Staged Train Wrecks of Yesteryear

Yes, there was a time from the late 1890s into the 1930s when full-size trains would face each other, charge and crash head-on – on purpose !

It does sound a bit unbelievable but it started in 1895 by a man named A. L. Streeter. In Ohio, a stretch of track about a mile in length was laid. Then two old steam locomotives placed at opposite ends of the track, facing each other. Then with an engineer in each train engine, they would pull the throttles back to get the locomotives up to speed. The engineers then jumped from the train before the two trains crashed in front of a crowd of spectators who had paid $2 each to view this.

It was so popular that six more staged train wrecks were held the next year in different parts of the United States. One of the most famous being at Waco, Texas named ‘Crash at Crush”.

The Waco one was headed by William G. Crush. He got two old steam locomotives, painted then red and green. Had track laid between three hillsides, 14 miles north of Waco, perfect viewing for the spectators. To prepare Crush also built a temporary town named ‘Crush’ had a large circus tent to a restaurant to be set up, and hired 200 constables to help keep order. Crush figured 20,000 would attend the event.

People started arriving the early morning of Sept 15th and by 4 pm some 40,000 paid people had arrived. People from all walks of life, merchants, farmers, clerks, lawyers, women, men and children all attended. At the start, the two trains started towards each other, reaching speeds of 50 mph. They collided and created a mass of bent steel and then the boilers explored. There were flying pieces of iron and steel flying across the area.

Unfortunately, two spectators were killed by the flying debris and others injured including a man, the official photographer of the event, who had a bolt hit directly into one of his eyes. Many of those uninjured actually went up to the destroyed locomotive to claim a piece of the wreckage as a souvenir.

Then there was Joe Connolly who staged more than 70 train wrecks and destroyed 146 locomotives between 1896 and 1932. His staged wrecks mostly held at fairs were from Boston, Mass., to Tampa, FL to Salt Lake City and to Los Angeles, Calif.

By the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s, wrecking usable trains was viewed as not practical. Connolly did his last wreck at the Iowa State Fair in 1932.

So since this form of entertainment was so popular for years and covered across the United States more than likely one or more of your ancestors were part of such a crowd to view the smashing head-on of two locomotives. ‘That’s Entertainment’

Photos: Iowa State Fair wrecks 1896, 1922 and 1932; Sept 15th, Waco Texas Crush train wreck; and 1913 Calif. train wreck.

Related Blogs:

Trains and Depots


American Railroad Systems

< Return To Blog Excellent web site. Lots of useful information here. I抦 sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks for your effort!
Travel 21/07/19

Try to bring the unusual and forgotten aspect of our ancestors.
alice 21/07/19

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.