Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crush, Texas

Crush, Texas was a temporary "city" established as a one-day publicity stunt in 1896. William George Crush, general passenger agent of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad known as the Katy Railroad, conceived the idea to demonstrate a train wreck as a spectacle, featuring two locomotives intentionally set to a head-on collision. Meant to be a family fun event with food, games and entertainment, the Crash turned deadly when both boilers exploded simultaneously, sending metal flying in the air.

Two wells were drilled at the site, 3 miles south of the town of West, Texas in McLennan County. Circus tents from Ringling Brothers were erected as well as a grandstand.The train engines were painted bright green and bright red , and a special track was built alongside the main track so that there was no chance a runaway train could get onto the main line. The trains toured the state for months in advance, advertising the event. As a result about 40,000 people showed up on September 15, 1896 making the new town of Crush, Texas the second largest city in the state.

About 4:00 pm on September 15, 1896 the two trains rolled back to opposite ends of a four mile track. The engineers and crew opened the steam to a prearranged setting, rode for exactly 4 turns of the drive wheels, and jumped from the trains. The trains each reached a speed of about 45 mph by the time they met very near the anticipated spot.

The impact caused both engine boilers to explode and debris, some pieces as large as half a drive-wheel, was blown hundreds of feet into the air. Some of the debris came down among the spectators killing two and injuring several more.

Mr. Crush was immediately fired from the Katy railroad. However, in light of a lack of negative publicity, he was rehired the next day. Ragtime composer Scott Joplin wrote a piano piece The Great Crush Collision to commemorate the event.

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