors of the 
wreck and the injured passed through 
a maelstrom more fearful than all of 
the v/hirling waters they were travel- 
ing to see. Samaritans were arranged 
for watches through the night." 

Sunday was reported a quiet day in 
Chatsworth and Piper City, with even 
church services abandoned. It seemed 
that people Vv'ere so stunned that they 
worshiped alone rather than in groups. 

Investigation of Wooden Bridges. 

The late Prof. I. O. Baker, for many 
years head of the department of civil 
engineering, University of Illinois, and 
president of the Illinois Society of En- 
gineers in 1887, made an official in- 
spection of the timber bridges on the 
T., P. & W. after the wreck, and de- 
clared that any one of them including 
the one which was burned, was safe 
for train use. 


The concern of this Vv'riter is that 
he cannot reproduce the language, 
not to mention all of the reports, of 
the many alert reporters who covered 
the Chatsv/orth Wreck. It v/ould re- 
quire many volumes however, to re- 
produce these lengthy and detailed 
reports. Besides, many of them are 
repetitions and included stories v/hich 
were doubtless "pooled" by reporters 
to make their stories vivid and ex- 

The question may well be asked, 62 
years later, if the newspaper reporters 
sent to the wrecksite enlarged upon 
or magnified their stories. This might 
have been— may v/ell have been- -true, 
for reporters' imaginations were as 
lively in 1S37 as in 19i9. Lut if some 
versions or angles of the stories were 
magnified or enlarged. tl;en other as- 
pects v/ere minimized. 

Certainly— like the Queen of Sheba 
ushered into the glory of King Solo- 
m.on so many centuries ago, vv^ho ex- 
claimed "The Iialf has not been told" 
— just so, we may recoi-d, sbc decades 
aftervv-ards, that regardless of some 

overdrawn statements at the time oi" 
the wreck, that not one-half of the 
suffering and the misery of 81 or 85 
persons killed and almost 400 injured 
v^^as known, that "the half has never 
yet been told." Such a complete stor\' 
cannot be related — even today this 
author has only attempted, after all, 
a review of the excursion ti-ain and 
the famous wreck of 1887. 

The New York Herald in 1887 sold 
for two cents. It carried its "Whole 
Number" of daily papers printed at 
18,616. How does this compare with 
newspaper circulation in 1949 and 

Want ads were carried on the front 
page, also "A Directory for Adver- 

Among news stories headlined were 
"Frederick Hopt executed by shooting 
at Salt Lake City"; "Honor to Henry 
Watterson," (recalled as the famou.-' 
"Massa" Henry Watterson, editor for 
many years of the famous Louisville 
Courier- Journal); "American Advances 
in Science"; "President Cleveland m 
West Virginia," and "Grand Fishing 

The financial failure of Henry S. 
Ives was noted in an item, "Ives Goes 
Under." He was called "The Napo- 
leon of Finance." 

Five colum.ns were devoted to "Spe- 
cial News of Baseball and Yachting." 
Much attention was given to tennis 
and racing. Who says there were no 
sports in 1887? 

"Fate was lenient, for she willed 
that most of those who were killed 
in the wreck should die instantly," 
commented one reporter. 

One man who was rescued from a 
horrible death from being burned alive 
Yv'Iien the wreckage caught fire, com- 
plained that his watch had been stolen. 

"The engineer sav/, to his horror, a 
burning bridge ahead. Death, and a 
dreadful death, was therefore inexor- 
able," v/rote one reporter. 


"AH tl-c railv/ay horrors in tho Iiis- 
:ory of 11: is country \/ere surpassed 
;iree miles cact o2 Chatsworth, li.'.," 
-ailed another writer. 

"All sorts of people took advantage 
JL the lovAcost excursion," telegraphed 
z rei^orter to his paper. This state- 
:Gnt rnay lend some credence to the 
'aims of robbery at the wrecksite, a 
abatable question throughout the 
decades since, but now largely dis- 
counted as improbable, except in a 
ow isolated cases. 

"The run from Forrest to Chats- 

ort'i, six miles, was made in seven 

linutes, so the terrible momentum of 

':ose 17 coaches and tv/o locomotives 

i-ooting along at the rate of a mile 

minute can be understood. No stop 

/as made at Chatsworth (undoubted- 

; not true.) On sped the heavy train 

ith its living freight, through the 

^rkness of the night," was a report- 

! ; "s obscr'/ation. 

"Financial and Commercial News" 
loomed large in the New York news- 
papers iii the summer of 1887. "Ship- 
ping News" with reports of the Port 
of New Ycrk, including names of ves- 
"?Is "arrived, cleared and sailed," was 
. :'onilnent. "Notices to Mariners" v/ere 
. "o "in evidence. 

"Strong men grew sick. The smell 

f-f v/arm human blood caused many 

) grow faint. Dead men and v/omen 

ore seen hanging through the win- 

';ws or holes in the sides of coaches. 

here was very little water to be 

' id," v/rote another overwhelmed re- 

, rtei*. 

Delegations of the Red Men's lodge 
vd The Ancient Order of United 
'orkmen, Peoria, rushed to the site 
' the wreck, to aid the injured. 

"After eight o'clock in the morning, 
ere v/ere plenty of people to do the 
..ork that needed such- prompt atten- 
tion. Kind-hearted women drove in 
'vom miles- around to give their gentle 
linistrations to the suffering." 

if there v.^ere ghouls at the wreck, 
one writer called ti^iem, contemptuous- 
ly, "Human Hyenas." One reporter 
claimed they even took the si'ioes 
which covered the feet of the victims. 
" vVho these wretches are is not known. 
Was it their devilish act which delib- 
erately v/recked the train?" They 
stripped the wretches of watches and 
jcv/clry and even seai'ched their pock- 
ets for money. Thet-e hyenas even 
searched dead bodies" was wired from 
tho ViTeeksito. "Sixteen empty purses 
Vv'ere found in one heap. Had the 
plunderers hcen caught they v/ould 
surely have been lynched." 

Visiting the v/reck as officials of 
tho State of Illinois were Commission- 
er John R. Renaker, of the Illinois 
State Railroad and Warehouse Com- 
mission; Jesse Rogers, Captain B. F. 
Marsh, John R. Tanner (inaugurated 
governor of Illinois in January, 1897); 
John Bunn and "several other gentle- 
m.en from Springfield " 

Dr. O. B. Will, Peoria, said to be 
the only physician on the wrecked 
train, carried his surgical instruments 
Vk'ith chloroform and stimulants. "His 
wife induced him to take them along." 

Hats, coats, valises, shoes, ladies' 
underv/ear, many other items of cloth- 
ing, were found strewn about the 
Vv^reck in utter confusion. "The trav- 
elers seemed to be well-to-do people," 
commented one reporter. 

Among communities in Illinois which 
contributed passengers to the ill-fated 
train v/ere Pekin, Canton, Cuba, Meta- 
mora, Mossville, Eureka, Brimfield, 
Washington, Bushnell, Galesburg, 
Green Valley, Jacksonville, Blooming- 
ton, Tonica, Deer Creek, Glasford Tre- 
mont, La Harpe, Keithsburg, Henry. 
Chillicothe, Lacon, Minonk, an almost 
endless list of towns. 

Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Com- 
pound for weak and ailing women v/as 
highly advertised. Note the recent 
current biography entitled "Lydia 
Pinkham Is Her Name," by Jean Bur- 


ton; published by Farrar, Straus & Co., 
New York. The Compound was sold 
at $1 a bottle— six bottles for $5. "I'll 
sell you six for a V," said the corner 

"If you are tired all over — try Hood's 
Sarsaparilla," ran one advertisement. 

Railroad time cards and steamship 
sailings were carried as vital news by 
the New York papers. Railroad time- 
tables were published in American 
newspapers for many years — disap- 
peared about the time of the First 
World War, 

Obituaries were really obituaries in 
the 1880s. It was really worth dying 
in 1887 to have a lengthy, tearful obit- 
uary written about your many fine 
qualities, and which tactfully omitted 
all references to your many deficien- 

"How England Will Fall," was the 
subject of a scholarly editorial in the 
Cliicago Tribune. Perhaps the writer 
v/as right, after all. Many people in 
1949 are predicting that 'England will 
yet fall. We know that the pound 
has fallen, at least. 

"The German Is Our Enemy" was 
the title of another 1887 editorial. Thss 
was prophetic, for we found this true 
in 1917 and ajiain in 1941. 


For many years, even to the 60th 
anniversary of the Chatsworth Wreck, 
many Central Illinois, and even na- 
tionally circulated newspapers, noted 
the week of August 10-11 as the pe- 
riod to recall the Chatsworth Wreck. 

