Railroad Remniscenes of Clay County, Indiana Page 1
From: A History of Clay County, Indiana
By: William Travis (of Middlebury)
The Lewis Publishing Company
New York - Chicago 1909

These came from a section of the history of Clay County, Indiana with 400 Remniscences. The ones dealing with the railroads are separated here. Many more Railroad Remniscenes will be added to this as I go throu the 400 in the book.

Fast Time on the Vandalia Railroad.

The Indianapolis Journal, at some time in the month of May, 1869, made note of the fact that there was then running on the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad one passenger train which made the trip between the Capital City and the Prairie City in two hours and five minutes, making four stops on the way, adding that this was the fastest time made by any regularly scheduled train in the state of Indiana. Nine years later, Monday, November 17, 1878, William Morgan, a passenger engineer on the Vandalia Railroad, took his train through from Indianapolis to Terre Haute in one hour and thirty minutes, including eight, stops of three minutes each, which consumed twenty-four minutes of the time, covering the intervening seventy-three miles in sixty-six minutes. This was the fastest run ever made on this road up to that time. The run made in 1869, counting out twelve minutes for the four stops, was at the rate of a mile in a minute and a half, while that of 1878 was at the rate of more than a mile per minute. All former records were again broken February I, 1907, when the St. Louis Limited ran from Indianapolis to Terre Haute in seventy-five minutes, observing five slow orders and counting the time for getting under way and slowing up at the respective terminals. The distance being seventy-three miles, the speed on this run equalled a mile and a quarter per minute.

On Wednesday, March 5, 1879, in charge of his train, Engineer Morgan was caught and killed in a wreck near St. Louis. William Morgan was a native of Clay county, son of John T. Morgan, now a resident of Harmony, formerly of Morgan's Crossing.

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The Terre Haute & Indianapolis and the Evansville & Indianapolis Railroads.

The railroad from. Terre Haute to Indianapolis by way of Staunton, Brazil, Knightsville and Harmony, which was the first to cross Clay county territory, is known to the public by three different names-the Terre Haute & Richmond, the Terre Haute & Indianapolis, and the Vandalia. While this triplicate naming does not give rise, practically, to any inconvenience, it does admit of explanation, to clear up possible confusion. This line of road was originally chartered as the Terre Haute & Richmond by an act of the legislature, January 27, 1847, to cross the state from Terre Haute to Richmond. The company incorporated proceeded to construct the west end-between Terre Haute and Indianapolis -but nothing was done on the east end. In February, 1851, a meeting was held by the directors of the road, at Centerville, when it was agreed that the road as originally projected should be divided, the west end to be known as the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad and the east end as the Central Indiana Railroad, the former to be the legal successor to the Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad and to own the line then being constructed and completed between Terre Haute and Indianapolis. From this voluntary procedure on the part of the company as originally incorporated it is clearly seen that there is not now, nor, in fact, has there been since 1851, any such railroad as the Terre Haute & Richmond, neither in operation nor construction, in the state of Indiana. Correctly speaking, then, this line of railroad is the Terre Haute & Indianapolis. But it is also properly named the Vandalia, for the reason that it is a part of the combined system known by this name, just as the Indianapolis & St. Louisa (I. & St. L.), crossing the county by way of Carbon, is known as the Big Four, it being an integral part of that gigantic system of which the four cities, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis, are the centers of transportation and traffic.

Briefly, but more specifically, the Vandalia Railroad line is so named from its crossing Illinois by way of Vandalia, the former capital of the state. The name (meaning the place or home of the vandals) was conferred by the commissioners selected to locate the site on the removal of the seat of government from Kaskaskia, in 1837. The population of Vandalia at that time being uncouth and uncultivated as well as indisposed. apparently, to make any effort to better their condition intellectually, out of allusion to the vandals of Europe of the fifteenth century, who were the enemies of the arts and sciences, the works and fruits of which they sought indiscriminately to desecrate and destroy, it was given its name.

