A Brief History
On June 22, 1918, a passenger train carrying US military troops plowed into the rear end of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train that had stopped on the tracks for repairs. Sadly, 86 of the over 250 circus people died and 127 were injured, making the Hammond Circus Train Wreck one of the worst in US railroad history.
The name of the wreck derives from the location, near Hammond, Indiana. The driver of the troop train had fallen asleep and missed at least two warnings about the stopped train ahead. Luckily, the relatively fragile wooden circus cars were partly unoccupied at the time of the wreck, when the oncoming locomotive hit the circus train caboose at 35 mph.
Not only were the wooden circus cars splintered by the steel of the oncoming troop train, the oil lamps used as lighting ignited a fierce fire as well. Fortunately, the circus animals were in cars on a separate train.
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For more information, please see…
Dahlinger, Fred. Trains of the Circus, 1872-1956. Iconografix, Inc, 2000.
Reed, Robert. Train Wrecks: A Pictorial History of Accidents on the Main Line. Schiffer, 1997.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of onlookers surround the wrecked train, is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1928, and if not then due to lack of notice or renewal. See this page for further explanation.
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