Much attention, na<"urally, was giv- 
en the semi-centennial of the anniver- 
sary of the wreck, August 11, 1937, in 
Chatsworth, 111. Newspapers through- 
out Illinois and the Central West com- 
mented upon the 50th anniversary of 
the tragedy. The Chatsworth Plain- 
dealer, in a special commemorative 
issue, noted the passing of a half-a- 
century of time since the catastrophe. 
The Bloomington, 111., Pantagraph also 

noted the anniversary, as did many 
other newspapers. 

Each year, for many decades, the 
newspapers of the general area, com- 
mented upon perhaps the 47th or the 
51st anniversary of the wreck. How- 
ever, with the passing of time, the 
deaths of survivors, and of those who 
recalled the wreck as children or 
youths, the newspapers began to pay 
less and less attention to the anniver- 
sary. Like other tragic events, it 
began to slip into the realm of his- 
toric episodes — which is precisely the 
reason for compiling this book review 
of the great wreck. The time has now 
come to perpetuate this tragedy in 
permanent form, which we are now 

The Champaign, 111., News-Gazette, 
August 11, 1946, noted, in a special 
story, written by its Watscka, 111., cor- 
respondent, a review of the tragedy. 
It mentiond, especially, Jesse Smith, 
Watseka, who was able to reproduce, 
from griemory, at least two verses of 
.the song, vThe Bridge Was Burned 
at Chatsworth." This story relates 
that verses were added constantly to 
the song by keen miads and that the 
song passed into folklore, much like 
"The Shooting of Dan McGrew." 

This story also commented upon the 
fact that on the evening of August 5. 
1919, a westbound train on the T., P. 
& W. struck and killed Mrs. Florence 
Fisher, wife of Webster Fisher, Pitt- 
wood, 111., who was crossing the tracks 
in "an old Maxwell touring car." The 
engineer on this train was none other 
than David Sutherland, Peoria, 111., 
who was engineer of the first locomo 
tive on the wreck train, 32 years pre- 
viously, which had struck the bvirned 
culvert bridge, and after losing its 
tender, managed to speed on to Pii>er 
City to sound the alarm of the wreck. 
Sutherland was still active in 1919 and 
was at his post of duty 32 years later. 
It is interesting, but sad, to thinlc 
that his engine should cause this un- 
fortunate accident in Watseka, almost 
32 years to a day followng the Chats- 
worth Wreck. 


The Champaign News-Gazette head- 
ed its excellent story, "Chatsworth 
Wreck Anniversary. Excitement Ran 
High 49 Years Ago, in This Territory." 
It also mentioned that Wilbur Hatha- 
way, then employed in the Watseka 
post office, was eight years of age at 
the time of the wreck. He was then 
living at Oilman, 111., and with older 
persons, was taken to view the wreck. 
Hathaway could be plainly discerned 
in an old-time photograph taken at the 

C. C. Burford, Urbana, 111., author 
of this volume, prepared a two-column 
review of the wreck for the Fairbury, 
111., Blade, which was published in 
that new^spaper the week of August 
11, 1947, or exactly 60 years after the 
Chatsworth tragedy. Through error, 
this article was credited to Congress- 
man Leslie C Arends, Melvin, 111., who 
had, as it happened, another commu- 
nication that week in the Blade. This 
was one of the last extended reviews 
of the vTecks to be published in news- 
paper form. 

The coming of World War II caused 
the Chatsworth wreck to be dropped 
as historic reminders of the wreck 
There was too much current news — 
most of it tragic, indeed, to be record 
ed in the grim war years. Therefore 
we again repeat, with the dropping of 
this story as newspaper comments 
following 1941, the necessity of pre 
serving an account of it in book form 
became more necessary. Hence — we 
repeat — this printed book preservation 
of one of the most historic events in 
the annals of American railroading is 


Emil Herberich, Chenoa, 111., who 
has been tenant for 30 years on the 
Dr. Otis Hamilton farm southeast of 
Chenoa, 111., served as fireman on sev- 
eral passenger train trips on the T., 
P. & W. railroad between Peoria and 
Effner, 111., while Engineer David Suth- 
erland, who was engineer on the dou- 
ble-headed fleet of locomotives pulling 
the excursion train which plunged 
into the burned culvert east of Chats- 
worth 62 years ago, was still serving 
as engineer. Herberich wa^ an extra 
fireman and did not remain on the 
rails too long, preferring a farm. 

He is retiring from the farm and 
will locate in Forrest, 111., after Jan- 
uary 1, 1950. 

As a Babe, Escaped Wreck With 
Parents Killed, 

Fred Roberts, a resident of Cham- 
paign, 111., for a number of years, sur- 
vived, as a baby, the Chatsworth 
Wreck, although his parents were 
killed. He was, according to the storj,' 
v>^hich was told him of the tragedy, 
thrown clear of the actual wrecked 
coaches. For a number of years, he 
was a barber in the Hotel Beardsley, 
now Hotel Tilden Hall, Champaign. 
Later, he studied osteopathy at the 
American College of Osteopathy, 
Kirksville, Mo. His wife also studied 
osteopathy and is now engaged in 
practice in Missouri. Mr. Roberts is 


Interviews With Persons Who Recall the Wreck. 

Mrs. Gertrude Page, residing at the 
Hotel Fairbury, Fairbury, 111., was 
seven years of age at the time of thf 
tragedy. Her childhood home v/as just 
across the field from the v/reck. Her 
father was Joseph Morris and he and 
his three sons, J. W. Morris, E. A. Mor- 
ris and A. W. Morris, and two daugh- 
ters, r,irs. Emma Morris Davis and 
Mrs. Bess Morris Everitt, aided val- 
iantly in caring for the injured until 
all v/ere removed and cared for. The 
dead were first laid out in Joseph Mor- 
ris' field. Gertrude Morris Page was 
too small to be of service at the wreck. 
Her mother permitted her to sit on a 
chair at the windov,r and watch the 
v/ork at the v/reck. She recalls that 
she became so ill and e::cited thr.t she 
faint Gj and fell off the chair. Her 
hus:c.:-/d, the late Dr. J. C. Page, prac- 
ticed dentistry in Fairbury for thh'ty 
^ r?,rr. 

This writer, accompanied by his 
friend, Ben Nussbaum, Fairbury, 111., 
visited v/ith Edv/ard A. Morris, broth- 
er of Mrs. Gertrude Page, v/hcn he 
v/as employed in the v/est grain eleva- 
tor in Fairbury a few years ago. Mr. 
Morris's recollections v/ere most vivid 
as he v/as 13 years of age at the time 
of the v/reck. He heard the crash and 
ran across the field to the site, being 
one of the first persons, not aboard 
the train itself, to lend a hand to the 
succor of the injured. Mr. Morris has 
passed away since this interview. In- 
deed, the hand of Time is moving 
sv/iftly against those who were even 
children at the tim.e of the v/reck. 
Tsm.pus fugit — it is altogther too true. 

Stories of the Wreck. 

Etcries of the v/reck are recalled in 
1949 by many persons living in Chats- 
worth, Piper City, Forrest, Fairbury, 
other tov/ns in the general area of 
the wi-ock. Even the passing of 62 
winters and summers has not dimmed 
the recollections of many of these fine 
folks, for impressions made in child- 

hood or in youth remain with us. Long- 
iellow says, "The thoughts of youth 
are long, long thoughts." People do 
remember the events of childhood and 

Tv/o youths were v/aitlng at the 
Piper City station of the T., P. & \¥. 
to board the excursion train for Ni- 
agara Falls — the train which never 
came, indeed. One young man v/as 
Will O. McKinney, v/ho was wearing 
a new suit, just for the occasion. He 
was accompanied by Will Rice, who 
was also waiting for the train. The 
lads varied their waitmg by sitting on 
the steppinfT-block (in front of one of 
their adjacent homes), the type used 
in the horse-and-buggy days when la- 
dies dismounted from carriages upon 
blocks or platforms. They returned 
to the depot when they thought tl.r^ir 
train v/as about due to arrive. LooLi- 
ing down the track in the directio"; 
from where their train would come, 
they suddenly sav/ a flash of light. It 
was the wreck. They saw the first 
locom.otive come roaring into Piper 
City. The story goes that LIcKinney 
and Rice went on the handcar to tlie 
site of the wreck. Obviously, McKin- 
ney ruined that fine new suit in help- 
ing at the wreck. 

