One of my favorite tasks as a writer is going on research trips and discovering interesting tidbits of history. While researching End of the Trail, my June release, I learned about a unique historical event. It’s called “The Crash at Crush” and is the brainchild of George William Crush, a passenger agent of the Missouri, Kansas, & Texas Railroad, also known as “the Katy.”
In an effort to better promote their railroad, Katy officials agreed to Crush’s unusual suggestion of crashing two retired train engines. The locomotives, Old No. 999, painted bright green, and Old No. 1001, painted a vibrant red, were displayed prominently during tours throughout the state and the “Monster Crash” was advertised all the summer of 1896. The event was free, with the exception of the train fare to deliver attendees to Crush, which cost $2 for a ticket from anywhere within the state.
Crush chose a shallow valley fifteen miles north of Waco for the location, and in early September, five hundred workmen laid four miles of track for the collision run, built a grandstand for attendees, three speaker’s stands, two telegraph offices, a stand for reporters, and a bandstand. A restaurant was set up in a borrowed Ringling Brothers circus tent, and a huge carnival midway with dozens of medicine shows, game booths, and lemonade and soft-drink stands were built. Lastly, a special depot with a platform 2,100 feet long was constructed along with a painted sign, informing passengers that they had arrived at Crush, Texas.
Twenty thousand people were expected, but by early afternoon on September 15, somewhere between 40-50,000 had arrived. At 5:00 P.M., engines No. 999 and 1001 backed off to opposite ends of the four-mile track. George Crush trotted a white horse to the center of the track and raised his white hat. After a long pause, he whipped it sharply down. A huge cheer rose from the crowd, and the locomotives lunged forward, whistles shrieking as they barreled toward each other at a speed of 45 mph. In a thunderous, grinding crash, the trains collided. The two locomotives reared up like wild stallions as they rammed together. Contrary to predictions, both boilers shattered, filling the air with hot steam, smoke, and pieces of flying metal. Spectators turned and ran in blind panic. In the end, several people were killed and at least six others were injured seriously by the flying debris.
The wreckage was toted away, with souvenir hunters claiming pieces of the debris, booths and tent were removed, and by nightfall, Crush, Texas ceased to exist. The Katy railroad settled all claims against it, and George Crush was fired that same day, but rehired the next and worked for the Katy railroad until he retired. Here’s a link to a You Tube tale of the crash and some cool historic photos: ww.youtube.com/watch?v=jL5i_ZBzYk0
In End of the Trail, my hero and heroine, Brooks Morgan and Keri Langston take a rare day off work from Raven Creek Ranch to attend the Crash at Crush. It’s an exciting day for them and brings big change, especially for Brooks. End of the Trail is the sixth book in the Texas Trails series, which I wrote with Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin. I also wrote Long Trail Home, the third book in the series, which is the story of a Civil War soldier who returns home to Texas to find everything has changed.
End of the Trail is the story of a cocky drifter who wins a ranch in a card game, but when he goes to claim his winning, he discovers a pretty woman toting a rifle on his porch. She claims the ranch is her inheritance, but he sees it as his one chance to prove to his folks that he’s finally settled down. He’s not leaving, but neither is she.
I hope you enjoyed the story of the Crash at Crush. What’s the most interesting historical event you’ve read about?
VICKIE IS GIVING AWAY A COPY OF END OF THE TRAIL TO ONE PERSON WHO LEAVES A COMMENT TODAY!