Sunday, April 8, 2012

Frightful Railroad Accident at Finlayson Last Sunday

From Pine County Courier, May 19, 1910: 

One of the worst train wrecks that ever occurred in this part of the country happened at Finlayson about 1:30 last Sunday morning when the fast northbound freight jumped the track, killing two men and demolishing 13 freight cars loaded with grain and merchandise. 

The residents of Finlayson were awakened by a terrible crashing noise and before many had reached the scene, several cars were burning fiercely and the sight was one long to be remembered. The accident happened a short distance from the depot and the Finlayson fire department was summoned at once, but they had been fighting a fire the night before and had left their engine some distance in the country. It was brought into service as soon as possible and was the means of saving all of the train that was not wrecked and also much of the contents of the wrecked cars. The Hinckley department was also summoned and were brought on a special train. One of the first cars in the wreck contained tar paper and several barrels of oil. This made a stubborn fire and it was late Sunday forenoon before it was fully checked 

The big freight engine was on its side between the main and side tracks, and nine cars with their contents were piled in a promiscuous heap. The back end of the engine was almost buried by the contents of the cars nearest, containing heavy iron bridge timbers, brick, and shelled corn. Four other cars near the center of the train and on the other side of the depot were doubled up and thrown in to the ditch, each one ploughing deep holes in the ground where they struck. 

As soon as the fire had been partly subdued, search was begun for the bodies of Frank St. John, fireman, and Wm. Young, head brakeman, who were known to in the wreck. Only parts of their bodies were discovered as the tender had jammed them against the boiler where they were almost entirely cremated and death must have been instantaneous. 

Mike Lynch, the engineer, had a miraculous escape from death and does not know how it happened. When the engine left the track, he says something hit him and hurled him through the window and he struck with considerable force on the ground, but was not seriously injured. 

A wrecker was sent from Duluth and the track was cleared by Sunday afternoon, the night passenger train going over the G.N. tracks from Hinckley. 

The exact cause of the accident is a mystery. It is rumored that the switch was turned and the switch lamp was sitting on the depot platform, while some think that some of the cars ran off the side track after the engine and several cars had safely passed the switch. 

Coroner McEachern was on the scene early Sunday morning and on Monday convened a coroner’s jury which gave out their opinion that the “wreck was caused by a switch being opened by some unknown parties in possession of a switch key.”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your post. I’ve been thinking about writing a very comparable post over the last couple of weeks, I’ll probably keep it short and sweet and link to this instead if thats cool. Thanks.