Elfss M-"?.ry ,'^IcRteli.rjs. 
Miss Mary Montelius, daughter of 
the late John A. Montelius, Piper City 
grain merchant and leading citizen 
for many j'^ears, is residing in the 
house, one block south of the Main 
s'.reet of Piper City, in which she was 
born and where she has lived her en- 
tire life. She was a child eight years 
of age at the time of the wreck. Her 
father had sustained a fractured leg 
in a runaway accident a v/eek before 
the wreck, liaving been dragged over 
the dashboard by the frightened team. 
It v/as impossible for him, of course, 
to go to the wreck. A neighbor, George 
Campbell, ran to the Montelius home 
at 3 a. m., after the tragedy, and told 
them the sad news. The child, Mary 


Montelius, had been sleeping that hot 
night on the floor. She rolled off her 
pallet, when the family was awak- 
ened, folt lost, did not know where 
she was, and began to cry. Her mother 
lighted the kerosene lamp and com- 
forted the child. 

Improvised Hospital. 

Miss Montelius recalls that the Ma- 
sonic hall in Piper City was used as 
a suddenly improvised hospital for 
"the wounded." She was sent to the 
hospital the next morning with some 
light supplies which she could carry. 
Her father, obviously, could not go. 
because of his broken leg, and her 
mother did not wish to leave her hus- 
band, hence the child was sent. She 
carried some light blankets. She re- 
calls that there were three rows of 
mattresses in the Masonic hall, each^ 
row filled with injured. Piper City 
people gave up their own mattresses 
for the injured, also provided food, 
medicines, etc. 

Mrs. Alex Smart Campbell. 
Mi's. Alex Smart Campbell, wife of 
the banker, was also sent, as a child, 
to take supplies to the hospital in the 
Masonic hall in Piper City. There were 
board walks then in the village and a 
board broke, throwing her down and 
injuring her leg. She was carrying 
some whisky. She began to cry, but 
some men called out to her, "Never 
mind your leg, get up to the hall with 
that whisky." Truly, relief to the 
really injured was more important 
than a child's mere aching leg. 


Edward E. Bishop, now living near 
Piper City, was a youth at the time 
of the wreck. He and neighbors went 
to the wreck in a "Democrat wagon," 
a spring wagon with two seats. 

Frank L. Rice, Piper City, was a lad 
14 years of age when the wreck occur 
red. His family home was four miles 
south of Piper City. Isolated on a 
farm, they knew nothing that night 
oi the wreck. They noted, however, 
many teams and wagons passing their 

house the morning of August 11, as 
people here and there had learned of 
the accident. Finally, with so many 
teams passing, his father went to the 
roadside and asked a man, who was 
driving by, v/hat was the cause of the 
spurt in travel. Rice's father was then 
told of the wreck. They hitched up a 
team to a wagon and went to the 
wreck, reaching there about 2 p. m. 

Other Piper City People Reach Wreck. 

Mrs. Lev,^is Andrews, who was Miss 
Agnes F. Jackson, born in Canada, of 
Scotch descent, was living with her 
husband on a farm almost within 
sight of the wreck. A neighbor came 
by and took him to the wreck, almost 
immediately after it happened. Mrs. 
Andrews, who was living in August, 
1949, in Piper City at the age of 91 
years, recalls the excitement of the 
wreck most distinctly as she was then 
a married woman about 30 years of 
age. Their farm home was filled with 

Stories are legion of people doing 
everything possible towards being of 
service to the wreck victims. One man, 
it is said, upon healing the injured 
were in urgent need of water, started 
to the wreck-site, a considerable dis- 
tance, carrying a pail of water. A 
number of farmers, with the best of 
intentions, tried hauling barrels of 
water in wagons or spring wagons to 
the wreck. Obviously, with muddy 
roads, following the heavy rain after 
the wreck occurred, most of the water 
splashed out of the barrels before ar- 
riving at the wreck. 

Recollections of Two El Paso 

R. N. West and James A. Smith, Jr., 
both of El Paso, recall the wreck very 
well. Smith was the son of the mayor 
of Chatsworth at the time of the 
wreck, and the editor of the Chats- 
worth Plaindealer, which is being pub- 
lished today by S. J. Porterfield, and 
is an excellent weekly newspaper. 

Mr. West and Mr. Smith remember 
that Albert E. Fleming and Lewis M. 


Kerr, both of El Paso, were Pullman 

car passengers on the wrecked train, 
but their car, as noted, remained on 
the track. Uninjured, Fleming and Kerr 
assisted Dr. E. P. Hazen, Ft. Madison, 
Iowa, a dentist, who was on the train 
with his wife and a cousin on the long 
,ong walk into Chatsworth in the dark. 
The stopped at the depot and talked, 
as they recalled, with the night oper- 
ator. L. J. Haberkorn, Chatsworth, 
recalls that the agent or operator had 
been called from his home, and was 
not on duty at the time of the wreck. 
Stories of the wreck show, of course, 
many differences in details, but this 
is to be expected. The operator be- 
came so nervous and excited, over his 
work that he could not handle his key. 
whereupon Fleming, an operator him- 
self, took over and sent out the first 
message of the tragedy. 

Fleming and Kerr related that they 
found the night watchman who ran to 
Mayor Smith's home, and the mayor 
told him to ring the firebell and sound 
the alarm. Mr. Haborkom says that 
he rang the firebell. One story went 
that Fleming broke into the depot, but 
J. A. Smith, Jr., says that this was net 
true, that the operator was on duty, 
had doubtless been called by Mr. Hab- 
erkorn. Most of the evidence points 
to the fact that there was no night 
operator on duty, at least, after the 
excursion train passed Chatsworth 
The fact that Mr. and Mrs. T. Y. 
Brown, Chatsworth, had planned to 
take the excursion train but had 
changed their plans, would indicate 
either that the depot was open, with 
probably an agent or operator on duty, 
or that they could flag the train with 
a lantern. 

Albert E. Fleming is now deceased, 
and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, 
EI Paso, 111. Mr. Kerr was later post- 
master at El Paso. 


Ernest Maxwell, a member of the 
staff of the Fairbury Blade, publishers 

of this volume, was born four and one- 
half miles west of Fairbury, in the 
edge of McLean County, 111. His par- 
ents' home was just a half mile west 
of the Livingston-McLean county line 
which, at that point, runs north and 

His parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Max- 
well, had planned during the summer 
of 1887, to make the trip to Niagara 
Falls upon the highly advertised ex- 
cursion train. Some event happened, 
probably of home or farm importance, 
which detained them. They cancelled 
their plans for making the trip. 

However, they were much interested, 
as were so many people at that time, 
in the widely acclaimed special excur- 
sion train, that they remained up that 
evening to see the train pass within a 
few hundred feet of their home, on 
the north side of the "Tip-Up" track. 
Naturally, they regretted when they 
watched the long train pass with 
many coaches at least dimly lighted, 
tliat they had not been able to make 
the trip, then announced as one of the 
travel opportunities of the summer. 

With no telephones, the Maxwells 
did not learn of the wreck until the 
second morning after it happened. 
They were too far from the wreck-site 
to see people driving by in their bug- 
gies, carriages and wagons, as did 
people near Chatsworth and Piper 
City; and, moreover, their home did 
not face directly upon the public high- 
way, being in the center of the sec- 
tion. It was not until a number of j 
hours later that they heard of the ' 
wi-eck. Naturally, again, they then 
congratulated themselves that home i 
duties had prevented them from being I 
passengers on the ill-fated train. 

Charles A. Kiler, Champaign, III., 
Recalls Wreck. 

Charles A. Kiler, prominent retired 
business man of Champaign, HI., and ^ 
leading alumnus of the University of 
Illinois, Vv'as a youth in Champaign at 
the time of the wreck. His friend, the 
late Fred Hassel, had a fleet dri\'ing 


Jiorse. Hessel asked Kiler to drive 
with him to the site of the wreck, 
which had assumed the full attention 
of people in all Central Illinois towns 
such as Champaign. The trip would 
have required three days at least, for 
even fast little driving horses needed 
time between trips for rest. Kiler was 
unable to go, as he held a position. 
Kiler cannot recall whether Hessel 
made the trip or not. 

Recalled by 3Irs. Mercer Davis. 

Mrs. Mercer Davis, of Bloomington, 
who spent her pre-marriage days in 
Fairbury, was a small girl about nine 
years old at the time of the wreck. 
She had spent the previous night with 
some friends in the country. Return- 
ing August 11, she went into the yard 
where her mother was hanging out 
clothes. Mrs. Davis remembers her 
mother telling a neighbor woman what 
a terrible thing had happened the 
night before. "The train was wrecked 
at Chatsworth and a lot of people 
killed." Mrs. Davis' father, the late 
A. G. Phelps, was among the many 
from Fairbury who drove to the scene 
of the wreck to render assistance. 

