No. 561
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
June 25, 2022

The Southern Pacific Railway Disaster.

February 11, 2014
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 "The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan MandijnWelcome to the first Link Dump of Summer 2022!Some accounts of encounters with fairies.Urban legends about being rescued by ghost dogs.Accepting that we really don't know jack about the paranormal.The missing bodies of the Waterloo dead.The UK's National Gallery is hitting the road.The law code of Alfonso X.For some reason, there are a lot of John
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Strange Company - 6/24/2022
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'SOAPY' SMITH AND TWO COLLEAGUESObject ID 2017.6.350Courtesy of Salvation Army Museum of the West(Click image to enlarge) New photograph of "Soapy" Smith?NOT EVEN CLOSE.      A B & W photograph, said to be of Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith, and two colleagues. Soapy is in the middle, marked with an "X." The photo was taken in Alaska,
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 4/11/2022
You won’t notice anything unusual at first as you walk along quiet, unassuming 92nd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues. But in the middle of the block, amid the quaint brownstones and apartment houses on the south side, stand two startling architectural anachronisms: side by side wood-frame houses with clapboard shutters, low iron fences, and […]
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Ephemeral New York - 6/20/2022
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
 Who murdered John Meierhoffer of Orange, New Jersey? Was it his estranged wife Margaret, or her lover, Frank Lammens?Read the full story here: Who Shot Meierhoffer?
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Murder By Gaslight - 6/18/2022
Great news! The sale of Maplecroft is under agreement with inspections concluded and closing pending. A lovely family with children and experience with Victorian properties will make it a family home once more. A happy ending for this historic home. Congratulations to all. “Maplecroft, the historic former home of Lizzie Borden, is being purchased by artist and professor Brooke Mullins Doherty, who will be moving her home and studio from New Bedford. She and her husband Michael, a polymath, along with their three children look forward to respecting the house’s unique history while they restore Maplecroft to a single family residence.”
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 5/27/2022
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately engaged as a carrier of wine, because he and his brother, with the help of […]
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
Nature versus Art. | Society Unveiled.

The Southern Pacific Railway Disaster.

Train

California. – The disaster on the Southern Pacific Railroad at Telegraph Pass, January 19th.

[more]One of the most terrible railroad disasters on record occurred on the Southern Pacific Railroad, near Tehachapi, Cal., about midnight on January 19th. The road at this point crosses the mountains through a pass, after having toiled up a grade of 105 feet to the mile for twenty-six miles. While the express train which had left San Francisco the day before was stopping at the station on the summit to detach an extra engine, it broke loose and started down the incline. The train gathered headway quickly, and was soon dashing down the grade at the rate of a mile a minute. At a sharp curve of the road the coach and smoker, where were ahead, broke the coupling and separated from the rest of the train, making the turn safely. The sleeping-cars and the mail, express and baggage cars were dashed against a high bank and then thrown back, rolling down an embankment. The lamps and stove at once set fire to the wreck, which was instantly in a blaze. The passengers in the sleeping-cars had retired, and had scarcely been awakened by the terrible speed with which the train dashed down the mountain before the crash came. A few escaped uninjured, or with only slight bruises, but the rest were either killed outright or burned to death in the flames. The night was intensely cold, and the point where the disaster occurred was a considerable distance from any settlement, so that little could be done for the sufferers until help arrived from Tehachapi.

In some instances a few handfuls of whitened bits of bones were all that remained of what had been a human form, and it was with great difficulty that the remains of several victims were identified. The number of dead is believed to have been thirteen, of whom the most prominent was the wife of ex-Governor Downey, of California, while several other were badly injured.

The disaster was at first attributed to carelessness of the train hands. It was said that the air-brakes had been taken off, and the men who tended the hand-brakes were away from their posts, one attending to switching the engine, and the other relighting his extinguished lamp. The railroad officials, however, declare that the accident was the result of an attempt to rob the express car. They claim that the hand-brakes were properly set by the brakemen, but that, while one of the was escorting a lady to the station, some miscreants let off the brakes and started the train down the grade in order to get it away from help and in a position where the express car could be robbed. Being inexperienced, they lost control of the train, and the disaster occurred. Some support is lent to this theory by the fact that when the train drew into the station two men were seen there who were subsequently found dead in the wreck, and who are as yet unidentified. 


Reprinted from "The Southern Pacific Railway Disaster." Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 3 Feb 1883.