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dixieland train crash guthrie ky 1957 or so


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#1 Guest_oldschoolbiker_*

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 12:36 PM

hello
i was on this train when it wrecked. wonder if any others are around. i was 9 yrs old and traveling
alone. there was a serviceman in uniform that took me under his wing until we got to fla. often wondered about him as we didnt get his name he just disapeared after we got to fla and he met my mom. could tell
lots about the crash.
oldschoolbiker
got on train in terre haute in grampa tipped the red cap to watch out for me, think he got hurt

#2 the_traveler

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 01:52 PM

I have moved this thread, as it does not specifically pertain to Amtrak. In 1957, there was not even an Amtrak - each railroad operated their own passenger trains!
Take it easy .......

Take the train instead!

#3 CHamilton

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 02:00 PM

A Google search for "guthrie ky train crash" turned up several entries for a more recent crash. Here's one from the NRHS Western Kentucky chapter. http://www.westkentu...g/archives/1793
You might want to contact the author of the article, as he is likely to know more details.

Edited by CHamilton, 18 December 2012 - 02:01 PM.

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#4 George Harris

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:14 PM

Terre Haute to Florida, 1957, at Guthrie KY. The train has to be the Dixieland, formerly and for most of its life named the Dixie Flagler. It was train number 99 where you caught it on the C&EI, but 11 on the L&N where it wrecked. It operating over the Chicago and Eastern Illinois, (on whose tracks it was when you caught it), Louisville and Nashville; Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis; Atlanta, Birmingham and Coast; and Atlantic Coast Line.

Go to Eric H. Bowen's wonderful Streamliners Schedules web page. The specific page is
http://www.streamlin...flag194106.html

This was one of a trio of every third day Chicago to Florida trains operating at that time. The schedule in Mr. Bowen's web site, which was from June 1941, shows a Terre Haute departure of 11:45am, so you should have left Terre Haute somewhere just short of noon, since these trains always had a morning departure from Chicago and ran on a roughly 24 hour schedule to Jacksonville.

The accident report can be found in a web site having the ICC railroad accident reports. The particular report is found under the 1957 heading and the second under the Louisville and Nashville Railroad llist. It is accident report number 3762. The date of the accident is June 29, 1957 at 4:45pm.

Here are a few points of information from the report:

Accident at Guthrie, Ky., on June 29, 1957, caused by failure to operate the Louisville Division train in accordance with signal indications.
. . . .

On June 29, 1957, there was a side collision between a passenger train on the Evansville Division and a freight train on the Louisville Division of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad at Guthrie, Ky., which resulted in the death of 3 passengers, 1 train-service employee, 2 dining-car employees, and the injury of 12 passengers, 1 train-service employee, and 8 dining-car employees.


The line on which the Dixieland was operating ran more or less northwest to southeast between Evansville KY and Nashville TN. The timetable direction was southbound The line on which the freight train that struck it was operating ran more or less northeast to southwest between Bowling Green KY and Memphis TN. The timetable direction was also southbound. Note: This condition of two tracks defined as running in the same direction crossing each other was not a cause of confusion, as ti is a very common occurance in the railroad world, both then and now.

Description of Accident

No. 11, a south-bound first-class passenger train, consisted of diesel-electric units 604 and 612, coupled in multiple-unit control, one dormitory-baggage car, two sleeping cars, one dining car, one tavern car, one sleeping car, and six coaches, n the order named. These cars were of lightweight construction and were equipped with tightlock couplers. This train departed from Evansville, Ind., 109.4 miles north of Guthrie, of 2:48 p.m., 3 minutes late, passed Henderson at 3:08 p.m., 5 minutes late, passed signals 2171, and 3R, which indicated Proceed, and while moving over the intersection at Guthrie at a speed of approximately 35 miles per hour the side of the first car was struck by No. 121.

No. 121, a south-bound second-class freight train, . . . moving at a speed of about 6 miles per hour it struck the side of the first car of No. 11.



#5 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 12:31 AM

That consist is interesting and especially the low speed of the colliding trains. At least we have had much less train-on-train accidents over the years but more and more with road vehicles.

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#6 George Harris

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 12:58 AM

That consist is interesting and especially the low speed of the colliding trains. At least we have had much less train-on-train accidents over the years but more and more with road vehicles.


I did not copy this out of the accident report:

The maximum authorized speed for the passenger train was 70 miles per hour, but it was restricted to 35 miles per hour throughout the interlocking. The maximum authorized speed for the freight train was 45 miles per hour.

