Thursday, May 30, 2013

Interurban Crash - May 30, 1907

Here's an article that ran in the Lorain Journal on May 30, 1957. It describes a terrible crash that occurred on the interurban line in Elyria on May 30, 1907 – 106 years ago today.

2-Car Crash On Interurban Line Killed Seven 50 Years Ago Today

who lives north of Wellington on Rt. 58,
is shown wearing the same cap and coat
that he wore 50 years ago when his car was
rammed from the rear by another interurban
car. He lost both of his legs as a result of the
crash. The picture was taken in 1956.
"In a short time the mangled passengers had all been extricated and the wrecked car was all that remained to show that a terrible tragedy had been enacted."

Though this might well be a story to be told much too frequently of traffic accidents on the highways on Memorial Day, 1957, it is actually a quote from The Lorain Times-Herald story of an electric railway accident in Elyria 50 years ago today.

Seven persons died and seven others were seriously injured when a special car rammed into the back of another car on Middle Ave. at Fifth St. about 6 p.m.

The Times-Herald account of May 31, 1907, the following day, states:

"Car No. 129, in charge of Motorman Varner and Conductor Wynn S. Avery, left Oberlin at 5:30 o'clock on their regular run to Cleveland. They had on board a large number of holiday excursionists who had spent the day in Wellington and Oberlin.

"At the Country Club, south of Elyria, the car was boarded by a large number of passengers who had picnicked there for the day. The number of people picked up on street corners completely packed the car and the remainder stood upon the platform.

"After passing the car barns a special empty fell in on the main track in the rear of the regular. This car was in charge of Motorman C. N. Fuerndiener and Conductor Williams. The empty special followed the regular at a distance of about a block."

The empty car struck Car 129 with such force that it "rose over the floor of the back platform and plowed over the platform into the rear seats."

Conductor Avery of the ill-fated "129" lost both legs in the accident but served the company as purchasing agent until Feb. 28, 1931, when the Cleveland, Southwestern and Columbus Railway Co., commonly known as "The Green Line" ceased its operation. Avery lives on Rt. 58 north of Wellington.

As a result of the inadequate facilities at the Elyria hospital to care for the injured, a campaign was started to provide the city with a better hospital and it is said that the establishing of the Gates Hospital for Children also grew out of the drive emanating from the disaster.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1907 Memorial Day tragedy, a window display at the Elyria Travel Mart, Broad St., includes newspaper accounts of the wreck, pictures of several interurban cars, including the two involved in the accident, and a model electric railway system.

The display, which will remain on view for several days, was prepared by Paul Lawson and Max Wilcox of Elyria, and Norman Mueller and James Bussinger of Lorain.

In case you'd like to read about the tragedy just as it happened, with much more detail – and blame – than the short version that ran in the 1957 Journal, here's the front page of The Elyria Chronicle of Friday, May 31, 1907. (Click on it for a readable version.)

But be forewarned, there are some gruesome details about the wreck that are included on that front page.

Here's a link to the Chronicle-Telegram's online account of the 100th anniversary of the crash back in 2007, and a nice explanation of how Edgar Allen, a businessman who lost his son in the tragedy, devoted his life to opening hospitals, including Elyria Memorial Hospital as well as the Gates Hospital for Crippled Children (later known as the Easter Seals Society). And here is a link to an interesting C-T article about the motorman who was blamed for the crash.

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