Colon Train Wreck 1930





From the Colon Express, May 8, 1930; Frank Damon, Publisher, Editor:” What is said to be the worst freight train wreck in the history of the Michigan Central Railroad Company occurred here at 11:30 Saturday forenoon, when 40 cars of a fast freight, westbound from New York to Chicago over the Air Line, piled up in a tangled mass about a mile east of the village. The exact location was at the old gravel pit owned by the railroad just west of DeWitt’s crossing.

The train was composed of 73 cars and the cars from the sixth to the 45th left the rails. While the cause of the wreck is not definitely determined, it is believed to have resulted from a broken part of one of the cars.

No one was injured as neither engine nor caboose left the rails. However, there was much rumor that three “hoboes” were riding the train but as yet no trace of them has been found. The wreck was witnessed by the bus driver who was driving in the same direction the freight was going and in plain view. Of course the crash was heard a half mile distant, and he said it seemed the rear cars would never stop piling up in that jam. In fact the topmost car was probably forty feet in the air.

Wrecker and large crews were hurriedly called to the scene from Jackson and Niles and together with all available section hands along the line worked continuously until Sunday afternoon to get a hole through the tangled mess and open the track. In fact they have been busy night and day since the wreck and are still at it, expecting to finish clearing the right of way today.

The damage from the wreck will mount into thousands of dollars. The 40 cars which left the rails included several cars of automobiles, coal, steel, food stuff, and a great variety of merchandise which was all transferred to other cars, excepting much of it which was crushed or strewn along the track and valueless. The coal was sold yesterday to the Colon Elevator.

Nelson Snyder, section foreman, and his men had a very narrow escape. They were working on the right of way at the point where the accident happened, and while standing at the side of the track while the train passed saw the first car leave the rails. They made a dash up the bank and over the fence just in time to escape being crushed by the crashing cars, which piled up right in front of them.

The wreck brought to Colon one of the greatest traffic jams ever experienced. Thousands of cars coming in from all directions Sunday, and continued to come Monday and Tuesday, and last evening several cars inquired the way to the wreck. Local stores were taxed to the limit to get foodstuff to the large working force, the restaurant did a thriving business all night and filling stations were kept busy. Hundreds of people remained at the wreck until after midnight to watch the wreckers.

Some enterprising stranger took advantage of the opportunity and opened a stand, selling candy, etc., to the crowd at the wreck.

Before the officials and detectives arrived on the job a man from Jackson, who was viewing the crash, could not resist the temptation to take a half-dozen fine shirts, which were among the many things scattered about. The local authorities “collared” him and took the shirts, and before he could be placed under arrest (he) broke away and scrambled over the fence, ran across the fields, waded a creek, and has not been seen since.