The 70 mph limit for passenger trains was standard for the Evansville - Nashville line on which the Dixieland was operating. The 35 mph limit, which was the speed of the train at the time of the accident was a speed restriction across the diamond at Guthrie. The freight train was facing a stop signal. It obviously did not stop in time despite having good visibility of the signal. Why it did not approach and stop as it should was not satisfactorily determined..

#7 trainman74

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 12:11 PM

Found a brief story about the wreck here, on the front page of the St. Petersburg Times for June 30, 1957 (halfway down in the far left column). The best detail is that the mayor of Guthrie was also an undertaker.

#8 George Harris

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 01:23 PM

The best detail is that the mayor of Guthrie was also an undertaker.

Not that uncommon in towns that size. Usually the two people known by everybody fairly well in the town would be the doctor and the undertaker. The doctor usually had neither the time nor the interest for politics and the undertaker had both. In the 1950's and earlier, the hearse usually doubled as the ambulance, as well, or if not the same vehicle was the same type of vehicle and operated by the undertaker.

#9 Bill Haithcoat

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 10:19 PM

I am surprised I just now discovered this. This is right up my alley.

That is because the Dixieland, originally called the Dixie Flagler, and the Georgian were my all time faves. They were an integral part of my childhood. I grew up in Chattanooga which is between Nashville and Atlanta.

I have referred to this train many times on this board but usually keep it simple and call it the Dixie FLagler, its long time name.

It was discontinued in late November of the same year of the wreck, 1957. That is sad because it had just been re equipped in December 1954, same time the name was changed from Dixie FLagler to Dixieland.

I was well aware of this accident, it has not been forgotten. However I have nothing to add to the info given..

Somebody mentioned the consist. That was a typical summer consist for the major trains which went from Chicago to Miami. Due to the snowbirds, such trains as this usually had several additional sleepers in the winter time.

Edited by Bill Haithcoat, 25 December 2012 - 10:20 PM.


#10 jphjaxfl

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 09:24 AM

It would be interesting to know why the Dixieland (former Dixie Flagler) was discontinued while the South Wind and City of Miami went from every 3rd day to every other day to pick up the slack. The Southland Limited which was a heavyweight train from Cincinnati through Atlanta to both coasts of Florida with through cars from Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland was also discontinued around that time. It left the Southwind, City of Miami, the Seminole and the Dixie Flyer as the only through Midwest to Florida trains. I suppose more people were flying than going by train.

#11 Palmland

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 09:50 AM

Thanks Bill for pointing me to this thread. As a young boy I was making my first solo trip to visit relatives about 12 miles down the track from Guthrie. My train was L&N's No. 103. It was a connection off the Pan American with cars, including mine, from Cincinnati to Memphis. The accident occurred just a short time before our scheduled arrival. We pulled into the long siding at Guthrie next to the freight and short of the crossing (which of course had been destroyed in the wreck). A frantic grandmother, with help from the Clarksville ticket agent, rescued me from the stranded train. Among the wreckage I caught a glimpse of the burned and destroyed dining car where the impact (and fatalities) occurred. Fortunately it was before meal time so no passengers were killed but the crew was not so fortunate. You can imagine my parents' concern back in Delaware who heard the news on TV. But for a 12 year old, it was just an adventure.

#12 Bill Haithcoat

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 12:52 PM

It would be interesting to know why the Dixieland (former Dixie Flagler) was discontinued while the South Wind and City of Miami went from every 3rd day to every other day to pick up the slack. The Southland Limited which was a heavyweight train from Cincinnati through Atlanta to both coasts of Florida with through cars from Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland was also discontinued around that time. It left the Southwind, City of Miami, the Seminole and the Dixie Flyer as the only through Midwest to Florida trains. I suppose more people were flying than going by train.


I suspect the Flagler lost business by not receiving a full complement of streamlined winter sleepers as soon as the South Wind and City of Miami did. I think it was the winter season 1949/50 that these streamlined coach trains got sleepers. They were mostly heavyweight at first though the trains themselves were still advertised as streamliners for historical reasons.

The City and the South Wind got new sleepers soon whereas the Dixie Flagler did not get full streamlined sleepers until the winter 1954/55 which is when it was also renamed the Dixieland. During the same 1950-54 years the City and the Wind even operated more frequently than every third day during the winter. Such things as two days out of three or every other day. The Flagler only needed to do that one winter, the winter before the other two got streamlined sleepers.

When the Dixieland was discontinued that did mean the City and the Wind became every other day from then on. As pointed out. the west coast cars of the Southland were discontinued though connections and or thru cars exchanged with the Dixie Flyer in Atlanta continued longer.

At the same time the City and the South Wind added coaches and pullmans from Chicago to St. Pete and from Chicago to Tampa/Sarasota. The South Wind inherited the almost new Dixieland equipment, thus sprucing it up.. Not long after this they both added dome cars from Chicago to Miami.

