W. B. Ware, Bagley, UT Train Wreck, Dec. 1944

“Pacific Limited Crash Claims 48 Lives

Southern Pacific Trains Collide;  79 Reported Hurt

Fog Reported at Bagley, Scene of Railway Wreck

An unusually long and heavy freight train lumbered out of Ogden early Sunday morning moving westward toward westward toward Great Salt lake.

Later, the first section of the Pacific Limited. consisting of 18 cars, most of them filled with passengers, military and civilian, departed, following the freight train.

Shortly thereafter, the second section of the Pacific Limited, 20 cars loaded with express and mail and, it is reported, two cars of explosives, followed the first section.

The freight train developed trouble.  This trouble required the first section of the Limited to stop and proceed slowly.

The second section, seemingly ignorant of the condition ahead, plunging westward at a normal rate of speed, plowed into the slowly moving first section, causing one of the nation’s greatest train wrecks.

48 Reported Dead

The latest estimate is 48 dead and 79 injured.

The scene of the wreck near Bagley, a siding 17 miles west of Odgen, between Little Mountain and Promontory Point.  The Southern Pacific tracks here are laid on a causeway over what is describes as the old Bear River channel.  On either side of the right of way are desolate mud and pools of water.  No highway is near.  All rescue work had to be gone through on-rail equipment.

The numerous ambulances available to transport the injured could not reach the scene but had to wait at the termainal in Ogden to receive their charges.

The first section of the Pacific Limited, train No. 21, had fir its crew the following: Engineer W.B. WARE, Fireman L.E. CAMPBELL, Conductor V.W. KOVARIK, Brakeman J.E. BARROW and W.S. DUERDEN.

The second section crew consisted of Engineer JAMES McDONALD, Fireman M.E. HARDMAN, Conductor J.W. WELCH, Brakeman D.E. ALTMAN and Brakeman  C.A. RUSSELL.

Engineer McDONALD was dead in the crash, Fireman HARDMAN escaped with injuries.  Flagman DUERDEN of the first section is dead of injuries received in the wreck.

Accordingly, Fireman HARDMAN is the man who knows most about why the second section of No. 21 plowed into the first section seemingly unmindful of the warning signals that should have been placed at the rear of the first section, probably by Flagman DUERDEN.

Heavy Fog Reported

There was a report of heavy fog at the time of the wreck, approximately six o’clock a.m., but it is understood that the warning signals were noted by Fireman HARDMAN, who shouted a warning to Engineer McDONALD.

There was a growing belief in railroad circles today that Engineer McDONALD was incapacitated, perhaps dead, prior to the collision.

Today the United States mail is still lying beside the tracks at the scene of the Southern Pacific Limited wreck.  Army and Navy crews are still standing by waiting to remove any possible bodies pinned beneath the wreckage.  West and east bound trains are passing at a limited speed of five miles per hour, with every available man with the Southern Pacific railroad pressed into service.  Only one track has been cleared for traffic.

Railroad officials refused to hazard a guess as to the cause of the accident but ordered an immediate investigation.

Federal bureau of investigation agents disclosed a preliminary inquiry showed no evidence of sabotage.

MRS. A.G. FERRIS of Cherokee, Iowa, en route with her husband to visit a daughter, MRS. EARL SMITH, at Berkley, Cailf., said the crash came across quick as you can clap your hands.

‘After the first shock, children started to cry and people got all excited,’ she said.

MRS. CLIFFORD MOSS, of Ogden, riding the last pullman car of the passenger section, said she heard a terrible crash.  ‘The car twisted up into the air on its nose.  Then for a while I didn’t know anything.  When I came to people were running about outside screaming.’

Yoeman First Class FREDERICK W. BOX, of Elmira, N.Y., riding in the coach directly ahead of the diner, said misery and suffering in one car was heart-rendering.

‘The car was virtually pulverized, seats and bodies crushed together.  Bodies of the dead hug from the broken windows [sic].’

CLARENCE HEBERER, of Alameda, Calif., head steward in the dining car, said he and two fellow workers left the dinner only minuted before the impact to go to another car.

‘Providence must have been with me,’ he said.

HEBERER and student steward OTIS M. TINDALL, also of Alameda, praised the work of Army and Navy men attached to two hospitals ward cars which were in the passenger train and were undamaged. The military men did ‘a bang-up job,’ HEBERER said.

Relief Trains Outfitted

When news of the wreck reached Ogden, relief trains with physicians and nurses were outfitted and sent to the scene.  Meanwhile in Ogden the Red Cross disaster service was mobilized, nurses’ aides summoned to report to the hospitals and trucks and other transport facilities dispatched to the station to receive the dead and injured.

From the army and navy installations came officers and men and numerous ambulances.

It happened that attached to the first section of the Limited train were two hospital cars with staffs and equipment and supplies.  These cares were undamaged in the wreck.  So these cars were filled with the injured, the undamaged part of the first train was unhooked from the damaged section and the undamaged train was started on its westward journey.

Hence, far fewer injured were brought to Ogden than was expected.

The dead, instead, arrived in greater numbers than the injured.

Identification Slow

There followed then the dismal tasks of identifying the dead so that correct answers could be given to the numerous calls coming from all parts of the nation for information about loved ones known to be on the train.

Dead lay unidentified in Odgen mortuaries today.

Names of some military personnel killed in the collision were withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Greatest carnage occurred in the last car of the passenger section.  A combination steel and wood day-coach three cars from the end was turned into shambles of twisted steel, splintered wood and torn bodies.

