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 for 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 a 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 YouTube 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?
Gambler Gabe Coulter is confronted by a drunken cowboy who wants his money back. Gabe refuses and a gunfight ensues. The dying man tells Gabe the money was for his wife and son. Though the shooting was self-defense, Gabe wrestles with guilt. The only way he knows to get rid of it is to return the money he fairly won to the man’s widow. Lara Talbot sees Gabe as derelict like her husband and refuses his help. But as she struggles to feed her family, she wonders if God might have sent him to help.
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Vickie McDonough is the CBA, EPCA and Amazon best-selling author of 54 books and novellas. Vickie grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie’s books have won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, OWFI Best Fiction Novel Award, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice awards. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, making cards, gardening, reading, and traveling.