|The Death Curve1910 Wreck of the I.T.S.
Appalling Disaster That Put The Spark of Life Out of 37 Souls
During the ten days between September 30th and October 8th 1910 Southern Illinois and Eastern
Missouri were a buzz with fall festivals. The Illinois State Fair in Springfield, IL offered some of the
most exciting events of that year. Those events included a Wright Brothers Airplane, Racing
Automobiles competing for $18,000 in prizes, and a lecture by William Jennings Bryan called the
Prince of Peace. This was in addition to a large stock exhibition and the improvements made to the
fairgrounds. In Saint Louis, MO. The Veiled Prophet Pageant & Fair offered airplane flights, balloon
races, and a large parade.
In the late 1800's - early 1900's events of this type were often the only entertainment events
attended by many families. Attendance at these events was high. The Illinois Traction System was a
fast and affordable way to travel. The I.T.S. offerred special rates for transportation to and from the
fairs. Those rates ranged from $2 - $5.95 depending the distance traveled. Demand for
transportation during this season was high. The I.T.S. added several extra trains and hired new
employees to meet the demand.
On Tuesday afternoon, October 4, 1910, train No. 14, car No. 358, left Staunton a few minutes
late. It was in charge of Motorman John Lierman and Conductor M. D. Leonard, who relieved the
crew that brought the car from East St. Louis to this city, as was their custom. They had orders to
meet the second section of train No. 73, car No. 359, at Wall’s siding, more commonly known as
No. 14 siding. For some reason the order was disregarded and train No. 14 proceeded north and
met No. 73 on the main track between Cahokia Creek Bridge and Dingerson Curve. Both
motormen saved their lives by jumping from the trains, after shutting off the power and applying the
air brakes to the limit of their capacity. Due to the high rate of speed the impact was horrific, one
car going over half way through the other. Both cars were filled with passengers most of the dead
and injured were on the South Bound car. The scene was difficult to describe the dead, dying and
injured were piled in one bloody mass while the screams of the maimed and trapped added horror
to the scene. It was the most frightful wreck in the history of the Illinois Traction System.
The train crews did not shirk their responsibilities. They helped the injured and made a telephone
call to report the accident. Every able man in the area came to the scene to help if they could. Other
I.T.S. trains were sent to the scene to help transport the injured and dead. All of the injured were
transported south to Granite City for treatment. The bodies of the dead were then transported
north to Carlinville. The bodies were held by the local funeral director to be identified and turned
over to family members for burial. Carlinville was over whelmed with phone calls, telegraph messages
and family members trying to find their loved ones.
The track was cleared about 11 o’clock p.m., and regular service resumed. Neither the track or
overhead wiring were disturbed, a remarkable feat in so disastrous a wreck. A heavy rain the next
morning washed away the crimson traces of the slaughter. Motorman John Lierman and Conductor
M. D. Leonard were taken to Macoupin County Jail. The men were jailed pending the investigation
of the accident and to protect them from outraged citizens and grief stricken family members.
October 6th friends and family members of Leonard and Lierman had collected $2,000.00 cash to
offer as bond for the release of the two men but they both refused to leave the jail out of fear of
retaliation against them for their actions.
The events of October 4th 1910 still remains the worst rail disaster in the history of the Illinois
Tractions System. The I.T.S. continued it’s passenger service another fifty years and operated under
the Illinois Terminal name as a freight service into the 1980’s. Installation of electric signal lights on
the rail system occurred with in two weeks of the accident. The press at the time reported that the
signal lights had been order prior to the accident and the installation of the lights was not a reaction
to the accident.
Article By: Daniel Mathis 06/29/2008
|I am trying to verify the correct number of dead from the wreck. It is 37 or 38.One of the injured may have died by the time of this
photo I am trying to compare the lists of the names I have to find the correct number.