by Nancy McCammon-Hansen
There’s nothing like an accident to bring out the gawkers and that certainly was true when Fort Wayne’s worst train wreck within the city limits occurred on August 13, 1911.
A speeding Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train, trying to make up for lost time, crashed into a freight train in Swinney Park. Three railroad workers were killed and 35 passengers and other crew members injured. (Some reports say four were killed and 30 injured.) The train was reportedly going about 50 miles an hour, traveling from Chicago to New York, when it left the track at a switch around 6:30 p.m. and crashed into the freight train. Two engines were pulling the passenger train and as they left the rails, they sideswiped the engine of the freight train.
“The baggage car, smoker, buffet, and two sleepers turned over in the ditch. Most of the injured were seated in the diner and smoker when the accident occurred,” according to the website www.historictornadoes.com/disasters/train-wrecks-accidents. Fortunately for the passengers, the train was composed of all-steel cars that survived the crash far better than “old-fashioned wood construction”. The engines of the passenger train were thrown down an embankment and the freight train’s engine “reared up over the trucks of the fliers (sic) engine”.
The information on the historictornadoes.com website was transcribed from The Washington Post District of Columbia 1911-08-14.
Other information in this blog post comes from Scott M. Bushnell’s book “Historic Photos of Fort Wayne”, which is for sale in our gift shop.
The photos come from postcards in the History Center’s collection.