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Mansfield Arkansas Head-On Train Collision

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 5 May 1914 [unknown]
Location: Mansfield, Arkansasmap
Surname/tag: Mansfield, Arkansas, May 5 1914, FRISCO, Train Wreck
Profile manager: Jimmy Honey private message [send private message]
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On May 5, 1914, there was a head-on collision between the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway, resulting in the death of two employees. Trains had been moving back and forth on these tracks since about 1887 and the depot had been there for about 15 years with no accidents, but railroading can be a dangerous thing and on this day catastrophe struck.

There was conflicting information as to how events unfolded up to the point of the accident, but later the Safety board would rule both trains were at fault and the accident was avoidable.

The Rock Island train was local freight running between Booneville, Arkansas and Haileyville, Oklahoma. They arrived at 3:55 p.m. and was told to pick up a load of brick from the Frisco transfer. They decoupled from the main line and moved in on the transfer to locate and get the car of brick on the Frisco rail.

Brakeman Cully of the Rock Island said when they reached the switching station it was already lined up indicating the track was occupied and even though he could see smoke ahead, indicating the Frisco track was occupied, he did not warn the Rock Island to stop. Cully continued to walk ahead trying to locate the car they were to pick up. He was about 15 car lengths ahead when he saw the Frisco train. He thought it was not moving so he did not give any signals for the Rock Island train to stop. As he stepped off the track the Rock Island passed him moving about 5 to 6 miles per hour. He signaled the engineman to proceed thinking they had time to get the car before the Frisco train started moving. He said they had done this before, and each train understood to keep a look-out for themselves. Today, though they made a critical error. The Frisco was not stationary and was moving toward them with only a few seconds before impact.

Conductor Matthews of the Frisco line stated they had finished their regular station work and left the station to switch in the yard and proceed eastward pushing an automobile car ahead of the engine. There view was completely obstructed due to pushing an automobile car, a curve in the track, and trees that blocked their view of any on-coming trains. Conductor Matthews on the Frisco train was riding the caboose when he heard someone call, he then saw the locomotive about 30 feet ahead and jumped off the train running toward the head end of his train. He then heard a whistle and both trains collided after about 30 seconds.

Conductor Matthews told investigators he had no previous notice the Rock Island was using the track and while Mansfield depot was a joint yard, he did not think the Rock Island had any business occupying the track. To his recollection, he had never saw a Rock Island train on the track. Although, all the blame could not be put on the Rock Island as Matthews said, when his train backed up and switched to the main line, it showed red indicating it was occupied. Despite the warning and obstructed view, they continued to move onto the line without a flagman walking ahead to warn them of what was around the corner. Both trains collided and two Frisco employees Thomas Howell (30) brakeman and Ira Scott (35) flagman were killed in the collision. The investigation board found both trains were at fault for not taking the necessary precautions to protect their trains in the switching yard. Had either one of them heeded the warning signs this accident could have been prevented.


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