Frank Phelps, brother of Mrs Davis, 
is a member of the firm of The Blade 
Publishing Company, Fairbury,, 111., 
printers of this volume. He and his 
tv/in sister, Chicago, were born a few 
months following the wreck. 


T. J. Patterson, Fairbury, 111., a 
brother of James A. Patterson, for 
many years editor of the Fairbury 
Blade, vividly recalls the great wreck. 
A lad in his upper-teens, he rode a 
pony from Fairbury to the site of the 
wreck and aided in caring for the 


Anthony T. Labood, aged 80, one of 
the few survivors of the Chatsworth 
wreck, died in Peoria, 111., within re- 
cent years — unfortunately we do not 
have the exact date of his passing. He 
was one of the first Syrians to locate 
in Peoria. For many years he was 
engaged in the confectionery business 

in Peoria. He was a passenger on the 
Niagara Falls excursion train which 
was wrecked east of Chatsworth, 111., 
to make history. 


Guy Mcllvain Smith, 109 Townsend 
Street, Danville, 111., co-author with C. 
C. Burford, Urbana, 111., author of this 
volume, in their 1942 book, "The His- 
tory and Romance of Danville Junc- 
tion," a busy transfer station in the 
northeastern part of Danville to 1919, 
carries many recollections of "The 
Chatsworth Wreck." Mr. Smith was 
an active railroad man and railway 
postal clerk in the 1890s and until his 
retirement in the 1930s. His memory 
is amazingly accurate. His coopera- 
tion in "The Junction Book" was es- 
pecially valuable. This volume has 
been proclaimed by students of rail- 
road history as one of the best pic- 
tures of mass travel on local passen- 
ger trains of the 1890s and the 1900s 
ever published. 

Mr. Smith, in 1904, then engaged in 
railway work at Danville Junction, had 
a long talk with Dr. Armstrong, Pe- 
oria, 111., local surgeon for the T., P. 
& W. at Peoria, at the time of the trag- 
edy, and who was rushed, with seven 
or eight other physicians, on a special 
train to the scene of the horror. 

Mr. Smith also knew Joe Otto, chief 
clerk to J. C. Muir, of the C. & E. I. 
railroad at Danville for many years. 
Otto's father was boss of "the section" 
in which the timber culvert burned, 
causing the wreck. Joe Otto, resident 
of Danville for many years, a former 
member of the Danville city council, 
now lives in Hammond, Ind. 

The late Dr. Fred R. McLean, Dan- 
ville, boarded the ill-fated train with 
a boyhood friend at Bushnell, HI. Ar- 
riving at the Union Station in Peoria, 
McLean got off to buy sandwiches in 
the depot dining room and lingered to 
sip coffee. The result— the excursion 
train pulled out without McLean. He 
was disappointed in not getting his 
summer trip to Niagara Falls. But his 
life was saved — his friend, who re- 
mained aboard the train, met death. 


The Last Roundup. 

The Bloomington Pantagraph car- 
ried Thursday, August 11, 1949, a story 
by Faye Shafer, its Chatsworth cor- 
respondent, on the wreck Miss Sha- 
fer worked diligently to assemble the 
facts for this excellent review, also 
prepared an account of the last re- 
union of the survivors of the wreck, 
which was held in the park in Chats- 
worth, August 10, 19S7. 

The survivors of the famous Chats- 
worth Wreck held annual reunions un- 
tU 1937. They had formed many friend- 
ships and these deepened through the 
passing years. They were happy to 
see each other at these annual events. 

There is that certain loyalty to each 
other which abides in the hearts of 
people who had lived through terror- 
izing experiences. Civil War veterans 
rejoiced in their frequent reunions 
which they called "Camp-Fires," re- 
living their terrible experiences. Vet- 
erans of the Argonne in World War I 
love to recall their exciting events, and 
survivors of Okinawa never tire of 
meeting their comrades again and re- 
counting the thrilling moments and 
hours of World War II. There is that 
just something about having "been 
there," which brings instant response 
from the souls of men and women who 
walked together through the same 
dark valley of the shadow of death 
There is that loyalty to each other 
which cannot be explained — but it is 
there just the same. 

The last reunion was held, as noted, 
in the public park at Chatsworth 
Thursday, August 10, 1937, with nine 
survivors present. They vv^ere: George 
A. Smith and Louis E. Retterman, Pe 
oria, 111.; B. M. Judd, Colfax, 111.; E. 
F. Swearingen, Canton, 111.; Mrs. Mary 
R. Barran and Mrs. W. K. Sharp, Pon- 
tiac, 111.; B. F. Quisenberry, Atlanta, 
111.; W. B. McDonough, Macomb, 111.; 
and A, T. Cunnington, Chatsworth, 

A group of 200 people assembled to 
bid these hardy survivors welcome to 
the reunion. L. J. Haberkom, who 
just missed being in the wreck, but 
who was one of the first men to reach 
the terrible carnage, was chairman. 

The always lovely sacred song, 
"Nearer My God to Thee," which was 
being sung by four young people in 
the train at the zero moment of the 
crash, v/as sung by a quartet com- 
posed of Mrs. Alfred Wisthuff, Mrs. 
Phil Koerner, Albert V/alter and J. W. 
Heiken, as the theme song of the final 
reunion. The chairman and the quar- 
tet were seated in the bandstand in 
the park. 

Program of Last Beunion. 

Dr. John Ryan gave a report on the 
wreck. He was living in Colfax, III., 
a few miles southwest of Chatsworth, 
and rode across the country in a buggy 
with a Colfax phj/sician when new.'s 
came of the tragedy. Both men worked 
heroically when they reached the 

The survivors were taken to the site 
of the wreck in automobiles for their 
last survey of the locale which carried 
for them so many terrible memories. 

Mrs Barron, who was 89 years of 
age at the time of the last reunion, re- 
lated that she was accompanied on 
the ill-fated train by her son, then six 1 
years of age, but he had passed away 
before the last reunion, dying, indeed, 
before his mother. 

It is believed that 1949 will find no 
living survivors of the actual wreck. 
If any of them are living, we will b^ 
happy to hear from them, or from 
their children or friends if the sur- 
vivors are not able to write. 

The hand of Father Time moves re- 
lentlessly along. A man or a womai 
in the full bloom of their early matu- 
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the time of the fatal wreck in 1887 
would bo, obviously, 92 years of age 
in 1949, It is believed we are correct 
in our statement that there is no one 
living today who is an actual survivor 
of the wreck itself. Even those like 
Miss Montelius, H. S. Davis, Frank li. 
Rice, L. J. Haberkorn, Mrs. Gertrude 
Page, Edward E. Bishop and others 
to whom this author has talked, who 
were children or youths at the time 
of the catastrophe cannot lay claim 
to being young, by any means, today. 
They love to recount memories of 
those August days of 1887 when their 
small Illinois communities became na- 
tionally and even internationally fa- 
mous because of man's blundering 
and the occurrence of one of the worst 
v^Tecks in the history of American 

Where Did Survivors Board Train? 

It is interesting to inquire where 
these survivors of the wrecked train 
had boarded it. The Canton, Peoria 
and Chatsworth passengers took the 
train at their home communities. Mr. 
Judd might have traveled the Illinois 
Central branch line from Colfax, 111., 
to Chatsworth, taking the train at 
Chatsworth, If so, he had only been 
a passenger for a few minutes when 
the wreck occurred. Or, he might 
have driven in a buggy "overland," as 
the expression was used, and might 
have boarded the train at Fairbury, 
Mr. Quisenberry, Atlanta, 111., and the 
two Pontiac women, doubtless took 
the train at Chenoa, 111. Mr, McDon- 
ough, Macomb, 111., probably boarded 
the train at Bushnell, 111., only a few 
miles from Macomb. 

In 1887, it was assumed that "chang- 
ing cars" was a rule of traveling, whe- 

ther on a journey of only a few miles,. 
or on the first leg of an extended trip, 
as the Niagara Falls excursion. 
Throughout this volume this writer has 
endeavored to emphasize the modes of 
traveling and of living in the general 
period of the 1880s. "Changing cars" 
was then an accepted order of almost 
any trip. 

Valuable Historical Data Disapp-eared. 

The Chatsworth Plaindealer in its 
issue of August 12, 1937, carried an 
excellent story of "the last round-up" 
with a group picture of the nine sur- 
vivors, Mr. Haberkorn, Dr. Ryan and 
a few others. We have incorporated 
into this volume all of the facts of the 
Plaindealer's story. 

