Monday, September 24, 2012

Rail Travel a Century Ago

Tipton, Indiana Train Wreck

September 24, 1910,

just three days after the interurban crash at Kingsland north of Bluffton which killed 42 people.
The Tipton collision, very similar in nature, occurred between Tipton and Jacksons, claiming six lives and injuring fifteen others.

I have long been interested in the era of interurban transportation.  Study of old newspapers and train schedules have made me aware of the fact that in Indiana one could get from almost anyplace to nearly any other place via this mode of transportation.  It is clear, though, as one sifts through rafts of information from those days that travel was not without its risks.  Accidents seemed to be more frequent than necessary, and most of the ones I have read about have had responsibility pinned directly on "human error."

These two collisions, happening as they did within the same calendar week and a mere eighty or so miles apart, certainly highlight the perils of rail travel in the day.  It was my intention when I started to prepare an account of the Tipton incident to give a rather detailed, if gory, account.  That, I have decided, is unnecessary.  It is not necessary because the press of the day did a thoroughly complete and bloody job of reporting*.  I garnered my information about the interurban lines directly from the Tipton County Library collection of the Tipton Tribune (now Tipton County Tribune) as recorded on microfilm.  Now, though, some years later, we are blessed to have had much of this sort of information recorded in digital format and posted on the internet, thanks largely to volunteer efforts of history buffs.

So for your entertainment and enlightenment I present these links.  Read about the bridegroom who was killed on the way to his nuptials; about the motorman who had recently stated he thought he would quit, and much, much more.

*Note, for example, in the Tipton account that police officers had to be stationed at the morgue to keep away the curious who wanted to see the mangled bodies of the victims.


Shelly said...

Wow- what tragedies! I have a little bit of a journalism background, and I am also struck by how differently things were reported back then.

The man who was saved because he had to hang onto the rear platform reminds me to be thankful for even those things which at first might seem to be an aggravation.

Jim said...

The interurbans interest me, too. Somewhere around here I have a book cataloging all the Indiana interurbans of the early 20th century.

I used to walk along the interurban tracks that ran behind my alma mater, Rose-Hulman. Those tracks were torn out some years ago; the right-of-way turned into a trail. There are desires to have that trail stretch all the way to Indianapolis.

My favorite way to get to Chicago involves the last interurban running - the South Shore and South Bend Railroad.

Vee said...

A commuter rail line between our city and Denver is supposedly on the drawing board. If CDOT gets it up and running, I hope it turns out to be a safe way for people to travel.

Secondary Roads said...

It sure puts one's romantic notions about that era into a different perspective.

vanilla said...

Shelly, certainly some colorful reporting in these cases.

I wonder how often some little aggravation may save us from a worse fate, and we are oblivious to that fact?

Jim, interurban rail certainly provided transportation effectively in the day of mud roads and few autos.

Vee, the concept certainly makes sense. Yet will there be enough people willing to part with their private autos and the supposed freedom of movement to provide ridership that will make the line profitable? In a word, no. If it becomes reality it will be forever subsidized by the taxpayers of Colorado.

Chuck, romance is in the eye of the beholder, and all too often at long distance and through the fog of nostalgia we actually create "the good old days" such as they never were. One man's opinion.

Sharkbytes said...

A lot of those train wrecks were just awful. There was a freight wreck at Upland while I was there. Cartons of lard spilled over half a mile. Got pretty sniffy the next day in the sun.

vanilla said...

Sharkey, I bet the lard turned pretty quickly in the sun! There was a locomotive and tender along with several cars of a freight that turned on its side near my home when I was a lad. No camera, but I remember it!

Secondary Roads said...

I believe you are 100% correct. Make that two men's opinion.

vanilla said...

Chuck, another area in which we see the world in like-manner.

Rebecca said...

Ditto, Chuck.

I never had any interest in the railroads throughout my history investigations, although I've seen a number of old documents on train wrecks on our area. There's even an historical marker in the foothills if the Adurondacks - Route 28 - that notes a famous wreck there.

vanilla said...

Rebecca, leaving the "romance" aside, which should be discounted greatly, love them or hate them, the railroads certainly played a major role in the history of the country.