1901 Steam Engine Collision

Crash in White Pigeon, Mich., left one steam engine perched atop another


| November/December 1966



White Pigeon Train

In 1901, the White Pigeon, Michigan, area saw a head-on steam engine collision on New York Central Line that left one person dead, four hurt and one engine atop the other.

Courtesy Lew Rineholt

Mr. Lew Rinholt, Vicksburg, Michigan, sent in this article from the Kalamazoo (Michigan) Gazette. — Ed.

John Blue, 80, of White Pigeon, Mich., retired New York Central Railroad fireman, says that if he didn’t have pictures to prove it no one would believe the fantastic results of a train crash here in 1901.

It was shortly after dusk on a cold Sunday early in January, most people were settled by their heating stoves as a blizzard whipped up deep drifts in the White Pigeon area.

Engine No. 362 pulling a westbound freight had been delayed several hours by drifts on the prairie north of here, and engineer Frank Bock, of Elkhart, had just pulled on to the mainline at a “Y” junction. The junction was considered one of the most dangerous on the line and had been the scene of a number of costly wrecks and had claimed three lives.

Bock’s plan was to back his train off the main line on to a siding to allow a snowplow train out of Elkhart to pass.

The brakeman, Earl Allison, was supposed to have walked ahead to flag the expected train. Instead, he rode on the engine until it stopped and got off to walk ahead from there. He was securing a red lantern on the engine as the two trains came together.

Engine No. 431 was eastbound, pushing a snowplow and pulling a string of freight cars. The snowplow was shaped similar to a box car with a broad shovel in front.

In the incredible seconds following the impact, the snowplow wedged under Bock’s engine and acted as a ramp to send the 60-ton mass of machinery climbing up to settle almost squarely atop of engine No. 431.

Brock’s fireman, A. E. Stauffer, leaped from the cab just before the impact, spraining his ankle. Bock rode the engine to the top then jumped to the ground, breaking two ribs as he landed.