Remembering an Accident: The Ashtabula Train Disaster of 1876
December 29, 1876, this day 140 years ago, a massive train accident occurred in Ashtabula, Ohio. A Pacific Express train was traveling through Ohio with approximately 160 passengers plus the train crew, and collapsed, along with the bridge it was crossing, killing over half of the passengers. The only reason some survived was because one part of the train managed to make it across the bridge before it completely collapsed.
Investigations in this time did not have near the research and development to come up with accurate root causes. Therefore, many times those in charge of specific projects (the engineers who constructed this bridge) were blamed. The Lake Shore and Michigan Railroad along with Charles Collins, engineer, and Amasa Stone, architect, were all at fault in the eyes of the investigative jury.
The results from these allegations? Collins committed suicide, Stone was publicly scorned and the actual root cause of the bridge collapse was never discovered. Although it was a tragic event, I don’t think we can consider this a successful investigation.
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