The E. & I. (Evansville & Indianapolis) Railroad, crossing. the county by way of Clay City, Saline City and Cory, would seem to be misnamed, as its northern terminus is Terre Haute, and not Indianapolis. But it was originally projected as the Evansville & Indianapolis Short Line, the most direct connection between the Ohio river city and the state capital, and as such, constructed and operated as far as Petersburg, Pike county, when from lack of funds, or other cause, work was suspended. Just at that time, William B. Tnell, of Terre Haute, was operating the Cincinnati & Terre Haute line, of which Clay City was then the terminal, where construction had been suspended, presumably from the exhaustion of available capital. By mutual arrangement between promoter Hervey, the projector of the Indianapolis line, and Tuell, both roads were extended in the year 1879 to Worthington, closing up the gap of seventy-one miles between Petersburg and Clay City, making a continuous and connecting line between Evansville & Terre Haute. The name under which the Hervey line had been incorporated continued to be applied to this road, notwithstanding the seeming inappropriateness, as to have named it the Evansville & Terre Haute would have duplicated the title of a road which had for many years been operated as the connection between these terminal cities.

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First Wreck and Fatal Accident on the Branch Railroad.

Railroad service on the Brazil branch of the Evansville & Indianapolis line, between Clay City and Brazil, was established in the fall of 1887, when the passenger run northward was made at an early hour in the morning and the return trip southward at a late hour in the evening. For some months after the going into effect of this service the terminal delivery at Brazil was made at the Vandalia station, until connection was made direct between the South branch and the Chicago road, by the crossing of the Tandalia tracks, when the delivery from the south was made at the west Main street station. The sunning of the train was then in charge of Conductor "Dad" Deer, Engineer William Yelton, and Fireman Clark Leedham. On Friday evening, the 11th of November, of the year already named, having gone out from the Vandalia station on the usual time, with thirteen persons aboard (including the operating crew), running at the rate of eighteen or twenty miles an hour, the train was derailed and thrown down an embankment, two and a half miles south of Brazil, at the flag station known as "Stave Track." The weather was cool and dry. In 'the front end of the coach, near by the red-hot stove, stood a can of several gallons of oil in transit, the contents of which were ignited by the upsetting of the stove, the can being in close proximity, and the flames were at once communicated to the coach, which burned like tinder and was soon enveloped, the flames flashing rapidly toward the rear end. In the precipitation, the coach lying upon its side, the back door had been so wrenched that it could not be opened. Frantic from the situation confronting them, several of the passengers broke out one or more windows overhead and made their escape in that way, while several others, by vigorous kicking and other means, broke down the door, all aboard of the coach escaping with their lives, several of them slightly injured by scratches, bruises and sprains. Within less than fifteen minutes after the coach was vacated all its combustible parts were consumed, only the iron-ribbed skeleton left.

It was then dark, and on lining up the number aboard on leaving Brazil Engineer Yelton was missing, which could be accounted for only on the presumption that he had been caught and crushed under the cab of the engine. A messenger was dispatched to Brazil to wire headquarters at Evansville for relief, when the Vandalia dispatched a local to the scene of the disaster. Meanwhile, by the use of an axe and a grubbing-hoe, procured from a nearby farm house, the cab was broken into parts and the lifeless body of the engineer found, both scalded and crushed. In the crash an iron stay-rod had been broken and one end forced through his thigh, pinning him completely to the ground, so that, to remove the body, an excavation had to be made under the heavy frame-work to afford the space for extricating it by forcing it downward. As told by the fireman, who was badly but not fatally scalded, both he and the engineer had jumped from the cab in the hope of saving their lives.

The whole party, with the body of the engineer, were taken back to Brazil, when Coroner Samuel Slavens, of Staunton, was summoned and an inquest held before the hour of midnight. About one o'clock a. in. another Evansville & Indianapolis crew arrived from Terre Haute by way of Saline City with engine and coach and took the passengers to their respective destinations. The only lady passenger in the party was Miss Lola Moss, of Center Point, then a teacher in the Brazil public schools, who lost her jewelry, including a gold watch, in a small mahogany casket, which, in the confusion, thinking only of her personal safety, she had neglected to take up and carry out with her. She afterward recovered value from the company.

The derailment was due to an open switch, but how the switch came to be open was a mystery never cleared up. It had not been thrown by any of the train crew, as it was not then being used. The current and popular report in explanation was that a mule pasturing in the woods alongside the road, just then crossing the track, was struck by the pilot and forced up against the switch bar, throwing open the switch. After the contact, having no bones broken, the mule got up and roamed leisurely about the pasture grounds as usual, and continued to serve its master in harness just as before this experience. In verification of this solution as to the cause of the disaster, the fact (as claimed) was cited that on the day following hair was found on the track at this point corresponding in color and fiber with that of the mule.

Among the passengers aboard were John W. White, Zaccheus Wills, William Travis and ____ King, of Clay City, and William Grayson, of Saline City, of whom White and Grayson collected damages from the company for injuries sustained.

More will be added when I get to them.


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