Wreck at Ashton
Sibley Gazette - June 26, 1902
Two Men Killed in Sunday's Smash-up
Several Injured - Maimed Will Recover
The Kansas City, St. Paul flyer on the Chicago, St. Paul, Minnesota & Omaha Railroad, was wrecked at Ashton last Sunday morning resulting in the death of the fireman and a mail clerk, the injury of several other persons and almost complete destruction of the head end of the train. The dead are Clinton W. Bassett, fireman, a resident of Sioux City, and Cal J. Robinson, mail clerk, of Council Bluffs. Bassett was scalded by boiling water escaping from the boiler. He lived four hours. Robinson was crushed almost beyond recognition, death probably resulting instantly. The injured are Engineer Alvin Canfield of Sioux City, whose arm is broken, head and left leg injured; Mail Clerk James A. Erakine of St. Pail, badly bruised; Mail Clerk F. E. Weston of St. Paul, bruised and scalded; Mail Clerk U. S. Thompson of St. Paul, bruised; Charles A. Hall of St. Paul, bruised; and A. Z. Poole of Minneapolis, bruised. None of the injured will die from their wounds.
Passenger number 2, going north, does not stop at Ashton but is due to pass through thereat about 1:10 a. m. On Sunday morning the train was late in getting out of Sioux City and was making up time so that it was only 20 minutes late into Ashton, going at a speed of 56 miles per hour. There is a long switch leaving the main line as Ashton several rods from the deport and it was here that the crash came. The engine and the front trucks of the mail car passed safely over the switch but the rear trucks of the mail car went out onto the side track swinging it directly across the path of the moving train and causing a general smash up. The engine was overturned and badly broken up, the tender being turned end for end and lying alongside the boiler. Nearly every wheel was torn off, as were also the dome, cab, and nearly every other kind of projection. The mail car, in a badly demolished condition, settled crosswise over the engine, while the baggage car ran out onto the side track and land led in the ditch.
The new plan of making up the train saved the passenger coaches in the rear from injury. For many years, number 2 has been run with mail and baggage coaches ahead, the passenger coaches next and the heavy Pullman cars in the rear. Recently a new makeup has been used all over the country. Many serious accidents have proved that the heavy Pullmans in the rear will crush through the lighter day cars ahead in case of a wreck, and about a month ago a plan was adopted to place the lighter day coaches behind. It was this arrangement that doubtless saved the lives of many passengers. The heavy buffet cars are made strong and heavy with steel frame work so that they resisted the pressure from behind without perceptibly breaking up, except that the trucks were torn off. The engine and tender being separated, the air tubes were broken and the breaks set stopping the coaches in the rear with an awful jerk, a very fortunate circumstance considering that there were over 200 passengers on board.
The real cause of the wreck will never be known except that it is quite well settled that "something broke" the chances being that a switch point broke allowing part of the train to go out on the sidetrack.
The scene which transpired immediately after the crash must have been terrible. The lights in the coaches were extinguished in the twinkling of an eye and as the noise of the clashing wood and steel died away, the moans and shouts of the wounded and frightened passengers could be heard. The engineer was thrown violently to the right of his engine and was pinned to the ground by the end of a car falling on his arm. He dug away the loose sand and freed himself. The fireman was caught between the tender and boiler head so that the escaping steam literally cooked him. He crawled out of the debris and walked to the depot never thinking of himself but calling loudly for "Dad," the engineer. In a short time he died having suffered terrible agony. Stories differ as to the death of Robinson. Some claim he was asleep in his bunk and was killed there.
The passengers were thrown promiscuously about in the coaches and all were more or less bruised but none were seriously injured. They were soon picked up by a train that came down from St. James and took them to their destinations, late but lucky.
The news of the tragedy spread quickly and people flocked to the place from Sibley, Sheldon, Melvin, and other nearby towns. A wrecking crew was soon on the scene and the work was begun on the clearing away the debris. The disordered mails and baggage were picked out in the best possible manner and sent on. The management of the road is making all possible effort to straighten the tangle speedily and in a short time the wreck will be but a sad memory.