The three pictures on this page and the picture on the right were taken after the May 30, 1944 train collision in Aspinwall. Railroad cars were strewn like match sticks along the track after the two engines collided near the stockyards in the heart of town.
TWO ENGINES COLLIDE
A collision involving two engines occurred May 30, 1944, with the screeching sounds of the wheels heard as far as Manning. The accident was caused when a west bound freight train ran through an open switch and crashed into an engine loading livestock on the siding. The approaching freight had been signaled but it was coming too fast and was carrying too great a load to stop.
The accident happened at 8 a.m. on Decoration Day. Louie Ehrichs was pumping water for his cow and saw the collision; the westbound train "went right down into the stockyards and hit the other engine, knocking it over," his widow Clara recalls. The second engine was backing to connect with the loaded stock cars, and therefore only its engine was involved; 17 cars on the other train were derailed. Five carloads of coal were piled into one huge heap, and a carload of syrup was smashed and dripping. The caboose was also badly damaged.
Louie and Clara Ehrichs ran down the hill to the tracks and crawled under a railroad car to the other side. Both engines were tilted to the side, puffing away. The east-bound engine, said to be the largest owned by the Milwaukee, had its rear end sunk deep into the ground and the rails were scattered in all directions.
The big engine reminded Clarence Stammer of an old sow stuck in a mud hole: the engine kept chugging as the rear dug lower and lower into the ground. A special train was sent from Milwaukee to help pull the engine free; it took six men to carry the 20 to 24 foot long cable which was used to reel the engine upright.
Someone finally came and shut off the power of the engine. Only three men had been injured, one when he jumped from the engine into a barbed wire fence. Another had apparently seen the approaching danger and jumped out at the section house.
Lucille Lamp Boell, her father Hubert, and sisters had just finished milking and were ready to go into the house for breakfast when they heard the terrible crash at their farm a mile north of town. They hung the milk pails on nails and immediately drove into Aspinwall.
The engineer was sitting on the ground by the wreck. "He was holding one hand with his other hand, still wearing his leather gloves,"
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Lucille said. "His wrist was broken and bones extended from his arm."
The three injured men were from Perry and were taken by ambulance there.
Goldie and John Meeves, who lived northeast of the underpass, also heard the collision and came to see if they could help. "One car lay to the right of the tracks, the next to the left," Goldie said. "The engines were wedged in next to the elevator, and it's a wonder no buildings were hit."
The main line was not damaged, as the crash occurred entirely on the side track. Wrecking crews began to clear up the next day, and for the most part of the next week, most of the people around Aspinwall forgot their work at home as they watched the clean-up crews. A number of local men helped out, including Henry Jansen, who furnished a team of mules.
ODDS AND ENDS
John Schwiesow used to have the dray wagon, and would haul the mail from the depot to the post office uptown. We kids were thrilled to get to help.
Gertrude (Schroeder) Mork
ODDS AND ENDS
RAILROAD SECTION EMPLOYEES January 1, 1931, Section No. 61, Aspinwall:
Andrew Babik, began March 1, 1907
Harry Schroeder, began November 1, 1918
Hans Clausen, began April 6, 1924
Harry Kruetzfeldt, began April 1, 1925
John Schilling, began June 1, 1929
Harry Jansen, began August 6, 1929
The Western Iowa Division has 14 sections with a total of 53 laborers. Only the Perry Yard, with 10 employees, has more than Aspinwall's seven workers; there are five at Manilla; four at Herndon, Bagley, and Coon Rapids' section 57; three at Jamaica, Bayard, and Manning; and two at Dawson, Coon Rapids' section 56, Dedham, Templeton, and Defiance. -- Information provided by John Babik, Omaha
ODDS AND ENDS
"Esther Jahn and her children, my children Lowell and Judy, and I would board the train in the late 1940s at Manilla and travel to Maquoketa, Iowa, to visit our sister Florence Flenker and her family. At that time the seats faced each other instead of all facing in one direction. We would leave Manilla at 11 p.m. and arrive at Maquoketa at 6 a.m.
Esther and I also took the train to Coon Rapids to visit the
Lund family; Edith and Erna had been classmates of
ours when Mr. Lund was a cream station operator in Aspinwall. For those train
rides, we boarded at Aspinwall."
Alma E. Schroeder
KILLED IN TRUCK-TRAIN MISHAP
Two young men who lived north of Aspinwall were killed March 10, 1948, when the truck they were riding in was struck by an eastbound Milwaukee freight train. The driver of the truck, George Justice of Botna, was dazed but able to walk from the scene of the accident to call for help at the elevator.
Killed were Glenn and Lowell Weller, 19 and 17 year old sons of Ed and Hilda Weller. The boys had accompanied Mr. Justice in hauling a load of baled hay from farmland north of Manilla to the Aspinwall elevator, and they had just finished weighing it and started up the incline to the Milwaukee crossing when the accident occurred. The boys were thrown from the window of the cab and were killed instantly.
The cab of the truck had been almost clear of the track before the engine struck it; the cab remained upright, while the truck box was torn from the chassis and demolished. Hay was spread over the track for a considerable distance, and the trucks of one of the freight cars were thrown off the track.
Lowell was twin to Loren Weller, who now farms the home place four miles north of Aspinwall. The parents, Ed and Hilda, were both killed June 23, 1968, in an auto accident.