Most unfortunately, many of tho 
features have been destroyed over the 
years, just as Civil War historians 
now doing their best work upon, that 
great tragedy and upon the life of 
Abraham Lincoln, find many tidbits of 
rare historical value gone with the 
winds of many intervening years. In 
fact, the best scholarship of the Civil 
War and Lincoln period, has been 
placed into type within the years 1930- 
1949, and not during the first decades 
after the war itself. In brief, histori- 
cal perspective is increased, certainly 
not decreased, with the passing of 
years. It may be we have made our 
contribution to "The Chatsworth 
Wreck" in this late hour of 1949— and 
not when we were a lad in Central 
Illinois and heard our elders excitedly 
talking over a span of 20 years, the 
tragedy on the Illinois prairie which 
agonized the heails of strong men and 
sympathetic women. 




Date — Location — Number of Lives 

December 29, 1876— Ashtabula, Oliio— 

84 lives. 
August 10, 1887— Chatsworth, HI.,— 81 

October 10, 1888 — Mud Run, Pa.— 55 

August 7, 1904— Eden, Colo.— 96 lives. 
March 16, 1906— Florence, Colo. — 35 

December 30, 1906— Washington, D. C. 

— 53 lives. 
January 7, 1907 — VoUand, Kansas— 33 

January 19, 1907 — Fowler, Ind., 29 

February 16, 1907— New York City— 

22 lives. 

March 23, 1907— Colton, Cal.— 26 lives. 
July 20, 1907— Salem, Mich.— 33 lives. 
March 1, 1910— Wellington, Wash.— 96 

March 21, 1910 — Green Mountain, Iowa 

— 55 lives. 
August 26, 1911— Canandaigua, N. Y. 

—27 lives. 
July 4, 1912 — Coming, N. Y.— 40 lives. 
September 2, 1913— Wallingford, Conn. 

—21 lives. 
October 19, 1913— Buctaunna, Miss.— 

23 lives. 

August 5, 1914— Tipton Ford, Mo.— 40 

March 29, 1916— Amherst, O.— 28 lives 
February 27, 1917 — Penn, Pa. — 20 lives. 
December 20, 1917— Louisville, Ky.— 41 


June 22. 1918— Ivanhoe, Ind.— 68 lives. 
July 9, 1918— Nashville, Tenn. — 115 

January 12, 1919— South Byron, N. Y. 

—21 lives. 
February 27, 1921— Porter, Ind. — 37 

August 6, -922 — Surphur Springs, Mo. 

— 40 lives. 
September 27, 1923— Casper, Wyo. — 37 

June 17, 1925— Hackettstown, N. J.— 

50 lives. 
December 23, 1926 — ^Rockmont, Ga. — 

20 lives. 
June 19, 1938— Miles City, Mont. — 4Q 

August 13, 1939 — Carlin, Nev. — 24 

April 19, 1940— Little Falls, N. Y.— 30 

July 31, 1940 — Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio — 

43 lives. 
November 9, 1941 — ^Dunkirk, Ohio — 12 

September 24, 1942 — Dickerson, Md. — 

14 lives. 
May 23, 1943— Delair, N. J.— 14 lives. 
August 29, 1943— Wayland, N. J. — 29 

September 8, 1943 — Frankfort Junc- 
tion, Philadelphia, Pa. — 79 lives. 
December 16, 1943 — Lumberton, N. C. 

— 72 lives. 
July 6, 1944— High Bluff, Tenn — 35 

August 4, 1944 — Stockton, Ga. — 47 

September 14, 1944 — Dewey, Ind. — r 29 

December 31, 1944— Bagley, Utah— 50 

June 19, 1945— Milton, Pa.— 19 lives. 
August 9, 1945 — ^Michigan, N. D. — 34 

April 26, 1946 — Naperville, 111. — 47 

December 13, 1946— Guthrie, Okla.— 19 

February 18, 1947— Gallilzin, Pa. — 24 

January 1, 1948— Syracuse, Mo. — 14 


An additional serious loss of life, 
with 34 casualties incurred, was a 
train wreck at Almonte, Ontario, Can- 
ada, December 27, 1942. 

This list was taken from the World 
Almanac, 1949, and is believed as cor- 
rect as statistics may go. 


Variations in Figrures. 

However, there are variations in re- 
ports, in the accuracy with which the 
reports were kept and were filed with 
tlie Interstate Commerce Commission. 
Also, variations in dates may raise or 
lower the number of lives lost, as 
deaths would follow serious injuries 
within a few hours, days or weeks. 

This author has always considered 
the number of lives lost in the Chats- 
worth Wreck as 85 and those lost in 
the Nashville Wreck during World 
War I, as 119, most of them soldiers. 
He has also considered the Chatsworth 
Wreck the second most serious in num- 
ber of lives lost. But, taking the 
above list of statistics, the Chatsworth 
Wreck with 81 casualties, would rank 
fourth, being outranked by the Ashta- 
bula Wreck, with 84 dead; the Welling- 
ton, Wash., Wreck, with 96 lives; and 
the Nashville, Tenn., Wreck, with 115 

This author was referred to the 
World Almanac by Harry B. Com- 
stock, author of the magazine, "Rail- 
road," published at 205 East 42nd St., 
New York City 17. We were unable 
to secure a list of Wrecks and casual- 
ties from the Association of American 
Railroads, Washington, D. C. 

We assume the statistics found in 
the World Almanac are as accurate as 
may be cited anywhere. It all depends 
upon the accuracy of reports filed and 
in the timing of the reports after a 
Avreck. A delay of a week or two would 
make a difference in the number of 
casualties. We must also bear in mind, 
too, that the Interstate Commerce 
Commission has required more accu- 
rate reports within the years after 
1920 than were demanded, sav, in 18S7, 
at the time of the Chatsworth Wreck, 
if, indeed, they were required at all. 

However, no one can glory or take 
pride in any list of the dead, from 
whatever cause. If the Chatsworth 
Wreck must stand fourth, instead of 
second, we are just that much happier 

that more lives v/ere not lost in the 
Chatsworth Wreck and that the figure 
of 85 is a trifle too high. But with 
our study of the Chatsworth Wreck 
extended over several years, we are 
inclined to believe that the number of 
85 is more nearly correct, making the 
Chatsworth disaster the third worst 
wreck in the United States. 

It must also be borne in mind that 
methods of keeping and filing vital 
statistics from the Ashtabula Wreck 
of 1876, or 73 years ago, have varied 
widely over the years and dedades 

Question About Fowler, Ind,, Wreck. 

This author questions the authentic 
ity of the report of the January 19. 
1907, wreck at Fowlei, Ind., in which 
29 lives were lost. See above list, 8th 
wreck listed. He has known Benton 
County, Ind., of which Fowler is the 
county seat, since he was a small boy. 
He has never heard of such a wreck. 
Certainly, if a wreck had occurred at 
Fowler, Ind., with 29 casualties, ho 
would have known of it. 

Furthermore, Thomas R. Johnston, 
Director of the News Bureau, Purdue 
University, who has been engaged in 
newspaper work and public relations 
in Indiana since 1910. v/rites this au- 
thor that he has never heard of the 
Fowler wreck. 

The Purdue Football Special Train 

The above list does not include the 
Purdue train wreck which occurred 
October 31, 1903, in the railroad yards 
of Indianapolis, when 16 members of 
the Purdue football squad and one 
other person were killed in the impact 
of tv/o colliding trains. 

Memorial Gymnasium, formerly 
used by m.en students at Purdue Uni- 
versity, v/as erected in 1907 in memory 
of those v/ho died in the wreck. This 
was perhaps the most serious railroad 
wreck in America in which University 
students were involved. 



The Ashtabula Wreck, December 29, 1876. 

Few train wrecks have received more 
ijttention than the Ashtabula wreck on 
the Lake Shore Railway (LS&MS) now 
a part of the New York Central System, 
in December of 1876, in which 84 persons 
•were killed either by the plunge of the 
train through the bridge or by the fire 
fvhich broke out in the splintered cars at 
the bottom of the gorge. A short descrip- 
tion of the bridge and the catastrophe 
■was given in Steel Across the Rivers, 
January, 1948. 

William B. Rainsford, Indian Head, 
Md., sent Railroad Magazine an extraor- 
dinary and, we believe, vrey rare book 
entitled The Ashtabula Disaster. The vol- 
ume is without a title page and bears no 
author's or publisher's name on its worn 
binding. The writer states that he was 
:i pas.senger on the first car of the ill- 
fated train. The Register of Copyrights, 
Washington, D. C, has informed us that 
a book of this title by Rev. Stephen D. 
Peet was copyrighted by J. M. Goodwin, 
February 20, 1877. Since the maximum 
period of copyright, 56 years, has expired. 
Railroad is at liberty to quote from The 
Ashtabula Disaster. 

