No. 489
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
September 18, 2020

The Southern Pacific Railway Disaster.

February 11, 2014
...
...


Chapter 2
Via Newspapers.comOn one occasion, “Pennies From Heaven” became more than just an old song, if the following story is to be believed.  The “Washington Post,” October 1, 1905:Genoa, Sept 22.--Genoa has its ghost, with this peculiarity--that people run after it instead of fleeing for their lives. No one has seen the ghost, but its presence is indicated by a rain of money! Every evening, between 6
More...
Strange Company - 9/16/2020


`
If you’re used to thinking of Duane Street as an affluent downtown street stretching from Foley Square to Tribeca, then this 1877 depiction of a dingy, down and out Duane Street will come as a surprise. The painter is Louis Comfort Tiffany. Before he made his name by creating stained glass pieces, he studied painting. […]
More...
Ephemeral New York - 9/14/2020
The last hanging in Puerto Rico history took place on this date in 1927. Like most such instances, it was more remarkable as a milestone than as a crime. Pascual Ramos, piqued that he’d been fired from a night watchman job upon his boss’s accusation of theft, revenged himself upon that man: According to eye […]
More...
ExecutedToday.com - 9/15/2020

Colorization can sometimes add another whole dimension to vintage black and white photos. We’ve done this one of the crime …

Continue reading

More...
Lizzie Borden : Warps & Wefts - 8/31/2020
Mrs. Sarah Shancks owned a high-end millenary concern—“a fancy thread and needle store”—at 22 East 12th Street.  At around 10:00 AM, the morning of December 7, 1860, Susan Ferguson, who worked as a seamstress for Mrs. Shanks, entered the store but could not find her employer. She went to the back room where Mrs. Shanks resided and found her lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Her throat had
More...
Murder by Gaslight - 9/12/2020
Capt. Jeff. R. SmithArtifact #67 Envelope - front Jeff Smith Collection (Click image to enlarge) apt Jeff. R. Smith Skaguay, Alaska Artifact #67 is an envelope sans the content letter, addressed to "Capt. Jeff. R. Smith, Skaguay, Alaska." The stamp and the front postmark are present, reading, "San Francisco Cala, Jul 14 - 6 a.m.," meaning that it left San Francisco at that
More...
Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 9/15/2020
[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
More...
Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
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.