Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster

The Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster (also called the Ashtabula Horror or the Ashtabula Bridge Disaster) was a derailment caused by the failure of a bridge over the Ashtabula River about 1,000 feet (300 m) from the railroad station at Ashtabula, in far northeastern Ohio. On December 29, 1876, at about 7:30 pm, two locomotives hauling 11 railcars of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway carrying 159 passengers plunged in to the river in deep snow when the bridge gave way beneath them. The wooden cars were set alight by their heating stoves, but no attempt was made to extinguish the fire. The accident killed ninety-two people, including the gospel singer and hymn-writer Philip Bliss and his wife, and was the worst rail accident in the U.S. until the Great Train Wreck of 1918.

The coroner's report found that the bridge, designed by the railroad company president, had been improperly designed and inadequately inspected. As a result of the accident a hospital was built in the town and a federal system setup to formally investigate fatal railroad accidents.

Read more about Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster:  Bridge Collapse and Fire, Aftermath, Investigations, Legacy

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