Near the depot which was a mile 
from the village of Ashtabula, in turn 
about two miles from Lake Erie, not 
600 yards to the eastward, was a deep 
and lonely gorge. Under this, the ill- 
fated bridge, the Ashtabula River, 76 
feet below road level, ran darkly. The 
only access to the gorge was by a long 
flight of stairs which was at the time 
of the calamity covered with a deep 
bank of snow. No road existed to it 
and the spot could be reached by 
teams, only as a track was broken 
through gardens and down steep 
banks and across the valley and along 
the stream. 

A solitary building \^■as in this gorge. 
It v/as the engine house. Here were 
the massive boiler and engine which 
were used for pumping water from 
the stream to the heights above, and 
so to the tanks at either end of the 
station house, in the distance. Situ- 
ated close by the river, and almost 
under the shadow of the bridge itself, 
this lone house became to the wrecked 
travelers a refuge from the fire and 
storm. On the heights above towards 
the depot, another engine house was 
situated. It was the place where the 
Lake Erie, a hand fire engine, stood. 

Two cisterns for the supply of water 
were located near, one on either side 
of the railroad track. It is difficult 
to picture a place more lonely than 
this gorge. Its distance from the vil- 
lage, and the nature of the surround- 
ings will account for many things 
which occurred on that awful night. 

The fatal, but far-famed bridge was 
located southward of the town, over 
the gorge described. 

A grade on an arched viaduct con- 
veyed the track to the abutments, but 
these stood by themselves, straight 
from the bottom of the gorge, two 
lofty pillars of stone 76 feet high and 
just wide enough for the two tracks 
of the road. Flanking these were the 
lower and smaller abutments of an 
older bridge, left standing, but, for a 
long time, unused. The span of the 
bridge across this gorge, from abut- 
m^ent to abutment, was the unusual 
length of 165 feet. 

Trains Against the Sky. 

Travelers by the wagon road, at a 
distance up the river a mile away, 
v/ould stop and look at this structure, 
apparently built high in air, and watch 
the trains as they passed in bold re- 
lief against the sky, almost as if a 
spectre train were traversing the blue 
vault above. It (the bridge) was not 
an arch lifting high its springing 
sides, it was not a stt of beams sup- 
ported by abutments below; it was a 
web of iron netted and braced and 
bolted, heavy, dark and gloomy in ap- 
pearance, and proving treacherous as 

Construction of the Bridge. 

This bridge v/as erected in 1865, by 
Joseph Tomlinson, according to orders 
and patterns given by Amasa Stone, 
then president of the road. It was 
built after the pattern of the Howe 
Truss, but containing some elements 
introduced by the president himself. 


It was of wrought iron, with long iron 
braces from lower cord to upper cord, 
20 feet in height. There were rods 
stretching from top to bottom, and de- 
signed to carry the strain from brace 
to brace. The panels were 11 feet 
long, and between these the strength 
of the cords depended on three iron 
beams six inches thick and eight 
inches wide. The whole width of the 
bridge was 19^ feet; its height 76 
feet; its length, 165 feet, in a single 

When it was first erected, it was 
discovered that the braces were placed 
wrong, so that they came upon the 
sides rather than upon the edges. The 
structure settled, as the edges were 
removed, about six inches, and neces- 
sitated the change of the process. This 
error was remedied by the cutting 
away of iron, so that the braces could 
be turned, and this change occupied 
nearly a year. It was watched with 
interest by the citizens, and was re- 
garded by the builders themselves as 
a doubtful experiment. 

In its erection Mr. Tomlinson, the 
engineer, differed with the president 
so much that he resigned his position, 
and even Charles Collins (engineer of 
the road) never acknowledged that it 
was a work of his inventing, or a 
bridge receiving his approval. Before 
the committee, appointed by the legis- 
lature of Ohio, he acknowledged that 
it was an "experiment," and even 
when it was in process of erection he 
gave no orders, but rather left the 
responsibility to the piesident. 

Collins committed suicide soon after 
the wreck, due, it is alleged, to the 
horror he felt for what had occurred. 

The deficiencies of the bridge, as 
later acknowledged by Mr. Tomlinson, 
were that the braces were smaller 
than was intended, and the weight 
was very great. The dead weight 
was 3,000 pounds to the square foot, 
making an aggregate mass of iron of 
many tons. The rods or braces had 
buckled or bent at the first trial, and 
there was danger that it would fall 

by its own weight into the creek. As 
it was changed, however, and the 
braces sprang back, by the elasticity 
of the iron, heavier braces were put 
into it, and in this shape it stood for 
eleven years in constant service. 

The Weather Conditions. 

On the day of the wreck, snow had 
fallen all day long and was, at the 
dusk of night, still falling with blind 
fury. Everything was behind time. 
The train which was due at Erie at 
a little after noon, was two and a half 
late. It should have reached Ashta- 
bula before sundown, and it was now 
dark, and the lamps had long been 
burning. Two strong locomotives were 
straining every nerve to overcome the 
deep snow. 

A few of the passengers thought of 
danger as they looked out into the 
darkness of the night, but the sense 
of security pervaded the train. Sud- 
denly the sound of the wheels was 
stopped; the bell-rope snapped; the 
lights were extinguished; and in an 
instant all felt themselves falling. An 
awful silence seized the passengers; 
each one sat breathless, bracing and 
seizing the seats behind or before 
them. Not a word was spoken; not a 
sound was heard — nothing except th^^ 
fearful crash. 

First Locomotive Across. 

The bridge broke in the center. l"he 
engineer of the Socrates heard a sharp 
crack, like the report of a torpedo, and 
looked out and saw the engine behind 
sinking. With great presence of mind 
he opened the throttle valve an in- 
stant, and putting on all steam drove 
his engine forward. The Socrates 
reached the abutment and was safe. 
The Columbia, as it was drawn foi 
ward, struck the abutment and for 
an instant clung to its leader, held by 
the coupling rod, but as that broke, it 
fell. The first express car struck for- 
ward and downward, and landed at 
the foot of the abutment, while the 
locomotive fell onto it, completely re- 
versed, with its headlight towards the 
train which it had been drawing. The 


other express and two baggage cars 
also fell to the side of the bridge, form- 
ing a line across the chasm with the 
near baggage against the east abut- 
ment. The heavy iron bridge fell in the 
same instant with an awful crash, to 
the north, and lay, a great wall of iron 
rods and braces, ten feet high, across 
the gorge. Singularly enough the 
track and top of the bridge remained 
long enough "in situ" for the bridge 
to sink and sway away beneath and 
then fell straight down and lay at the 
]x)ttom of the stream immediately be- 
low where it had rested before, but 
76 feet dovv^n, in the midst of the ice 
and the snow and water of the stream. 
Upon this the first passenger coach 
la::dcd in an upright position in the 
middle of the stream and to the left, 
but close by the wreck of the bridge. 

The second passenger coach fol- 
lowed, but struck around at an angle, 
and turning on its side fell among 
the rods and braces, and was crushed 
and broken in the fall. The smoker 
broke its couplings at both ends, 
struck across and through the second 
passenger car, smashing it in its 
course, and then fell upon the first, 
crushing it down and killing many as 
it fell. The palace cars followed, but 
as they fell they leaped clear of the 
abutment and flew out into the air to 
the left of the bridge with their trucks 
hurled beneath them, and dropped 76 
feet down and 80 feet ont, and landed 
in the center of the chasm. 

"Palace Cars" Into the Gorge. 

The first drawingroom car Yoka- 
hama landed in the ice, and the sleeper 
Palatine beside it to the right. The 
sleeper City of Buffalo, however, as 
it flew through the air struck across 
the two, knocking the Yokahama on 
its side and crushing it in through its 
whole length, and landed on its for- 
ward end, with its rear end resting on 
the other two and high in the air. 

As the cars struck, splinters flew 
in every direction. The floors burst up 
from below. The seats were crushed 
in front and behind. The roofs were 

crushed from above. The sides opened 
and yawned; the crashing of one car 
on another struck many dead in an 
instant, v/hile the survivors waited in 
suspense, expecting death would also 
come to tnem at the next blow. The 
thought of fire also rose in many 
minds, and the fear of a death that 
might be more dreadful than that by 
the crash. 

Fire PerUs Wrecked Passengers. 

