Rare grouping of 18 original 8” x 10 photographs of scenes of the wreck of the Walter L.Main’s Monster shows near Tyrone,Pa. on May 30th 1893. These photographs came from The Bruce Studio at 1263 Penna Avenue in Tyrone. This wreck is perhaps the worst tragedy in Circus history.
Here is an account of what occurred: The Tyrone Wreck The engineer of Walter L. Main's Circus train lost his grip on the locomotive when going down the mountain on the Tyrone & Clearfield Railroad Tuesday morning, May 30, 1893, about 5:30 o'clock, and there was a wild ride at flying speed, and then nineteen cars filled with people and animals from all parts of the world leaped from the tracks and were crushed to splinters. Five men were dead and a dozen more badly injured. Lions, tigers, leopards, elephants and beasts from African jungles and Indian plains bellowed, roared, screamed, and either lay helpless with shattered limbs or sprang forth to liberty. Forty-nine horses were killed, others wounded groaned piteously and suffering men cried for help. One lion, a tiger and a panther are still roaming about in the forests. The following persons were killed outright: William Henry, brakeman, of Tyrone; Frank Train, of Indianapolis, Ind.; William Multainy, of Geneva, Ohio; James Strayer, of Houtzdale; Charles Lock, of Newport, Ky. The following persons were injured, several of them so terribly they cannot recover: Willie Brannon, the cook, still alive, but in a critical condition; Louis Champaign, Rochester, N.Y., hurt internally, unconscious and cannot live; John Chambers, colored, Chambersburg, bitten severely by lion; Willis O'Brannan, Chambersburg, wound of scalp; Arthur Richards, of Peachville, wounded about the face; George Corten, of Hollidaysburg, contusion of chest; Frank Barnett, of Tarentum, contusion left arm; David Jones, of Harrisburg, sprained right leg; Frank Morse, of Rochester, N.Y., wounded about the head; William Evans, of Williamstown, right ankle injured; William Patchel, DuBois, contusion of left knee; James Haney, Alberton, badly injured about the body; William Jenks, keeper, left knee-cap torn off by lion. (The Engineer Was Powerless) Main's Circus was going from Houtzdale to Lewistown, and set out in a train composed of three passenger coaches and nineteen circus cars. The route lay over the Tyrone & Clearfield branch of Pennsylvania Railroad, and when descending the steep grade near Vail Station, five miles north of Tyrone, the engineer became powerless to abate the train's rapidly-increasing speed. At the station the train was going at a forty-mile-an-hour gait and jumped the track, owing to a broken axle. The locomotive and passenger coaches remained on the rails. Many of the men slept in the cars under the wagons containing the animals. Sixteen animal cages, along the cars, were flattened into small pieces, and pandemonium reigned. The dead and wounded people were taken from the wreck and the latter were removed to the hospital. When the wild beasts were freed a strange spectacle was witnessed. The head of one of the elephants was fastened down by one of the cars. As soon as released the huge beast struggled to his feet, shaking off the heavy timbers like straw, plowed through the balance of the wreck to freedom, seemingly happy of his escape. One of the tigers got out, and immediately began looking around to see what he could devour. He pounced upon the sacred ox, which had been badly wounded and tore it frightfully, killing it. The untamed monster started out in the country, looking for new fields. (Terrifies A Farmer's Wife) He came to the farm-yard of Alfred Thomas, where a woman was milking a cow. The woman left suddenly and the tiger sprang upon the cow and killed her. He was devouring his quivering meal, when the farmer appeared with his rifle and shot the tiger. Pleased with his royal sport, Farmer Thomas shouldered his rifle and started in pursuit of a panther that he knew was cavorting on the mountain-side. He failed to find the wily forest cat, and it is still at large. One lion is roaming the woods, but the other lion was captured easily by its trainer. He first cowed it, and then tied a rope around its neck and secured it to a log, where it has been quietly lying all day, viewing the turbulent scene below. Keeper Jenks was endeavoring to subdue a king of the forest, when the ferocious king seized the keeper and tore off his kneecap. All the animals that were saved roamed around loose, seemingly content with their freedom, and not caring to abuse it by running off. The water buffalo, two camels, a dromedary, two elephants, a zebra, yak, hyena and many small animals from different parts of the world did not wander far from the wreck, although unrestrained. Many of the smaller animals were not injured, though their cages were crushed about them. None of them seemed at all nervous or excited, but browsed contentedly or wallowed in the creek nearby as through it was an every-day occurrence. (A Famous Horse Badly Injured ) A great many monkeys escaped chattering to the trees, where they looked down in wonderment, but were soon calmed by sweetmeats and tied. The dying groans of some of the trained horses were piteous. Most of them were pulled out only to be shot, the limbs being broken or otherwise fatally injured. Five horses, pure white with pink nostrils, all elegant performers, representing years of patience and teaching, had to be slain. "Flake," the famous fire-jumping horse, and leader of the trained horses, was badly wounded. He lay carefully bedded and covered by an awning, breathing heavily. Every once in awhile he made an effort to rise, when the attendant would place his hand on the horse's head and it would lay back again. The alligators were stretched on the ground as if dead, but a rub along the nose with a stick would show them wide awake. Treasurer Train resigned Saturday, May 27, but was asked to continue until the show reached Lewistown, May 30. He always slept in the wagon, and was the first person looked after. He was still alive but pinned down, and the men worked faithfully to release him. He died before taken out. He was well known among circus people. All the wrecked cars are a total loss. The proprietor's money loss in the smash up is placed at $150,000. Engine No. 1500 was selected to draw the circus train. Stephen Croswell, engineer and Harvey Meese, fireman. When Osceola was reached, in order to make the ascent of the mountain, another engine in charge of Engineer Reeder, was attached as a pusher. The ascent was made in safety. When the summit was reached, and the pusher left the train on its trip down the mountain, it is reported that the train containing its charge of human lives, and stock and equipment to the value of $200,000, seemed to shoot right off, and someone then remarked that it would be a miracle if it was not wrecked before Vail was reached. The train rounded the dozen or more short curves, including the one at the big fill, at a high rate of speed, and when it passed Gardner's one who was on it informed the author that it was going so fast that it would have been impossible to count the telegraph poles, that the train seemed to be literally flying down the mountain. A mile or two below Gardner's there is a reverse curve, and then follows a mile of straight track to Vail. It was at the Tyrone end of the reverse curve where the appalling and fearful accident occurred. (The Rails Spread) Just what occasioned it an investigation will likely prove. There seems to be no doubt that the train ran away and was beyond the power of the engineer to control. Whether the brakes would not hold, or whether the fault was not in furnishing another engine, remains to be determined. One report has it that a wheel on the tender bursted, but a gentleman who has constructed many miles of railway informed the author, after a carefully examining the wreck, that it was caused by the rails spreading; that the fast running of the train, when the engine left the curve, and struck the straight track, did so with such force as to cause the rails to spread, leaving the tender to drop on the ties, thereby bringing about the disaster which followed. The engine remained on the track, but following the tender, over the 15 or 20 feet embankment on the left-hand side of the road going towards Tyrone, in the twinkling of an eye came every car in the train, except the four coaches, which were in the rear.
