Vickie McDonough: Crush, Texas—A Town for Only One Day

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:

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?



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17 thoughts on “Vickie McDonough: Crush, Texas—A Town for Only One Day”

  1. Interesting post! Your book sound great and I would love to read it. Love me some westerns. I think if I was an author I would get caught up in the research and never get any writing done. Does this ever happen to you?

  2. What an great story.. I must ask a friend of mine who worked for the railroad all his life, if he knows about this peice of railroad history…
    Thanks for the chance to win your book..

  3. Hi Vickie, we’re so glad to have you back at the Junction. Always a treat. Loved your blog. That must’ve been really exciting in a warped way. But it sure drew the people. I guess back then they looked for anything to use as a diversion from the monotony and tough life on the frontier.

    Wishing you much success!

  4. I agree, any kind of live entertainment brought people out of the woodwork. I’m old enough to have participated in some historical events, but haven’t that I know of. This is truly one of those events. Dumb! But an event, anyway.
    I enjoyed your story, today. Would love to read the rest of it.

  5. Hi Vickie! I’ve heard about things like this, but not this particular story. It’s tragic that people were killed, but I can just imagine the excitement in the air. Thanks for telling us about it!

  6. Wow… I did not know anything about that… very interesting! Congrats on the release of End of the Trail!

  7. Hi Vickie and welcome to the Junction! I love the story of Crush, Texas. Several years ago a friend turned me onto it via a news article on the anniversary of the crash and I researched it for a blog. Thanks for reminding me.

  8. Hey everyone! Sorry to show up late to the party. Today turned into an unexpected work day at our house and I’m late getting on the computer. I appreciate you all stopping by.

    Thanks, Goldie!

    Quilt Lady, Research can definitely be a time eater. I have gotten caught up, especially when I find something really interesting. A writer can spend hours trying to find minute details like the type of dress a lady in 1870s Texas would wear or what type of gun might a man in that time period use. Most writers only use a fraction of the research they found in their books.

  9. Thanks, Apple Blossom!

    Kathleen, I’d be interested in hearing if your friend had heard about this event. It must have been the talk of the day back then.

    Hi Linda! I think you’re right. Life back then had few things as exciting as a train crash. I imagine I’d have been there if it was at all possible.

    Thanks, Connie!

    Mary J, The crash does seems a bit dumb to me too. You’d think the railroad officials would have thought the crash could be dangerous, but from the research I’ve done, they had been assured by engineers that the boilers wouldn’t burst. Guess they know better now.

    Victoria, Even today, people are drawn by new and dangerous things. I guess it wasn’t any different back in the 1800s. Anything new probably drew a curious crowd.

    Thanks, Liz and Colleen!

    Thanks for the welcome, Tracy! Yes, it is a fascinating story.

    Thanks so much for allowing me to be a guest again.

  10. It is amazing that no one thought this might possibly be dangerous and that something could go wrong!! thanks for sharing and your books sounds wonderful!!

  11. The most interesting historical event that I ever read about was The Golden SPike. This feat of building a transatlantic railroad linking the entire country of Canada was fascinating.

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