Friday, July 14, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: July 14

July 14, 1912 – The Oriental Limited, the Great Northern coast train, was wrecked between Ashby and Melby, Minn., 75 miles east of Fargo, at 1:45 this afternoon. Fireman Campbell, aged 35, of Melrose, Minn., was killed instantly, crushed by the tender, as he attempted to jump from his engine.

Railroad Map; Ashby and Melby in Upper Left Corner1

As the train rounded a sharp curve, flanked on one hand by a high bank and by a deep swamp and a 30-foot embankment on the other, the engine left the track. It was half buried in the steep wall of earth. The train was travelling at a good rate of speed and two day coaches, the smoker, a diner, two Pullmans, and a baggage car plunged over the embankment straight ahead and landed in a swamp 30 feet below.

Passengers were uninjured by the fall, aside from minor bruises and cuts. The force of the fall was reduced to practically nothing by the water and mud of the swamp. Men and women scrambled through the coach doors and windows and waded to safety through mud and water.

Shortly after the coaches landed in the swamp one of the acetylene tanks exploded and the gas caught fire, spreading to the coaches. The flames spread to the other coaches that had landed in the swamp. Passengers and crew fought the flames while standing knee deep in the mud and water. All of the five coaches and the baggage car were entirely destroyed by the flames. Men rescued as much baggage as possible from the burning coaches.

Three coaches remained on the track: the parlor car and two Pullmans. These cars collided with the engine tender, but were not damaged. Occupants of these coaches gave aid to those who were thrown into the swamp.

A terrific wind and rain storm swept the country near Ashby earlier this afternoon. Telegraph and telephone lines were put out of commission. In many places portions of the roadbed were washed away. Slippery rails are held accountable for the wreck by officials. Two heavy freight trains were run over the main track just before the Oriental Limited was due and officials say these trains may have damaged the roadbed already weakened by excessive rains.

The Bemidji Daily Pioneer; “Oriental Limited in Ditch”; July 15, 1912; pp. 1 & 4.


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