No. 431
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
July 16, 2019

The Southern Pacific Railway Disaster.

February 11, 2014
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Chapter 2
The exorcism of a ghost. Engraving by E. Portbury after F.P. Stephanoff Happy Monday, readers. Let’s talk poltergeists. A particularly sinister haunting was said to have taken place in Iceland in 1807. The following narrative of the “Ghost at Garpsdal” was dictated by the local minister, a Sir Saemund, in June of 1808. Rather than try to paraphrase, I thought it best to simply publish
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Strange Company - 7/15/2019


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Signing party with Q & A and refreshments, July 13th, Saturday 12 -4 p.m. Jules Antiques and General Store, Rt. …

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Lizzie Borden : Warps & Wefts - 6/19/2019
On this date in 1958, Nuri al-Said, the Prime Minister of Iraq’s deposed Hashemite monarchy, was captured trying to flee Iraq in disguise, and immediately slaughtered A onetime Ottoman officer turned veteran of the Arab Revolt under the eventual King Faisal I, Nuri al-Said (or as-Said) was a preeminent politician for much of the Kingdom […]
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ExecutedToday.com - 7/15/2019

Jeff and Joe Soapy Smith buries Joe Simmons The Illustrated Police News April 9, 1892 (Click image to enlarge) oe Simmons was a tall, slender gambler known to many as “Gambler Joe” Simmons, a member of the Soap Gang who managed Soapy Smith's Tivoli Club in Denver, 1890, and Soapy's Orleans Club in Creede, 1892. According to William Devere’s poem "Two Little Busted Shoes," Simmons
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 3/25/2019
Thomas H. Jones, aged 21, was planning to leave Brooklyn on October 5, 1880, to start a new life in San Francisco. The night before his planned departure he went to say goodbye to his friend George Secor and the two young men went to a lager beer saloon run by N. Debrowski on Atlantic Street to play billiards. Between games, they went to the bar for some soda water. As they were placing
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Murder by Gaslight - 7/13/2019
Gothic architecture usually brings to mind shadowy vaulted ceilings and cathedral spires, and there are plenty of examples of this all over New York City. But there’s a mashup of a building on a tiny Tribeca block that’s such a fascinating kaleidoscope of Gothic details, it suggests something light and frothy, not dark and Medieval. […]
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Ephemeral New York - 7/14/2019
[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 […]
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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.