In the meantime, the flames began 
to rise. A few buckets of water thrown 
at this time would have sufficed. It 
was just a little flame on the east 
side underneath the sleeper. It was 
brighter in the smoker and in the heap 
near the bridge, but it spread from 
car to car and soon enveloped the 

"The flames ascended high and still 
higher. They filled the valley. A cloud 
of smoke ascended, too. It was black 
and dense and pitchy. It came from 
the paint and varnish, and the mate- 
rials of that gilded wreck. It envel- 
oped the ruins and darkened the sky 
and rolled a thick cloud through the 
awful gorge. . . " 

Meanvvrhile the dreadful flames were 
lifting up their lurid light, and cover- 
ing the ghastly scene with a sickening 
glare. The dead lay in every direction 
amid the driving snow. A skull lay 
by itself, amid a blackened heap, whit- 
ened by the fire. The heap of bodies 
lying in the sleeping coaches were still 
burning, and yet this appalling scene 
did not intimidate the human vultures 
who were looking for their prey. 

Passengers Robbed. 

One young man was suffering four 
broken ribs and a severe gash in the 
head. Someone had offered to assist 
him up the stairs. When he came to 
himself his purses and his ticket to 
California were both gone. Another 
gentleman was robbed of all that he 
had in his vest pocket, on the side to- 
wards the one who supported him. A 
young man who had a splinter from 
the cornice of the car driven through 


his collarbone was robbed of $300 
where he lay. 

At midnight, certain that all who 
were left in the wreck were dead, the 
citizens and village surgeons retired. 
The fire engines had already been or- 
dered to their houses, leaving the 
wreck still burning, and the dead to be 
consumed. No effort was made to pre- 
serve these bodies for identification. 
Only the expressman guarding the 
treasures in the warped safe, sat soli- 
tary- and alone through the long hours, 
while the flames crackled and threw 
their lurid light across the scene. 

(From the first car, the author tells 
us in conclusion, more persons escaped 
than from any other, at least 16; and 
although he gives the names of all 
the survivors, including his own, does 
not identify himself by any particular. 
He thought that no one survived in 
the second car which was, he says, 
"well-filled with many ladies in it." Of 
the 16 persons in the smoking car, 
where the flames started from the 
stove, only five were killed. One per- 
son, a Mr. Ormsbee, of Boston, sur- 
vived in the drawing room. The num- 
ber of passengers in the Palatine, 17, 
is given, but not the number of those 
who survived. 

Of the 21 people riding in the City 
of Buffalo, not one escaped except a 
Mr. Gage, of Illinois, who died of his 
injuries later. Five persons rode in 
the Oscea, the rear sleeper. Of these 
four, including the brakeman Stone, 
were unhurt; the colored porter was 

The editors of Railroad Magazine 
wish to thank Mr. Rainsford for allow 
ing them to quote from this absorb- 
ing, eye-v/itness account of one of the 
most extraordinary of all railroad 
wrecks. ) 

The author of "Chalsworth Wreck" 
has permission of ''Railroad Ma2;a- 
zine" to use this interesting article. 
The Ashtabula Wreck preceded the 
Chatsworth Wreck by approximately 
11 years. 

Killed in the Ashtabula wreck were 
P. P. Bliss, famous gospel singer, and 
his wife. Bliss v/as enroute to Chi- 
cago to join Dwight L. Moody in old- 
time revival meetings. Bliss had left 
Syracuse, New York, the morning of 
the wreck. 


The Ashtabula Wreck, December 29, 
1876, has many similarities to the 
Chatsworth Wreck of August 10-11, 

Each wreck occurred at a bridge. The 
Ashtabula Wreck occurred when a 
lofty viaduct over a small river col- 
lapsed, precipitating the train to the 
chasm 76 feet below. The Chatsworth 
Wreck was the result of an excursion 
train striking a burning culvert across 
a tiny stream which any sturdy lad 
could clear in one leap. 

In each wreck there were two loco- 
motives drawing the train. In each 
case, the first locomotive leaped across 
the falling bridge, whether major ni 
the case of the Ashtabula Wreck, or 
trivial, as at Chatsworth. Each loco- 
motive lost its tender as support fell 
below its even then massive weight. 

Each wreckage caught fire. Injured 
or "wounded" passengers were tor- 
tured with horrible death or suffering 
from flames, as well as injuries from 
tlie wreck itself. 

Weather conditions, however, were 
at opposite extremes of the year. The 
Ashtabula Wreck occurred in the 
depth of winter, with snow covering 
the ground, temperatures 15 below 
zero. The Chatsworth Wreck v/as in 
"the good old summer time," with no 
distress from cold, but worry and suf- 
fering from pain. 

In each wreck, of course, there was 
much talk of the responsibility of rail- 
road officials. As far as can be ascer- 
tained at this late date, no one v/as 
held legally responsible for the Ashta- 
bula v/rcck, other than a hearing be- 
fore the Ohio legislature. 




And Now— The Site of the Chatsworth Wreck in 1949. Tvvo Drain Tile Have 
Replaced the Old Timber Bridge. 

The wreck could not have occurred 
in a more remote locality in Central 
Illinois. Yet so much v/as done for 
humanity — with so little to do with 
and with so f ev/ to aid. Like the woman 
who anointed the Saviour — "She hath 
done what she could. ■' Tlie people of 
Chatsv/orth and neighboring commu- 
nities did what they could. 

A Lonely Area. 

This author has visited the site of 
the famous Chatsworth Wreck three 
miles east of the thriving town of 
Chatsworth, 111. 

The area is rural indeed There are 
only the usual farmhouses hither and 
thither and yon across the rich, fertile 
Illinois prairie. Doubtless, the approx- 
imate number of farm houses is about 
the same today as in 1887. 

There are no large towns near the 
site of the wreck Chatsworth is to 
the west; Piper City, to the east. Pe- 
oria is approximately 70 miles to the 
west. Bloomington, 111., about 50 miles 
to the southwest. One must travel as 

far north as Kankakee, 111., to find a 
sizeable city, and as far south as 
Champaigii-Urbana, to locate a large 
center in that direction. 

The Chatsv»'orth Wreck occurred in 
a typically rural area in a typically 
Central Vv'^estern agricultural state. 
The miracle of it all is that so much 
v.'as done for the victims of the wreck 
as was performed by the comparative- 
ly few persons in the immediate neigh- 
borhood. The next day, however, 
brought crov/ds. Many v/ho came on 
sight-seeing expeditions, remained to 
nurse the injured. 

Accidents — Not for Us. 

"It Can't Happen Here" is the title 
with which the brilliant Sinclair Lewis 
entitled one of his novels. 

We all believe the accident will hap- 
pen to the other fellow. Smith or 
Jones may be killed or injured in an 
automobile accident or in a plane 
crash — but not ourselves. In other 
v/ords, it might happen to Smith but 
not to us. The T., P. & W. excursion 


train to Niagara Falls was wrecked 
with a staggering toll of life, limb and 
property, but the Lake Erie and West- 
em special, of comparable length and 
weight, made the trip without ruffling 
an eyebrow for any one passenger. 
Again, we make the observation — hu- 
man nature does not change much — 
from the days of King Solomon to the 
period of President Harry S. Truman. 
Things always happen to the other 
chap — not to us. 

Whether the wreck could have been 
avoided is too momentous a problem 
to be solved 62 years after it hap- 
pened. Probably no person, regardless 
of his ability, could make a respon- 
sible solution today of the problem 
of the guilt. There was blundering, 
of course — or the wreck would not 
have occurred. 

But today, this writer is concerned 
only with the tragedy as an historical 
episode, one of the most spectacular 
in the annals of American railroading:. 
The story is here given to the Ameri- 
can public both as a chapter in Ameri- 
can railroad administration and in 
American life. And it is the latter - 
the rollicking excursion crowds, riding 
the rails to Niagara Falls or to some 
other gala event or scene, in which 
we are primarily interested in this 

American history is, after all, the 
history of its people. We have at- 
tempted, in this study, to present the 
travel life of 1887, or three score years 
ago, as dramatically and, above all, as 
truthfully, and as carefully as possible. 

Motor Tourist Visits Chatsworth. 

During the summer of 1949 a long- 
distance motorist, driving on U. S. 
Route 24, went into Chatsworth, and 
seeking facts about the wreck, was 
directed to Mr. Haberkom's store. 

"I lived in Illinois when I was a 
boy. Now I live in California. As an 
urchin, I naturally heard people talk- 
ing about the famous Chatsworth 
Wreck. I remembered much they said 

about the catastrophe. Then we moved 
to California. I never supposed I would 
ever be in Chatsworth, 111. But on 
looking over maps last nght, I saw 
the word 'Chatsworth' on the route 
ahead of me. I decided then and there 
to pause a few moments in Chats- 
worth and to learn what I could about 
the famous wreck." 

