The Boilling Alabama Train Wreck of 1896
Volume 254 Jot 'Em Down Daily News June 25, 2012
Todays' News or is it Yesterday’s news today. Anyway the "Worlds Greatest Modeler's" home town newspaper, The Jot 'Em Down Daily News, Brings you the first in a series of original Alabama Train wreck stories.
The Boilling Train Wreck Of 1896
Copyright 06-21-2012 by RFL
The Rome and Decatur Railroad ran a daily passenger round trip from Birmingham to Montgomery. It assigned train number 310 to the Birmingham to Montgomery leg and train number 110 for the trip back to Birmingham. The train consisted of a combine and three open platform passenger cars. Three daily heavy coal drags ran from the McCall coal mine to the Bessemer steel plant in Birmingham. And the empties hauled back to McCall.
Locomotive number 790; a 2-6-0 Mogul was built in 1863 for the Rome and Decatur Railroad. The Mogul had increased pulling power, but it was also noted that their rather rigid suspension made them more prone to derailments.
It was early in the morning of March 17, 1896. The passengers were dead tired when they boarded the train in Birmingham. Train 310 pulled out at 2:45 AM, headed to Montgomery.
Most of the passengers were Irish or Scottish immigrants headed to the McCall Coal Mine for the first shift. They settled into the seats of the wooden Overton coaches, hoping to get some sleep on the two hour ride. A few Cinder Snappers were out on the cars open platforms enjoying a last smoke and a brown bag drink or two to help them sleep on the hard seats.
Around 3:42 AM, the passengers were suddenly awakened from their slumbers. The train begun to violently shake, then started bucking up and down, and rocking side to side. Some passengers were thrown out of and over their seats falling into the isle. One passenger was tossed against the heater stove and severely burned on his hands and face. The Cinder Snappers still on the platforms were hurled off the train, some fell under the wheels and the rest screamed their way down to the rocks below.
The O’Neal Bridge over Murder Creek was a cable stayed suspension bridge and dated from the early 1800’s. As the train raced across the bridge the Mogul derailed. The stress of the locomotive bouncing along the wooden deck caused the top of one of the towers to give way.
The bridge deck swayed, twisted, cables snapped, and then the deck collapsed.
The engineer tried to control the train but it was a hopeless attempt. The train ran out of rail and started to fall the one-hundred feet to Murder creek. The chugging of the locomotive’s drivers was replaced by the screech of metal on metal, and the long high pitched wail of the locomotive’s steam whistle.
Then the sounds of the huge locomotive, tender, and cars falling. Falling down towards the creek, one-hundred feet below. The loud thunder of the bridge’s crumbling stone towers, snapped steel cables, and rails, along with the train as it smashed into the stream was quickly replaced by an equally terrible sound.
It was the sound of trapped passengers screaming and moaning in agony as the twisted wreckage of the train crushed their bodies. Some were impaled by pieces of broken rail; others were slowly drowned as the waters of the creek rose over their heads.
They were the lucky ones.
When the boiler exploded, the engineer and fireman were scalded to death by the high pressure steam from the crushed boiler. A fire began to spread to the wooden cars. The trapped passengers, who still lived, watched helplessly as the fire raged toward them.
Local newspapers reported that for days afterwards, the smell of burned flesh hung over the crash site. One-hundred and twenty-eight people were killed that night. It was one of the worst train wrecks in Central Alabama.
Forty-six years to the day, after the wreck occurred, at around 5:30 in the morning of March 17, a woman was waiting by her disabled car near the new O’Neal Bridge. Her husband had to walk the five miles into Boilling to get help.
The lady heard a loud train whistle. She looked up and saw a train rushing down the track. The steam locomotive’s headlight was gleaming brightly in the early morning dawn and its whistle blowing with a high screaming and pleading kind of sound. It raced across the bridge and suddenly derailed, thundering its way down the one-hundred feet to smash into the creek bed below.
The woman was terrified. She ran toward the wrecked train and gazed down into the creek. The lady saw heavy black and grey clouds of roiling smoke and steam coming up from the creek bed. Then she heard the frantic cries and agonized screams of the survivors.
At that moment, a tow-truck pulled up and her husband jumped out, followed by the tow-truck driver. She franticly ran toward them, desperate to get help down to the poor trapped passengers below. When they heard her story, the men ran to the edge and looked down into the creek bed.
There was nothing there.
The woman had seen the number 310 train wreck of Boiling re-enacted before her eyes.
Some residents of Boiling report that the phantom train 310 appears each year in the early morning hours of March 17. And it is again wrecked, before the eyes of anyone who happens to lucky or unlucky enough to be there and see it.
This is all she wrote for this edition of the "Jot 'Em Down DailyNews." The next edition will be out soon with our next train wreck story. Anyway the"WGM" hopes you enjoy this series of train stories.
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