Newly Found Photos Show 1945 Erie Train Crash
Sometimes, an amazing piece of history happens but eventually it is forgotten over time. That might have been the case about a major train wreck in Erie that occurred in 1945. Fortunately, some photographs were found that brings us back to that particular day in the city's history.
The photographs were found in a storage room at the Conneaut Railroad Museum in Conneaut, Ohio. The main subject of the pictures is a majestic locomotive that is on display every day at the museum grounds. It’s the Nickle Plate Railroad Steam Engine #755.
The 755 was in Erie, heading west, pulling some freight cars, on April 3, 1945. Surprisingly, the rear of another train came into view. That train, making local deliveries, was pulling out of a side track near Downing Avenue by mistake.
"It just happened that that train was there just about the wrong time,” says Jeff Morrell, President of the Conneaut Railroad Museum.
The big 755 locomotive crashed into the train. The impact caused the locomotive to roll onto its side. The locomotive weighed 400 tons, including 22 tons of coal, a ton of sand, and 22,000 gallons of water. Five of its freight cars also derailed.
"Once it's off the track, it's forward momentum because it's probably doing 60 miles an hour. So that's a lot of momentum to try to stop on a dime. You can't do it,” says Morrell.
You can easily imagine the impact of the crash by the looking at the photographs. You can almost sense what it was like to see that huge locomotive fall on its side. There's cramped quarters inside the 755, but, according to reports in the Erie and Conneaut newspapers, no one on board was seriously injured. The reports said three freight cars on the other train also derailed. Fortunately, no one on that train was seriously injured when it was struck by the 755. Morrell explains why.
"I'm sure that the trainmen that were riding on the local, probably in the caboose, saw it and saw it soon enough. They actually jumped off and they were not hurt,” he said.
The locomotive was in service for only 8 months when the wreck occurred. $20,000 in damages were incurred by the locomotive. That amount would be over $300,000 in today’s economy. Large cranes were brought in to lift the 755 back onto the track. The spectacle of the massive locomotive on its side brought many Erie citizens to the scene just to take a look. Now everyone can take a look.. thanks to the newly found photographs.
You can see the big 755 locomotive for yourself by visiting the Conneaut Railroad Museum. It is located on Depot Street in Conneaut. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. It closes for the season on Labor Day.