(Six People Killed) Four persons were instantly killed. These were William Ebberly, head brakeman, of Tyrone; William Mutterly, showman, of East Liberty, and two other show attachees, names unknown. Frank Train, the treasurer of the company, occupied his usual place in his ticket wagon, which was on a car near the center of the train. He was buried beneath a mass of wreckage, and it was two hours before he could be reached. At times he would urge his rescuers to hurry if they wanted to get him out alive. He died just as he was being conveyed from the wreck. James Strayer, son of the widow Strayer, of Houtzdale, lived an hour after the accident occurred. He was thrown to the open ground where he was found. He and John E. Eddings, also of Houtzdale, had obtained permission to ride to Lewistown. Eddings says that when he and Strayer found the train running so fast, and the wagon on which they were seated vibrated so fearfully, they scrambled down from the seat and prostrated themselves flat on the canvas. A moment after the car left the track, and the next he knew he was on the ground, so close to Strayer that he could touch him. He says Strayer was able to speak but did not know anything and died in about an hour. Eddings' face was scratched and he complained of a slight sickness of the stomach, but was otherwise uninjured. He returned to his home by the first train, the train that carried the corpse of his companion back to Houtzdale. Those injured seriously enough to require medical attention were sent to the Altoona hospital. They numbered eleven. Names and addresses as follows: Frank Barnett, Tarentum; George Corton, Hollidaysburg; John Chambers, colored, Mercersburg; Louis Champaign, Rochester, N.Y., fatally injured; James W. Harry, Alberton; William Eavans, Williamstown, perhaps fatally; David Jones, Harrisburg; Frank Morse, Rochester, N. Y.; W. O'Brannan, Chambersburg. In addition to these were to be seen around the wreck many persons having slight wounds, and it is safe to say that few, except those occupying the passenger coaches, escaped without being to a greater or less extent scratched or bruised. The dead were taken to Tyrone as soon as all the railroad men and show attachees were accounted for, the supposition being that all the bodies had been recovered. As in the case of young Strayer, there may have been others on the train unknown to Mr. Main, in which case it is possible other bodies may be found. (Two More Victims) William Evans and Louis Champaign, who were taken to the hospital, have died of their injuries. It is said their bodies will be sent back to Tyrone and interred by the circus people. (Animals Turned Loose) Sixteen cages of animals were crushed and the animals either killed, maimed or set loose. Three lions escaped. One was speedily caught and caged, another was seen captured and chained to a tree, and the third roaming the mountains, as are tigers, hyenas, bears, panthers, several huge snakes, a man-slaying ape (very dangerous), with many birds, monkeys and small animals. There were three sacred cows in the animal exhibition. Two were killed and the other escaped. One of the tigers spying the cow made a savage attack on her, was driven away, and immediately sprang over a fence into a field and attacked a lot of cattle belonging to Alfred Thomas. Mrs. Thomas was milking at the time the tiger put in an appearance and running to the house informed her husband, who, seizing his 38-55 Piker rifle, soon dispatched the tiger. Sixty-eight horses are known to have been killed, including nearly all of the valuable ring and trick horses, among the number being the trick horse "Chicago" and "Flake", the white leader of Joe Berris' six-horse team, together with all the valuable horses ridden by Toney Lowande. (A Woman Races A Lion) For a short time after the wreck strange and wild animals were to be met with at every turn. Mrs. William Lyson, wife of the telegraph operator at Vail, on learning of the wreck, started to walk to the wreck and met a lion, and on turning to run was horror struck at seeing a large hyena within a few feet of her. She stood stock still and screamed when the animals left. When the wreck occurred the engineer and fireman started to walk back to the wrecked cars, and meeting two lions hastily made their way back to the locomotive. The Loss About $150,000 Mr. Main was too busily engaged looking after the comfort of his men, and trying to save whatever of his property he could, to talk about the wreck. He places his loss at upwards of $150,000.
Item ID: 2105
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