June 5, 1910
One person dies when a Monon Passenger train rear-ended at stopped freight train at Dewitts Siding.
Originally Published In The Hoosier Line, Volume 21, Number 2. May 2002
Written by Robert Thompson
"The Monon Has A Bad Wreck" was the headline in the June 6, 1910, Lake County Times newspaper. The Lake County News headlined it: "One man killed in Monon Wreck."
The Crown Point Register and the Gary Daily Tribune also carried the story, but in much less detail.
The real-photo post card craze was near its height of popularity in 1910. Local photographers, with their Kodaks folding pocket No. 3A-post card cameras, were producing post cards for the hometown market of items which the major post card companies in America and Europe had little or no interest. The local photographers covered subjects like the local depot, munciple buildings and a new streetcar. Of course, if a news event happened, like a bridge collapse, ship foundering or a train wreck, they were there to record it.
On that Sunday in 1910, after Monon train #4 slammed into the rear of train #72 south of Lowell, an unknown photographer was there to record the cleanup. His photo, which you see above, made the front page of the Lake County Times Tuesday, June 7, 1910. The photograph was thereafter made into a real photo post card and sold locally as was the custom of the times.
From Real Photo Post Card -Collection of R.E. Thompson-
In the photo, we see a work train with engine #252 behind a derrick which is lifting a set of trucks. Alongside of the work train's second and third cars is a concrete whistle post facing south, this for the road crossing which is today called Belshaw Road. Mounted on the telegraph pole behind the crowd of onlookers is a mile post marker which is only partially in view showing 46/3?
The January 1910 Official Guide of the Railways lists Monon Route train #4 as a Louisville to Chicago run with a connection at Orleans with train #28 from French Lick, with scheduled departure from Louisville at 8:50 p.m. and arrival in Chicago at 7:25 a.m. the next morning.
Accommodations on board were listed as: 16-section electric-lighted sleeper between Louisville and Chicago; 12-section drawing room electric-lighted sleeper between French Lick/West Baden and Chicago, and modern coaches with high-back seats between Louisville and Chicago.
While some of the details differ between the various newspaper accounts, the basic story runs the same:
Northbound passenger train #4, running at about 55 miles per hour, struck the rear of northbound freight #72 about two miles south of Lowell before 6 a.m. Sunday morning, June 5, 1910, and one man lost his life.
The accounts say freight #90 was stuck on a grade and #72, when reaching the scene, detached its engine and went to the relief of #90, pushing it over the grade.
Engineer William Orr and Conductor Hughes of train #72, upon returning found that they could not pull their train over this grade either. They took part of their cars and ran into Dewitt siding. They left Brakeman George Gallagher to protect the rear of the train and to look out for passenger train #4.
They got the first cars in the siding and were returning when the passenger train crashed into the cars remaining on the main track.
The caboose was completely demolished. Next to it was a steel flat car and this was shoved ahead and literally stripped the body of a boxcar and its load of brick from its trucks. A car of fine stone and car of heavy building stone were also ditched.
The passenger engine plunged down the embankment on the same side as the freight cars.
Passenger engineer Clifford Sommerville and his fireman did not see the freight in time to jump. Their view was obstructed by a curve with a deep cut and high fill sides, so they were with the engine to the last. Fortunately, it did not overturn and neither of them was seriously injured.
The baggage and mail car went down the opposite side. Frank Stewart, the expressman, escaped with his life, although he was badly cut up.
The passenger coaches and five sleepers did not leave the tracks, the passengers being only shaken up.
The body of brakeman Gallagher was found among the debris of the caboose.
Gallagher, it was reported, was an old railroad man, although he had been in the employ of the Monon only six months. The newspaper reports tend to blame the accident on him for not flagging down the approaching passenger train.
Reports also speak of the wreck scene as a place of attraction in the south part of Lake County with about a thousand people coming out by automobiles and carriages to view it.
According to the Lake County Times: "The wreck is one of the worst that the Monon has had in many years and it will take several days to clear away the debris."
As a result of the wreck, some Monon trains detoured over the Three I Route (Indiana, Illinois & Iowa) nee New York Central, and the C&EI (Chicago & Eastern Illinois) into Chicago, thus not stopping at Hammond.
The milk train was one of these and consumers whose supply came in over the Monon received no milk during the detour.
Other trains detoured and came in over the Erie Railroad from Wilders.
In the Lake County Times, June 6, 1910, there appeared this notice: "To the patrons of the Clover Leaf Dairy-Owing to the wreck on the Monon yesterday, W.F. Milne was unable to deliver milk to his regular customers this morning, but will deliver tomorrow. W. F. MILNE."
The following newspapers carried information used in this article: Lake County Times, June 6 and 7, 1910; The Lake County Register, June 9, 1910; Crown Point Register, June 9, 1910; Gary Daily Tribune, June 6, 1910.