History Nebraska Blog

Snowbound on a Train

"The passengers snowbound on the Missouri Pacific train between Eagle and Elmwood were released late Friday, but not through the clearing of the track," said the Lincoln Star on March 16, 1912. The fifty-four passengers temporarily trapped on a train in rural Lancaster County had adequate food and heat but were understandably restless, especially after a relief train had also been stalled in the snow. 

Three Lincoln men on the train finally obtained a team and sleigh from a farmer who lived nearby and set out for Lincoln, nineteen miles away. “A good share of the way the men were forced to leave the sleigh and shovel their way through drifts,” which they later claimed were ten to twelve feet high. 

William Jennings Bryan was among a party of seven who next left the train, this time in a large farm wagon. “With the aid of shovels and by dint of much labor,” the group eventually reached Alvo, where they discovered that a snowplow had cleared the Rock Island’s tracks shortly before. The wagon returned to the snowbound Missouri Pacific train and the rest of the passengers were taken in relays to Alvo. There they were able to board a Rock Island passenger train for Lincoln, thus ending their unexpected delay. 

Train traffic remained vulnerable to Nebraska blizzards for decades beyond 1912. During the severe winter of 1948-49, roads were blocked, trains were stalled, and for days in many areas the only effective transportation was by air. Harl A. Dalstrom's "I'm Never Going to Be Snowbound Again," in the Fall/Winter 2002 issue of Nebraska History magazine, is a detailed examination of the winter of 1948-49 and its effect on Nebraska. - Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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