For 40 Years, Crashing Trains Was One of America’s Favorite Pastimes

3 Jul
The "Crash at Crush" explosion.

The “Crash at Crush” explosion. THE TEXAS COLLECTION, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

ON SEPTEMBER 15, 1896, TWO locomotives crashed head on 14 miles north of WacoTexas. The locomotives’ boilers exploded on impact, sending debris flying through the air for hundreds of yards, killing at least two spectators and maiming countless others. One man even lost an eye to a flying bolt.

But no one ran from the calamity. In fact, after the crash, thousands of bystanders ran toward the destroyed locomotives hoping to claim a piece of the wreckage. That’s because the 40,000 or so people scattered along the tracks that September day knew the locomotives were going to crash and had paid to be there.

So begins Justin Franz’s fascinating account of staged train wrecks. You may read his entire Atlas Obscura piece here.

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