Eric Edward Esper
Ashtabula Train Trestle Collapse
2016
Oil on canvas
20x30
On Friday, December 29, 1876 at 7:23 p.m., after two days of blizzard conditions with 20 inches of snow and 55 mph winds, the #5 Pacific Express train from Erie, PA was running behind schedule as it traversed the Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Railway at a mere 10 mph. As the train progressed, it pushed through the snow over the 154 foot long trestle, 82 feet above the Ashtabula Creek. The lead locomotive, “Socrates,” barely made it across the creek as the metal bridge structure collapsed under the following cars. 11 cars containing 128-200 passengers plummeted to the frozen river below. The survivors at the crash site were trapped in the wreckage which had caught on fire, as well as being stuck in the frigid, icy water.
Rescue efforts were hindered due to the location and the inclement weather. Not all of the dead could be identified because no-one knew exactly how many passengers were on board. On January 19, 1877, 19 unidentified were buried at Chestnut Grove Cemetery.
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