Wreck of the Memphis Special

Roanoke World News, Volume 31, Number 27, 31 January 1918, pg. 1


Most Serious Wreck Norfolk and Western Has Experienced for Years Occurred Last Night When Extra Freight Plows Into Memphis Special, Wrecking Three Engines -- Two of Dead men Lived in Roanoke--Four Other Employees Injured, But No Passengers Are Hurt--Bodies of Victims Brought Here This Morning--Track Cleared By 10 o'Clock

Memphis Special, Norfolk and Western passenger train, No. 26, collided last night at 10:30 with freight train, extra No. 1461, about one and a half miles east of Dublin, resulting in the instant death of four men and the injury of four others.

The dead:
J. H. Smith, Bristol, engineer on the Memphis Special.
C. A. Jacobson, Roanoke, engineer on the freight train.
H. C. Hoyle, Washington, D. C., fireman on the freight train.
Elbert Taylor, colored, Bristol, brakeman on the freight train.

The injured:
M. Ferre, of Roanoke, fireman on the Memphis Special, ankle dislocated.
Robert Mason, of Bristol, engineer on second engine of Memphis Special, toes mashed.
Fireman Boling, of Melburn, Va., on second engine of Memphis Special, scalded.
Frank Marvell, of New York, expressman, shocked.

The full report of the wreck, received this morning by General Manager Jenks, of the Norfolk and Western, showed that no passenger was injured.

Rescuers Arrive Early.

Wreck trains were rushed from Radford and Roanoke to the scene of the disaster immediately after news of the collision was flashed over the wires. These trains arrived at the wreckage about 11 o'clock last night, and the men set to work at once removing the debris and searching for the wounded and dead buried beneath the tangled mass of iron and steel. The freight engine and the front passenger engine had reared up by the force of the impact and had rolled off the track and down an embankment about twelve feet high. The body of Engineer Smith was found mangled and scalded until it was hardly recognizable, lying near the heap of smoking ruins. He had been severely scalded and nearly every bone in his body had been broken. H. C. Hoyle's body was found under the wreckage, and in the dim lantern light it was some time before it could be recognized. After a long search the bodies of Engineer Jacobson and the colored brakeman, Taylor, were discovered buried among the ruins.

No Passengers Hurt.

None of the passenger cars were derailed, but the express car and the second engine of the Memphis Special were off the track, the engine hanging over the embankment and the express car turned nearly at a right angle to the track. Frank Marvell, expressman, had been caught in one side of the express car and it was necessary to cut a passage way in order to extricate him from the car. None of the passengers were injured, but hundreds were thrown into a wild panic by the shock of the collision and had scrambled out of their berths and were out of the cars in a few moments after the collision.

A relief train, carrying several physicians and medical supplies, was dispatched from Roanoke a few minutes after the wreck train had been called out. The bodies of H. C. Hoyle, C. A. Jacobson, and the colored brakeman, Taylor, were brought to Roanoke on the relief train this morning and turned over to Undertaker Oakey. The body of Engineer Smith was taken to Pulaski. The injured men, with the exception of M. Ferrell, whose home is in Roanoke, were also rushed to Pulaski and are now in the hospital at that place.

Orders Went Astray.

The cause of the collision, as given in the official report received by the general manager this morning, is briefly told as follows: The Memphis Special, or No. 26, had orders to run five hours and forty minutes late. It was due by Melburn, which is between Dublin and East Radford, at 10:02 p. m. The conductor of freight train extra, 146, west-bound, overlooked the fact that the Memphis Special was coming east on the same track on which the freight train was going west and the operator at East Radford failed to give the freight conductor the order relative to the time on which No. 26 was running. The result was that about a mile and a half east of Dublin, the passenger train, running at about thirty miles an hour, collided head-on with the freight extra, running at about twelve miles an hour. If the two trains had been running at higher rates of speed, it is said that the passenger cars would have been knocked off the track by the force of impact when the two engines collided. This would probably have resulted in hundreds of lives being lost.

Traffic on the Memphis Special has been exceedingly heavy for several months and last night every berth on the train was occupied.

Track Cleared This Morning.

The work of clearing the main track of wreckage progressed rapidly after the bodies of the trainmen had been found. Shrouded in midnight darkness and guided only by lantern light and torches, the crews of the wreck trains worked with all possible swiftness. The snow and sleet hindered the men to a great extent, but at dawn the work took on new life and the pile of ruins began to disappear from the track. Not until about 10 o'clock this morning, however, was the way cleared so as to permit the passage of the passenger train. Two engines, dispatched from Roanoke early this morning, were attached to the ill-fated train and brought No. 26 into Roanoke, arriving here at 12 25 noon.

Passengers Tell Experiences.

When the passengers detrained at the Norfolk and Western station it was quite obvious to a bystander that they would never forget their experiences of last night. Some were trying hard to smile but the majority appeared to be extremely nervous. One of the passengers said that when the trains collided he was thrown completely out of his berth by the impact. Another told how he was suddenly awakened by what he thought was in earthquake, and, upon sitting up, discovered that the covers of his berth were littered with broken glass. Many window panes in the sleeping cars were broken and glass showered over the berths for several moments after the collision. Several

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women passengers were severely shocked and had not completely recovered their composure when they detrained at the station this morning.

Victims Well Known.

Mr. Smith was one of the best known engineers on the Norfolk and Western. He had been an engineer for a number of years and his long and efficient service had attained for him one of the choice runs of the road. His home was in Bristol, where his family resides. Mrs. W. F. Taylor, who lives at 307 Ninth street, s. w., is a daughter of the dead man. He was 50 years of age. Engineer Jacobson was one of the youngest men on the road. having been promoted only a few month's ago. He made his home in Roanoke at 1415 Salem avenue. He was about 26 years old and is survived by his widow. They were married only a few months and made their home here. Mr. Hoyle was 26 years old and was single. He moved to Roanoke several months ago.

The engineers were members of the Brotherhood of Railway Engineers. Officers and members of that organization in Roanoke received the shocking news of the tragedy with marked evidence of distress and spoke in high terms of the character of the men who were victims of the disaster.

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