It was in the day-coach that the cruelest tragedy occurred.  Th lived of a family of four, and two in-laws’ returning to their Nevada homes after a gala Christmas vacation in Ogden’ were snuffed out.  These dead were reported as MR. and MRS. LeROY PORTER of Sparks, Nev., and their two daughters, PEGGY, 4 and MARY, 8; and JACK and DELPHA FRANCIS, brother and sister-in-law of MRS. PORTER, MR. AND MRS. FRANCIS were from Carlin, Nev.

The the engine and 10 of the passenger train’s 18 cars were undamaged, and proceeded west to complete its Chicago to San Francisco run as soon as the injured were treated and placed aboard.

Medical Corps Heroes

Medical corps detachments assigned to the army hospital cars were declared the heroes of the tragedy.

‘Had it not been for their efforts, the toll undoubtedly would have been much higher,’ said one of the injured survivors, CLARENCE HEBERER, chief steward of the passenger train, of Alameda, Calif.

HEBERER suffer head lacerations and was knocked unconscious momentarily.  He awoke to a ‘nightmare of screams and groans’ which crescendoed out of the inky [sic] blackness.

The temperature was 20 to 25 degrees, but when HEBERER gained the outside after edging his way through the twisted steel and broken glass, he saw many passengers wandering about half-clothed.

The first rescue train left Odgen one and one-half hours after the crash.  Rescuers arrived at the pile-up half an hour later to find passengers still milling about the scene doing what little they could to ease the suffering of the injured.

Cause Unexplained

Cause of the Southern Pacific train wreck near Ogden yesterday, although officially unexplained, will not be officially known until the completion of the investigation launched upon the arrival of officials from the railroad office in San Francisco.

It is expected the investigation will require several days, after which an interstate commerce commission hearing will be conducted.

It was unofficially stated that the wreck occurred after a freight train had developed a hot box.  The freight crew stopped the first train following it with signals, but additional signaling failed to stop the second, which crashed into the rear of the passenger train.

Meanwhile, almost normal operation of train service has been effected, officials said.  The eastbound main is open and the westbound main is expected to open late today.

Crews are about half way through the job of clearing wreckage from the tracks on the westbound main, it was repaoted.

Among the fatalities in the S.P. train wreck early Sunday was ROBERT ERICKSON SEAMAN, 15 son of WILLIAM ALBERT  and  ELIZABETH HUNT ERRICKSON [sic] SEAMAN.

He was born Jan. 24, 1929, in Trenton N.J.  He had been attending school in Salt Lake City and lived there with his mother at 963 East Fifth South.  He and his mother were en route to Berkeley, Calif., to join MR. SEAMAN, who is a civilian accountant working the the Oakland naval supply depot.  The mother was injured in the wreck, but was taken on to San Francisco.  The boy attended schools in Freehold, N.J., and was a member of the Episcopal church.

Survivors include his parents and one sister, LOIS MARIE SEAMAN, whose home is at 501 Fourth avenue, Salt Lake.

The sister came to the mortuary, 529 Twenty-fifth, to identify the body.

Casualty Lists of S.P. Wreck Still Imcomplete

Weary railroad officials and army and navy authorities today continued to add to the still incomplete list of casualties in the tragic wreck of the Pacific Limited early yesterday, as grim rescue squads hacked and burned their way through the twisted scrap of find possible new victims.

The Southern Pacific representative said that most of the civilian dead were still unidentified early today according the United Press.  Names of most of the military and naval dead were withheld pending notification of next of kin.[sic]

The list of dead and wounded gathered from various sources…

The Ogden Standard-Examiner Utah 1945-01-01”


Comments

W. B. Ware, Bagley, UT Train Wreck, Dec. 1944 — 7 Comments

  1. I came across this article because a friend of mine is looking for his biological grandfather. It is possible that he was one of the workers on this train. My friends father was adopted and we believe it might have been because of this train wreck. If any of this sounds familiar and you have any information that might help please let me know. Thanks So Much!

  2. I just finish talkin with Lois Marie Seaman she was telling me about how her brother passed away so I looked up and came across this article I thought you would like to know that Robert Erickson Seaman sister remember quite vividly everything that happened

  3. My grandmother, Mrs. V. Cook, was also in this crash. She was a newlywed on her way to being reunited with my grandfather in California, where he was stationed (Navy). She did not suffer any physical injuries, but she has shared this story with all of us many times.

  4. W. B. Ware was my uncle Bill. He has been reported as Willie but signed his name as William on his draft registration card. His middle name Bosworth was a family name. William had a brother, Gilbert Little Ware who was also an SP engineer who drve the same route for part of his career. Both eventually worked out of Ogden. Gilbert was in three wrecks in the first 10 years of railroading in engine service. I was told the problem was the Track would just disappear into the Great Salt Lake which made that a dangerous part of the railroad.

  5. My Grandparents and Aunt were in this wreck. All survived, Mr. & Mrs. Joe Edwards, Cartersville, GA and Helen Edwards, Cartersville, GA

    They were on their way to San Francisco to meet my Uncle which had just returned from being in the Pacific Theatre for two years aboard the USS Shasta.

    My Grandmother told me about my Grandpa getting up to go get coffee. When the train hit it threw him into the seats breaking his leg. My Grandparents were in the car that accordion. There was a man sitting across from my Grandmother and the impact threw his seat on top of her. She was trapped under the man for 14 hours. She remembers him taking his last breath and dying. She laid under him for 7 hours after he had died. My Aunt was in the bathroom in the next car and she had only bumps and bruises.

    After they got them out of the wreckage more confusion set in for my Grandparents. Due to my Grandmother having minor injuries, she and my Aunt were sent to Salt Lake City Hospital. My Grandfather was sent to San Francisco and neither knew if the other had survived until they were notified where each had been sent. They were all reunited in San Francisco about a week after the wreck.

  6. This has to be one of our countries worst tradgedies, taking the lives of so many. I’m sure many safety measures were born as a result of this incident.

    Wayne

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