By Vickie McDonough
One of my favorite tasks as a writer is going on research trips and discovering interesting tidbits of history. While researching End of the Trail, the final book in the Texas Trails series, I learned about a unique historical event. It’s called “The Crash at Crush” and is the brainchild of George William Crush, a passenger agent of the Missouri, Kansas, & Texas Railroad, also known as “the Katy.”
In an effort to better promote their railroad, Katy officials agreed to Crush’s unusual suggestion of crashing two retired train engines. The locomotives, Old No. 999, painted bright green, and Old No. 1001, painted a vibrant red, were displayed prominently during tours throughout the state and the “Monster Crash” was advertised all the summer of 1896. The event was free, with the exception of the train fare to deliver attendees to Crush, which cost $2 for a ticket from anywhere within the state.
George Crush chose a shallow valley fifteen miles north of Waco for the location, and in early September, five hundred workmen laid four miles of track afor the collision run, built a grandstand for attendees, three speaker's stands, two telegraph offices, a stand for reporters, and a bandstand. A restaurant was set up in a borrowed Ringling Brothers circus tent, and a huge carnival midway with dozens of medicine shows, game booths, and lemonade and soft-drink stands were built. Lastly, a special depot with a platform 2,100 feet long was constructed along with a painted sign, informing passengers that they had arrived at Crush, Texas.
Twenty thousand people were expected, but by early afternoon on September 15, somewhere between 40-50,000 had arrived. At 5:00 P.M., engines No. 999 and 1001 backed off to opposite ends of the four-mile track. George Crush trotted a white horse to the center of the track and raised his white hat. After a long pause, he whipped it sharply down. A huge cheer rose from the crowd, and the locomotives lunged forward, whistles shrieking as they barreled toward each other at a speed of 45 mph. In a thunderous, grinding crash, the trains collided. The two locomotives reared up like wild stallions as they rammed together. Contrary to predictions, both boilers shattered, filling the air with hot steam, smoke, and pieces of flying metal. Spectators turned and ran in blind panic. In the end, several people were killed and at least six others were injured seriously by the flying debris.
The wreckage was toted away, with souvenir hunters claiming pieces of the debris, booths and tent were removed, and by nightfall, Crush, Texas ceased to exist. The Katy railroad settled all claims against it, and George Crush was fired that same day, but he was rehired the next day and worked for the Katy railroad until he retired. Here’s a link to a You Tube tale of the crash and some cool historic photos: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL5i_ZBzYk0
I hope you enjoyed the story of the Crash at Crush. What’s the most interesting historical event you’ve read about?
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Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 27 books and novellas. Her novels include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series and the 3rd & 6th books in the Texas Trails series. Her novel, Long Trail Home, won the Inspirational category of the 2012 Booksellers’ Best Awards. Whispers on the Prairie, the first book in an exciting new series set in 1870s Kansas released in July and is a Romantic Times Recommended Read. To learn more about Vickie, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com
Vickie, I remember this from your book. I had heard about it from my grandfather who was 16 at the time. He wanted to go see it, but his mother said no,he couldn't because it might be dangerous. He ended his story with the statement. "My mother always knew what was best for me."ReplyDelete
The most interesting historical event I've read about is the one I used on my blog a few months ago. It was the day the war stopped so a Confederate Mason could bury a Yankee Naval Captain in a Masonic burial at the church in St. Francisville, Louisiana.
I bet your grandfather sure would have had a cool story to tell if he'd been able to see the train crash. But his mother was right, as we usually are. :)ReplyDelete
Great blog, Vickie! I remember seeing a thing several years ago on the History Channel about this. All I could think was "What in the world was this guy thinking?!!!"ReplyDelete
So sad that people were killed and injured unnecessarily.
I don't know how the engineers who okayed the event thought that the boilers wouldn't explode, but they did. I'm sure it was a spectacular thing to see back then, but you're right, it's sad people got hurt and lost their lives.Delete
I loved reading this story, wow what a sight that would have been to see. thanks for sharing this today.ReplyDelete
I agree. Paula. It would have been quite a sight to watch.Delete
Vickie, that had to have been some sight. Too bad things went haywire. It seems like Crush should have been "fired" for more than a day.ReplyDelete
I know. That's crazy he only lost his job for one day. I imagine many people were upset about that.Delete
Vickie, I lived THE END OF THE TRAIL. The "Crash at Crush" was a memorable scene. hard to imagine why no one figured out ahead of the event that it was a bad idea!ReplyDelete
Blessings, Laurie Kingery
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete
That was supposed to be "loved" not lived. Sheesh.ReplyDelete
LOL I was trying to figure if you meant that or if you actually lived at the end of a trail. :) I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm reading your Mail Order Cowboy right now. Really enjoying it.Delete
This is a most interesting story and I thank you for sharing it. Oh, the things a Texan will do! I have lived in Texas my whole life so I must say it is never dull here.ReplyDelete
You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by today.Delete
I can't even imagine the sights and sounds that day! What a fascinating story; I can't wait to share it! Thank you so much for sharing this piece of Texas history!ReplyDelete
What a ridiculous idea the train crash was - SOME people will do anything to get attention! Guess it gave us something new to learn about, though, didn't it?
I hated history in school - because of all the dates I had to memorize, I guess. Just a few years ago, I became interested in genealogy, & have since, become very interested in history, in general. I have really enjoyed reading this blog & now have info on so many new (to me) subjects ( if only I was young enough to retain what I learned, lol).
Crazy!! What people will come up with for a few minutes of fame is just beyond my comprehension. I know today we have learned to have a few more "safety precautions" around when we do things like that, but still. Thanks for an interesting post!ReplyDelete
Loved this post! I had never heard about it. The most interesting historical event I've been reading about lately is something I had just heard about. It is the Orphan train. Several authors have done stories about them and I'm enjoying them. Some are sad stories, and some are happy.ReplyDelete
tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net
Wow! Men will never change! The bigger the boom and the bigger the mess the better! I can't imagine what people felt when they saw this train wreck! Loved, loved this post!!ReplyDelete
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