Friday, April 10, 2009

Was the Engine of the Camp Creek Train Crash Cursed?

As many of you may know, I have been doing a lot of research on the Camp Creek Train Crash of 1900. During my research, I have uncovered some macabre stories about the wreck. A few seem to indicate that something weird was going on with the engine that pulled the train. Consider the stories and see what you think.

Before arriving at the bridge which would carry so many of “Old #7’s” passengers to their final destination, it pulled in to the depot in McDonough around 9:30 p.m. that evening. Already behind schedule due to the weather, the train pulled in to the depot with a passenger car, baggage car, first class coach, and a Pullman sleeper. The train carried 48 passengers and crew. According to reports that surfaced shortly after the wreck, the locomotive for Old #7 had a sordid history. Put in to service in 1888, the locomotive claimed its first victims between Knoxville and Lenoir when it plowed in to a farm wagon and killed three persons. Eleven years later in 1897, the cursed locomotive took another nine lives when it collided with a covered wagon carrying members of the Woodward family at Avondale near Chattanooga. After this episode, the locomotive was rechristened number 851 in hopes that it could escape its apparent bad luck. However, the new number did nothing to stop the killing spree on which the engine appeared to be. For in 1898, the locomotive made its first dive in to a river. According to an article in The Atlanta Constitution on July 4, 1900, the rechristened locomotive crashed more than sixty feet into the Etowah River. The freight cars it pulled caught fire and destroyed a large amount of freight. Like Camp Creek on the night of June 23, 1900, the Etowah River had been swollen by rains at the time of the wreck. In fact, 851 lay buried in mud for several weeks. According to the article, “It was finally raised by the aid of a monster-derrick and a ten wheel locomotive. . . . It was rebuilt, and sent again on its career of killing, behaving well until it culminated in the Camp Creek affair. The original number 846 had been restored after raising it from the Etowah.” However, the eerie history of the 846 does not end there. The first engineer to handle the 846, John Ramsey, met a quirky fate when he was scalded to death. The second engineer, Abe Laird, died of typhoid fever during the summer of 1899, just one year before the wreck, and one year after the Etowah River crash. In addition, J.T. Sullivan, who drove the train on June 23, 1900 when it went down in the Camp Creek and killed dozens of people, was not the actual engineer. He was a replacement for the regular who could not make the trip for some reason.

Was the engine cursed? Who knows? But after the incident at Lenoire, the collision and death of the Woodward family near Chattanooga, the deaths of John Ramsey and Abe Laird, and the ill-fated run on June 23, 1900, there are many people who think it might have indeed been!!!