In truth it can be said that much happened to improve the City of Miami and the South Wind. But at the expense of the old Dixie Flyer. Dixieland, Dixie Flagler and Georgian (to Atlanta)we lost a valuable link from Chicago to Florida via Atlanta we need so badly today..

Edited by Bill Haithcoat, 27 December 2012 - 03:58 PM.


#13 George Harris

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 05:55 PM

Here is what I get by a fairly quick addition in an old Official Guide for Chicago to Jacksonville milage:
1088 miles - Dixie Flagler
1128 miles - City of Miami
1193 miles - South Wind

By the way, the only common points on these lines was Nashville on the Dixie Flagler and South Wind and Waycross on the Dixie Flagler and City of Miami. The originated at different stations in Chcago, the South Wind and City of Miami stopped at different stations in both Birmingham and Waycross.

Even though the Dixie Flagler was the shortest it may have been more difficult for it to keep schedule than the other trains. Nashville to Atlanta was cross grain to the Appalachians, and the AB&C line between Atlanta and Waycross was somewhat of a secondary line. I do not know what the C&EI speed limit was, but the limit on the L&N adn NC&StL was nowhere more than 79 mph, and a lot of it was less.

The South Wind was the longest and not as fast in many parts as the City of Miami route. The major dificult portions of the South Wind route would have been south of Montgomery. At the time we are discussing, the Pennsylvania was a strong promoter of this train. Don't know the Chicago to Louisville speed limits. The L&N was 70 mph maximum and much of Louisville to Montgomery was on reasonably good alignment. Nashville to Calera was rebuilt in 1912 to be either new line (Brentwood to north Athens AL) or double track. The ACL portion was unsignaled, but was/is fairly straight in southern Alabama dn Georgia.

The City of Miami got off to a blazing start thanks to the very fast ICRR main in Illinois, including some 100 mph territory. It slowed down quite a bit south of Jackson, Tenn. particularly in northern Alabama, again by running on lines that were cross grain to the Appalachians. As a contrast, in the 1960's the CofM had a scheduled dwell time in Birmingham of 30 minutes while that of the South Wind was only 10 minutes.

Of these lines, only the tracks used by the Dixie Flagler are all still in place and are major main lines. That is also part of the problem, as these lines are pushing capacity with freight.

Those lines used by the South Wind are all still in place sotuh of Louisvill KY, but not in condition to run as fast a schedule as in the 1950's and early 60's.

Lare chunks fo the City of Miami route south of Fulton KY are either downgraded or not there at all.

Edited by George Harris, 27 December 2012 - 05:56 PM.


#14 Bill Haithcoat

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 07:35 PM

Here is what I get by a fairly quick addition in an old Official Guide for Chicago to Jacksonville milage:
1088 miles - Dixie Flagler
1128 miles - City of Miami
1193 miles - South Wind

By the way, the only common points on these lines was Nashville on the Dixie Flagler and South Wind and Waycross on the Dixie Flagler and City of Miami. The originated at different stations in Chcago, the South Wind and City of Miami stopped at different stations in both Birmingham and Waycross.

Even though the Dixie Flagler was the shortest it may have been more difficult for it to keep schedule than the other trains. Nashville to Atlanta was cross grain to the Appalachians, and the AB&C line between Atlanta and Waycross was somewhat of a secondary line. I do not know what the C&EI speed limit was, but the limit on the L&N adn NC&StL was nowhere more than 79 mph, and a lot of it was less.

The South Wind was the longest and not as fast in many parts as the City of Miami route. The major dificult portions of the South Wind route would have been south of Montgomery. At the time we are discussing, the Pennsylvania was a strong promoter of this train. Don't know the Chicago to Louisville speed limits. The L&N was 70 mph maximum and much of Louisville to Montgomery was on reasonably good alignment. Nashville to Calera was rebuilt in 1912 to be either new line (Brentwood to north Athens AL) or double track. The ACL portion was unsignaled, but was/is fairly straight in southern Alabama dn Georgia.

The City of Miami got off to a blazing start thanks to the very fast ICRR main in Illinois, including some 100 mph territory. It slowed down quite a bit south of Jackson, Tenn. particularly in northern Alabama, again by running on lines that were cross grain to the Appalachians. As a contrast, in the 1960's the CofM had a scheduled dwell time in Birmingham of 30 minutes while that of the South Wind was only 10 minutes.

Of these lines, only the tracks used by the Dixie Flagler are all still in place and are major main lines. That is also part of the problem, as these lines are pushing capacity with freight.

Those lines used by the South Wind are all still in place sotuh of Louisvill KY, but not in condition to run as fast a schedule as in the 1950's and early 60's.

