December 29 will mark the 140th anniversary of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway's 1876 Ashtabula River Bridge collapse, known in some historical accounts as 'The Ashtabula Horror'. Nearly 100 people perished that frigid night, making it the highest-fatality railway accident in the country, a grim record that stood clear up into time of WWI.
The story of the crushing destruction of a luxury passenger train and its ensuing consumption by fire revolves around the failure of the wrought iron bridge over the frozen river, which caused The Pacific Express and its wooden cars to plunge 70 feet into the gorge and onto the ice-covered stream during a raging blizzard...just a mere 100 yards from making a station stop at Ashtabula. Every metal bridge built anywhere, thereafter, and the science of Metallurgy, itself, would be forever influenced by lessons coming from the investigations and inquests following this northeast Ohio tragedy. A massive earthen fill and masonry arches now carry CSX Transportation's Boston - Chicago main line over the site.
I am not aware of any official memorial on Thursday to mark the occasion...
By Nathan Clark