North Carolina-Train Wreck-December 24


North Carolina People, Places, and Things-December 24

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special. Everyday this year I am doing a post on what I have learned new.

In 1943 the deadliest train accident in the State of North Carolina occurred in Robeson County.

train-wreck

On December 16, 1943 seventy-two people, including 52 servicemen bound for home for the holidays, lost their lives in the train wreck that occurred near the N.C. 211 overhead bridge on the rail line between Buie and Rennert in Robeson County. Almost as many people, 70, were hurt.

The accident happened about 35 minutes after three cars of the southbound Tamiami West Coast Champion derailed after running across a split rail. This was shortly after the train had passed through Rennert. A dining car and two Pullman sleepers were left tilting, with the first of the derailed cars leaning over the tracks at an angle of about 45 degrees.

the_champion_atlantic_coast_line_1941

Once repair efforts began on the Tamiami West, the conductor sent the fireman down the track to flag oncoming trains.  As he walked along the track, he slipped in the snow and fell, damaging his fusee, or colored flare, so that it wouldn’t work.

Efforts to stop a northbound Tamiami East Coast Champion train failed. As that diesel-hauled train passed the railwayman, the crew was unaware of the danger that lay ahead.The East Coast Champion plowed into its southbound cousin at a speed in excess of 85 mph, hurling hundreds of men, women and children into the wreckage. Both trains carried from 16 to 18 cars apiece and a heavy load of passengers in both sleeping cars and coaches.

What really brings this wreck close to home is many of the injured were brought to a location one block from my home.

baker_sanatorium_lumberton_nc_from_s_1

Lumberton’s Baker Sanatorium shown above, the closest hospital to the crash, was quickly overrun with the injured. Horace Baker, who was a medical school student at Duke University, came home to help his father, hospital director H.M. Baker.

One of my neighbors today is Ruth Ann McLellan who was related to the hospital director and medical student. Those two were her grandfather and father.

 

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