Lare chunks fo the City of Miami route south of Fulton KY are either downgraded or not there at all.


George. I was very young at the time but I hardly ever encountered lateness. But of course at that time I did not have access to good info and stats.

BTW, since all three of these trains went to Miami, what was the allowable speed on the FEC?

#15 George Harris

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 01:24 AM


Here is what I get by a fairly quick addition in an old Official Guide for Chicago to Jacksonville milage:
1088 miles - Dixie Flagler
1128 miles - City of Miami
1193 miles - South Wind


George. I was very young at the time but I hardly ever encountered lateness. But of course at that time I did not have access to good info and stats.

BTW, since all three of these trains went to Miami, what was the allowable speed on the FEC?

I don't know the FEC speed limit. One handy source that sometime will give you that is to got to the ICC historica accident reports and pick the railroad name for the period of interest. Given that the FEC was essentially Jacksonville to Miami with little otherwise you would have a better chance if that had one in the time of interest. I have not looked.

Bill, my thought was that it was difficult to keep the schedule, not that it was not normal for it to be done. I well know that in that time frame keeping schedule was a top priority, and one where the series of speed limits in the timetable became suggestions rather than commands if need be. There was considerabe pride in the crews of these trains in keeping schedule and making up time if they got behind.

I spent my first two years of college at Martin TN, and the move of the City of Miami over the L&N (that is ex NC&StL for several of us) crossing could be heard all over town, Same for every train, as far as that is concerned. The speed limit over the diamond was 30 mph. Usually you could all but set your watch by it. If it was late, the rate of the clunk-clunk, clunk-clunk of the train over the diamond was usually at a faster rate than it would be if on time. Sometime, quite a bit faster. The mid winter version was normally 4 engines and 20 plus cars. I think the most was 24.

#16 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 08:31 PM

What was the Dixie Flyer? I know about the Seminole and stuff but never heard of the Dixie Flyer.

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#17 Bill Haithcoat

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 09:46 PM

What was the Dixie Flyer? I know about the Seminole and stuff but never heard of the Dixie Flyer.


It was one of the oldest Chicago to Florida trains around .though I am not sure when it was given that name. The early 1900s for sure .It ran mainly Chicago, Evansville, Nashville, Chattanooga,Atlanta, and Jacksonville. At some periods it had a sleeper or two to west coast Florida and to Miami and at times a sleeper from st. louis to points south The route from Atlanta to Jacksonville varied through the years.

It was a grand old train in the old steam , heavyweight, non air conditioned days.It was one of the first trains to be builtl of steel and have electric lights. It was never given streamliner status though in later years it did have some streamlined sleepers on it.

It was discontinued about 1969.

A typical consist in the mid or late 50s might be two or three coaches Chicago to Jacksonville ,a diner Evansville to Atlanta, a sleeper Chicago to Jacksonville.. and maybe some short haul sleepers like Atlanta to Jacksonville and Nashville to Chicago. And a lot of mail cars maybe 10 or 13 or more.

The reason I am being so approximate is because in the pre Amtrak days things changed around a lot more on train equipment than today so I am giving a loose answer. Should you desire something more specific you might want to ask me a date.

Typical schedule might be to leave Chicago 10 pm and arrrive Jacksonville second morning about 6.

The Dixie Flyer was the train used by Al Capone on his way to the federal pen in Atlanta.

I suspect the much faster streamliners took away a lot of its business. That would be the Dixie Flagler in 1941 , renamed Dixieland in 1954 and the Georgian in 1946. For example, the Dixie Flagler/Dixieland was about 10 hours faster from Chicago to Jacksonville than the Dixie FLyer. Such variances were not uncommon in the preAmtrak days. The Flyer of course, stopped many more time plus had the headend mail business.

There was an original highway called the Dixie Highway and that figured into its name.

Edited by Bill Haithcoat, 31 December 2012 - 05:31 AM.


#18 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 06:46 PM

Thanks for the info! I thought the Dixie Highway was US Route 25 but some sources say it's US Route 41.

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#19 trainman74

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 01:02 PM

Thanks for the info! I thought the Dixie Highway was US Route 25 but some sources say it's US Route 41.


The original Dixie Highway routes are now covered by portions many different current highways -- stretches of U.S. 25 and U.S. 41 are only two of the successors. Here's an original map, as seen on Wikipedia:

Posted Image

#20 George Harris

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 12:45 AM

Thanks for the terrific map, Trainman. The part through East Tennessee I did not know. With most of the family in West Tennessee and the rest in the middle part of the state the section Louisville-Nasville-Chattanooga-At;amta,-Macon was the segment of route I knew.



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