If this motorist should see this vol- 
ume and note this episode of his brief 
call in Chatsworth in the summer of 

1949, it would be a pleasure for the 
author to hear from him. 


The period of the 1900s and the 
"19-teens," at least until the entry of 
beloved America into the First World 
War in 1917, has been designated as 
"The Golden Era" or, at least a "Gold- 
en Era" in the history of the Central 
West and indeed, of the United States. 

In those now gone-forever years. 
American people, by and large, lived 
"at home." They ate at home. There 
were few, if any, week-end trips. 
Week-ends, as now recognized, did not 
exist. Our oldsters, in those years, 
did not "eat out," in the custom of 

1950. They did not patronize coimtry 
clubs, night clubs, taverns, drug-stores, 
hotels, cafeterias, other types of pub- 
lic eating-places in the frequency of 
1949 and 1950. People really lived "at 
home." "Company" — and there was 
plenty of it — was entertained "at 

Mother was equal to the occasion — 
she had to be. More "leaves" or 
"leafs" were added to the spacious 
dining-table. Mother could care for 
an extra six or sixteen for Sunday din- 
ner or Christmas dinner — and she did. 

Talk was good. It was also long. 
There was little to do Sunday after- 
noons or holiday afternoons. Conver- 
sation centered about the Civil War. 
Veterans were living, surviving, by the 
hundreds. They loved to recount Pick- 
ett's famous charge at Gettysburg, 


how Sherman captured Atlanta and 
how Union troops, even in spite of 
contrary orders from General Grant, 
stormed and took Lookout Mountain. 

It was a "hearty age." The great- 
ness of America was constantly em- 
phasized in those Sunday afternoon 
talks. The "War" was over — referrmg 
to the Civil War, of course. Lincoln 
had preserved the nation, had saved 
the Union. There would never be an 
other war, as far as America was con 
cemed. Even the brief interlude of the 
Spanish-American war, a summer cam 
paign in 1898, only proved this point 
Spain had been soundly "licked.' 
America could do that to all and sun 
dry nations. Besides, no other foreign 
nation would ever dare to "jump on' 
America. Chautauqua speakers, like 
William Jennings Bryan, assured us 
that America was "safe," that no 
country would ever dare attack us. 
There would be no more wars for stal- 
wart old Uncle Sam. We were jolted 
out of this idea in 1917 and again in 

We were living in what was called 
a fool's paradise in those golden years 
of the fading Victorian period. The 
cost of living was largely ignored. 
"Company" cost but little, with Moth- 
er and Grandmother preparing boun- 
tiful feasts at little or no recognized 

Besides the Civil War, our elders 
discussed politics, of course, the grow- 
ing menace of Bryan and the free and 
unlimited coinage of silver at the ratio 
of 16 to 1 — if they were Republicans. 
They delighted in assuring voters, if 
they were Democrats, of the good 
times in store, with "plenty of mon- 
ey" under Bryan's suggested Utopian 

People also discussed the Chicago 
Fire, the Johnstown Flood, the Chats- 
worth Wreck, And there is where 
"we" came in. "We" who were decid- 
edly "juniors" in those golden years, 
heard much of the Chatsworth Wreck 

at those Sunday or holiday repasts, 
and especially in those quiet Sunday 
afternoons when older people "talked." 
In those years, children were supposed 
to be seen, not heard. 

But we listened. Youngsters have 
"big ears," as the old saying ran. As 
in the Scriptures, we had ears and we 
heard. Moreover, many of us, includ- 
ing the writer — who has been ascribed 
a card- index memory, now quoting his 
friend, the late George Ade — heard 
and remembered. Little did our grand- 
parents, our uncles and aunts, our 
parents, our elderly friends and guests 
— whom we considered "old" at 50 or 
60, when we were 10 — imagine that 
we were treasuring these talks in our 
hearts — like the Virgin Mary of old — 
and that some day, these old-time 
Sunday after-dinner talks might crys- 
tallize into real history, as we have 
attempted to do in this treatise. 

America may never see again thoso 
blissful years when many of us who 
read these pages were "young," p>er- 
haps children, boys, girls, youths, in 
that halcyon period preceding the first 
tragedy of the First World War. Those 
years are doubtless gone forever. 
America, in all probability, will never 
revert to those quiet years of the 
1890s and the wee 1900s. 

But from those steady years, when 
we, as juveniles and as high school 
youngsters, were assured that our 
world was established forever — with- 
out wars and major changes — there 
emerged a stream of memories 
which we have the urge to record be 
fore it is forever too late. 

One of these books is this review 
of "The Chatsworth Wreck" in which 
we have sought to record, especially, 
the life of the people in the 1880s, 
and, as a carryover, into the "Nineties" 
and "The Turn of the Century." 

The Chatsworth Wreck was related 
and retold in Central Illinois homes, 
for many years. From these discus- 
sions, this author, as a child, a boy, 


a youth, carried memories, which we 
are now recording as one of our many 
contributions to the history of this 
Central West into which we were born 
and in which we have constantly lived. 


Without in any way seeking to give 
details of any other major or minor 
railroad tragedy, the author of this 
volume desires to salute the American 
Railroads, their personnel, their train- 
men, their maintenance groups. 

Wrecks have occurred, happily, in 
only a few scattering and isolated 
cases. Millions of passengers have 
been transported and millions of tons 
of freight moved with entire safety. 
The safest place, after all, may be on 
a train. Mistakes have occurred, of 
course, and errors, even gross errors, 
have occurred. The same may be said 
of disasters on highways, on water- 
ways, and in the air. To travel, at 
any time, in any manner, means the 
assumption of perils, disasters, even 
that certain rendezvous with Death. 

If this volume, portraying the dan- 
gers of rail transportation, with no 
less emphasis upon highv/ay, v/ater- 
way and air traveling, has achieved 
even a minor contribution to the vast 
topic of "Safety," then the writer will 
feel amply repaid for his time and 

V/g can only repeat, at the conclu- 
sion, as at the beginnmg, the warning 
which should be displayed not only in 
every railroad station, but certainly 
in every filling station and service 
station, in every bus and truck ter- 
minal, in every dock and wharf land- 
ing, in every airport — ALWAYS BE 

Mark Twain's Love Letters Published; 
One Written From T., P. & W. Railside. 

"The Love Letters of Mark Tv.'ain," 
edited by Dixon V/ector and published 
by Harper & Brothers, New York, v/as 
announced in the bock-review sections 
of metropolitan nev/spapers, Sunday, 
November 20, 1949, after this book on 

"The Chatsvv^orth Wreck" was in press. 

Samuel Langhorne Clemens and 
Olivia Langdon were married at El- 
mira, New York, February 2, 1870. He 
was soon to be universally knov/n 
and esteemed as "Mark Twain," she 
as his beloved wife," "Livy." 

One of these letters, at least, was 
written from railside of the T., P. & W. 
in Illinois. See comment by Cashier 
Cassell P. Kingdon, Woodford County 
National Bank, El Paso, 111., furnishing I 
the valuable information that Clem.ens, ' 
or Mark Twain, wrote one of these 
wonderful love letters from the old 
Campbell House, El Paso, 111. Twain 
was lecturing in the Central West and 
was overnight at this then well-known 
station and tavern. He was deeply in 
love with his "Livy." He wrote her 
some of the world's finest love letters 
— these are now published. One, at 
least, was written within sound of 
whistles and bells of the T., P. & W 
railroad, not many years preceding 
"The Chatsworth Wreck." ^ 


As this volume on "The Chatsworth » 
\Vreck" goes to press, we have noted 
the retirement from active business, as 
of November 22, 1949, of L. J. Haber- 
korn, oldest business man, both in 
point of years of service and of age, 
in Chatsworth. 

Mr. Haberkorn had been in business 
in Chatsworth for 67 years. His story 
of first aid to the people marooned in 
the terrible railroad wreck is fully de 
tailed in this book. Suffice the matter 
to add a word of tribute to Mr. Haber- 
korn, as he was m.ost generous in sup- 
plying the author of this volume v/ith 
historical data and with pictures. 

He was active in many com.munity 
enterprises in Chatsworth and organ- 
ized, and served as the first president, 
of the Community Club of Chatsv/orth. 
He is now past 88 years of age and is 
regarded as one of the real civic lead- 
ers of his town. He has been espe- "' 
cially helpful in the preparation of this 
volume and Vv-e wish to thank him for 
his great spirit of cooperation. 

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