New Market Train Wreck


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New Market Train Wreck 1904


The New Market Train Wreck happened when two Southern Railway passenger trains travelling at great speed collided head on near New Market, Tennessee on Saturday, September 24, 1904, killing at least 56 passengers and crew and injuring 106.

The trains concerned were the No. 15 westbound local passenger train from Bristol to Knoxville with three cars carrying 140 passengers, and the No. 12 eastbound 'Carolina Special' from Chattanooga to Salisbury, North Carolina. The line was a single track and the normal procedure to allow the trains to pass was for the local train to stop on a side track at Hodges' Switch but when the engineer stopped at Morristown he was given special orders to stop in a siding at New Market instead. Both the conductor and engineer signed that they had read the order but later the conductor told a reporter that he had 'mis-read' it.[2] After stopping at New Market the train should have stopped after a few hundred yards onto the side track but it didn't.

Meanwhile the 'Carolina Special' had reached Strawberry Plains; it comprised nine cars: two mail cars, three wooden passenger coaches and four steel Pullman cars, many of its 210 passengers were returning from the St Louis World's Fair. As it drew out of the station a telegraph arrived from New Market; from horrified depot staff it read "Number 15 has run the switch and is on the main line!", but it was too late, despite waving arms and throwing stones at it, no-one aboard the Special noticed as the train gathered speed. There was one last chance to warn the trains; a telegraph was sent to Hodges' Switch, the normal passing place; but no-one was on duty and the message was never received.[3]

The trains met on New Market Hill at 10:18 a.m.; the special managed to gather speed on the upgrade and was travelling at 60 mph; the local on the downgrade was trying to make up lost time and attained 70 mph; when they saw each other the emergency brakes were applied but the trains collided at a combined speed of over 100mph (though a contemporary source says 70 mph)[4] and the crash could be heard 15 miles away. Both engineers were killed. The locomotive and coal-tender of the local train were catapulted into the air, turning upside down they flew over the Special's engine, tender and baggage cars, landing squarely on top of the wooden passenger cars which were also struck from behind by the weight of the sturdy steel Pullman cars, which remained relatively undamaged. In seven seconds,[3] the wooden coaches were 'crushed like eggshells'.[1] Death was quick for most, with many of the victims decapitated or horribly mangled; 'splintered timbers, iron, and steel were piled in chaotic masses over the rails, mingling with human bodies'.[2] When news of the crash reached Knoxville, a relief train was organised to bring doctors and medical supplies to the site and take the injured to Knoxville General Hospital. Reporters also managed to board the train and many photographs of the scene were made (see here) Estimates as to the death toll vary from 56 (with 106 injured)[2] to 113 dead.[3]

The enquiry could not determine why the engineer and fireman on the No. 15 had not stopped on the side track at New Market as both were killed by the collision; the engineer may have been asleep.[1]

(Source: Wikipedia)

Additional Info: Link

Paper Headline

Terrible Loss of Life as Result of Wreck Near New Market, Tenn.
Second Coach Plowed Its Way Into
a Bank in SUch a Manner That
Other Cars Were Jammed Into It
List of Injured,
Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 20. The death list, as a result of the fearful wreck on the Southern Railroad near
New Market Saturday.- The death list had grown to 62 on Saturday and it will probably exceed seventy before next Tuesday, as many of the injured were in a serious condition, and more deaths will occur at the hospital There were six deaths at that Institution Sunday, the last one occurring at eight o'clock, when M. P. Cant, a prominent resident of Shelby,N. C. passed away.

Others who died at the hospital were the two colored firemen, two little girls and Nep Miller, colored, of Johnston City.

To the appended corrected list of dead there must be added an unknown infant found Sunday at the scene of the wreck, and two other unidentified bodies.
The list of dead up to ten o'clock Sunday night is as follows:
The Dead
W. A. Galbraith Knoxville
Mrs. W. A. Galbraith, Knoxville.
W. T. Elliss, Greenboro, N. C.
Rallph Mountcastle, Knoxvllle,
Miss Inez Russille, Knoxvllle.
Clyde Russell, Knoxvllle.
Cory Knight, Dandridge, Tenn.
W. A. Stephenson, Omaha
John Conner. Roanoke. Va.
D. S. Fox. Birmingham, Ala.
J M. Adkins, Jelllico, Tenn.
Mrs. J R. Gasss, Knoxville
Mr. W. C. Haddix, Knoxvllle
James Bird, Jefferaon City, Tenn
Mrs. R. B. West, Jefferson City, Tenn,
Mrs. Albert McMahan, Newport, Tenn.
Ed. DeGrout, Johnson City, Tenn.
John Glenn, Morristown, Tenn.
Dr. A. Crawford. Bardstown, Ky.
E. S. Horner, Morristown, Tenn.
Geo. Lee, Carrollton. Ky.
J. R. Pluminer. Chapel Mill, N C.
E. G. Earnest, Johnson City, Tenn.
John Black, White Pine, Tenn.
Mrs. W. B. Crawford, Mohawk, Tenn.
J. R. Rhea, Jelllco, Tenn.
Mrs. Laura Hill, Gaffnev. S. C,
_ Hill, daughter of Mrs Laura Hill.
Miss Sarah Hill. Gaffney, S C.
Fifteen month-old boy, thought to be son of Mrs Laura Hill.
Mrs Fannie McEwin. Knoxvllle.
R. D. Godwin. Jefferson City, Tenn.
Mrs. C A Russell, Knoxvllle.
Monroe Ashmore, Knoxvllle.
William Jones. Knoxvllle.
J. J Daniel, Turley's Mill, Tenn.
G. N. Parrott, Knoxvllle.
Annie Haylow. Biringham.
Mrs. Green, Sylvia, N. C.
W. R. Kane, Knoxville, engineer.
W.R. Spencer. Arcadln, Fla.
Mrs. J. A. Lemons, Knoxville
Roy McMahan. Newport, Tenn.
Mrs. Nancy J. Rumley, Wautauga,Tenn.
Mrs Geo. V. Kenzel, Knoxville.
Rev. Isaac Every, Knoxvllle.
Miss Copp, Knoxvllle.
Melvel P. Gant: Shelby. N. C.
C. M Heiskell, Memphis, Tenn.
J. M Mills, colored, fireman
Charles Carson, colored. Telford. Tenn.
Nep Miller, colored, Greeneville, Tenn.
Will Cunningham. colored, Citico. Tenn.
Arthur Gass colored. Greenville, Tenn.
Two white men, unidentified
Two-vear-old Girl, unidentified.
Unknown negro.
A force of 150 men tolled all day long at the scene of the wreck. Before two o'clock Sunday morning the track was clear for through trains, but it required many hours to clear the debrls.
Engineers Parrott and Kane were found beneath their engines, but their bodies wero not badly crushed.
Small fragments of bodies were found Sunday, but it is thought that they belong to bodies already found and brought to this city. One little baby was found by the wrecker, but that was all.
The cause of this terrible loss of life in the heavy east-bound train was explained Sunday. It seems that the second coach plowed its wn into a bank in such a manner that other cars were jammed into it and pushed on by the weight of heavy Pullmans, were crushed like eggshells.
Physicians at the hospital state that of the long list of injured which they have in their care, it is probable that not more than four will die. The complete list of injured as given by the railroad officials shows a total of 162, but this included all persons who were only slightly hurt or scratched.

(Source: Fair play. (Ste. Genevieve [Mo.]), 01 Oct. 1904. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. Link)