History Nebraska Blog

Throwback Thursday Photo, Runaway Train (sort of)

Missouri Pacific engine 2364 crashed into Northwestern Depot in Lincoln, Nebraska, July 21, 1911 (RG0849-1-128)

Today's #Throwback Thursday photograph is a bit of a disaster. 

In the early morning of July 21, 1911, Missouri Pacific engine number 2364 crashed into the Northwestern depot in Lincoln, Nebraska. The crash tore away a portion of the north wall of the building and completely wrecked the Northwestern ticket office. The engine also suffered considerable damage. Luckily, the accident occurred at 5:30am, before station employees had arrived for the day and no one was hurt.

According to the Lincoln Evening News, hostler Ed Fink left the roundhouse shortly before 5:30am with the engine. In railroad terms, a hostler is someone who moves locomotives in and out of service facilities. On this day, Fink was to drive the heavy freight-style engine up to the work train on which it operated.

While crossing the intersection at 9th and Vine Streets, the lone engineman heard a strange noise. Peering out of the cab to see what was wrong, Fink lost his balance and fell out of the cab, hitting the ground with considerable force.

The engine was reported to have been traveling between 20-25 miles per hour and Fink was too stunned by the fall to gain his feet in time to pursue the fleeing locomotive.

The large engine continued on its course and forged straight ahead over the train bumper at the end of the Northwestern track and bolted into the depot with a crash. According to the newspaper, “the heavy brick walls of the building gave way like pasteboard.” The damage done to the building was estimated to be $3,000 by a railroad official, while damage to the engine was nearly $1,000.

Word of the crash quickly spread through Lincoln. By 10am, it was estimated that over 3,000 people had come to see the scene of the accident. According to those who reached the scene soon after the accident occurred, Northwestern tickets were scattered over the wreckage in every direction.

Lincoln architect Edward Gehrke took these photographs shortly after the crash.  Edward was born in Seward County in 1880 and he became a successful contractor and real estate agent, building an estimated 300 Craftsman-style houses in Lincoln and becoming known as "The Bungalow Man." Edward died in 1939. 

Missouri Pacific engine 2364 crashed into Northwestern Depot in Lincoln, Nebraska, July 21, 1911 (RG0849-1-129)

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