A Plan That Didn't Stay on Track

A Plan That Didn't Stay on Track

In 1896 a highranking railroad worker named William George Crush had an unusual idea for a publicity stunt. He decided to take two of the older steam engines the company owned and have them head straight at each other on a 4 mile stretch of track that was built for the purpose.

 William Crush

William Crush

A "city" popped up around the site which was named after its founder: Crush, Texas. Rail tickets were lowered in price for anyone coming to the event from around Texas and the crowds reached 40,000 people making it temporarely the second biggest city in the state. There was a huge press presence, hundreds of cheap food stalls and the whole event had been hyped for months.

There were safety considerations, with the organisers having to delay for over an hour as they forced the crowds to back away from the track. People wanted to get right to the front to get the best view. Finally at about 5pm on September 1896 Crush signaled for the engines to start their journey. Crush himself rode a horse and positioned himself between the two trains for as long as he dared.

 Before the crash

Before the crash

Both trains were loaded with a full compliment of carriages and managed to hit 45 MPH just before impact. Luckily, because there were so many photographers at the event, we can see how things unfolded.

 The moment if impact

The moment if impact

 Mid explosion

Mid explosion

At the moment of impact one of the engine's boilers exploded. Large parts of train rained over the crowds. The number of fatalities seems to either be 2 or 3, but many sustained major injuries, including one of the main event photographers losing an eye. Crush had been assured that the boiler could not shatter under the impact, but something had obviously gone horribly astray.

Remarkably the railroad company, called Katy, managed to stay afloat after the disaster. Crush was fired, but rehired the next day and managed to retire with 57 years of service many years later.

Souvenir hunters collected what they could and the whole City of Crush was dismantled within the month. I can't help but wonder if this disaster would never have happened if William Crush had not been trying to use his name ironically.

 

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