A Pair of Train Wrecks

In my search of newspaper archives, I found some curious things regarding my forbearers. Yet nothing has surprised me more than learning that two great-grandfathers were involved in train wrecks that occurred in the 1920s. I discovered these accidents accidentally while searching for something else.

Wreck at Gilmore Junction (1921)

Patrick A O’Malley (1851-1925) was the father of my paternal grandmother. The O’Malley family lived in Atchison, Kansas, in the early 20th century. For nearly 40 years, he worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad as a conductor on the Omaha to Kansas City line.

While searching for his obituary, I came across a news item on page 1 of the March 3, 1921 edition of the Plattsmouth (Nebraska) Journal. It was a story about a train wreck at Gilmore, a small railroad town in Sarpy County, Nebraska, about 30 miles south of Omaha.

On a Sunday morning, a Missouri Pacific passenger train out of Omaha was struck from behind by a Union Pacific train. The UP train, with nine passengers, had left the Omaha union station about two minutes behind the MoP train carrying 28 passengers. Patrick was the conductor on the MoP train.

The accident occurred when the Mop train was waiting at the Gilmore Junction, and the UP train failed to see a MoP flagman signaling. The junction at Gilmore was where the Missouri Pacific trains would enter the old main line of Union Pacific into the Union station at Omaha.

The Union Pacific train crashed into the Missouri Pacific train with enough force to push it 150 feet down the track. Fifteen persons were injured and only one seriously.

The newspaper quoted Patrick as saying, “I was in the tower office to get my orders. My flagman had gone back to protect the rear. I don’t know why the Union Pacific engineer didn’t see the signal.”

Beaver Products Party Car (1926)

Erhardt “Jojo” Kollros (1880-1947) was the father of my maternal grandmother. In the mid-1920s, the Kollros family consisting of my great-grandparents and my maternal grandparents were living in Atlanta, Georgia. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Jojo was an accountant/salesman whose specialty was building materials. In 1926, he was sales manager for the Beaver Products Company of Atlanta, Georgia.

On Wednesday, December 15, 1926, Jojo and about 20 fellow employees of the Beaver Products Company were on board a special car connected to a Big Four passenger train in transit from Cincinnati to Chicago. Their destination was a company sales convention in Chicago.

The accident occurred at the Indianapolis Union station.

About 1 PM, the Big Four train, westbound from Cincinnati, was accidentally switched on to the wrong track and smashed into two empty cars being pushed to a nearby yard by a Pennsylvania switch engine. Of the thirty people who were injured, four were taken to the hospital. The majority of those hurt were on board the special car carrying Jojo and his coworkers.

It is not clear from the story if Jojo was injured.

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