From the Archives: Santa Fe Train Wreck in Lemont - July 1905

Take a glimpse into Lemont’s History courtesy of the Lemont Area Historical Society.

The Lemont Area Historical Society (LAHS) has generously offered to share photos and accompanying information with Patch readers each week, depicting people, places and things from the village’s storied past.

This week, the local historical society shares a photo of a train wreck that occurred July 29, 1905, on the express route of the Santa Fe Road at Teden’s Curve near the Santa Fe Depot on River Street in Lemont.

John Quinn of the Lemont Area Historical Society unearthed the following accounts of the disaster:

From the Lemont Phoenix Advertiser and Observer Aug. 3, 1905:

Sante Fe Wreck

"The westbound Sante Fe Limited was wrecked at this place about 11 o'clock last Saturday night. The train consisted of ten cars heavily loaded, and was running at the rate of fifty miles per hour. One man was killed outright and a score of persons were injured.

"Just as the train safely crossed the Stephen Street viaduct the baggage car, smoker, chair car, and two sleeping cars left the track and after bumping over ties and ground for several hundred feet landed down a slight embankment some distance from the track.

"The baggage and smoking cars were overturned with the chair car laying parallel to the two sleeping cars, one of the sleeping cars and baggage car laying side by side. The cars which were not overturned had the trucks torn from them and were also badly shattered. The locomotive, mail car, and the last three sleepers remained on the track.

"The wreck occurred just opposite of town and had the derailed cars plunged a few hundred feet farther they would have landed into the depot. As it was they completely demolished the tool house and several hand cars standing near.

"As soon as the wreck occurred the fire whistle was blown and the firemen and citizens generally hastened to the scene to assist in rescuing the injured from the ruins of the cars and to this fact several of the seriously injured owe their lives.

"Lack of suitable tools hampered rescuers for a while. Not a vestige of the tool shed remained standing and the tools it had contained were all buried beneath the wreckage. Stone jacks and tools were soon hurried to the scene from the quarries with willing hands to work them, the injured were soon removed from the cars.

"John Gregoire of Sunnyside Utah who was instantly killed, and most of the more seriously injured were passengers in the smoker which was overturned. As the train is not scheduled to stop at Lemont there were no passengers from here on board.

"William Mcvey of Joliet was one of the injured who displayed remarkable courage. For an hour he was pinned beneath the car with his right leg and arm crushed. It was necessary to raise one side of the heavy coach with stone jacks before he could be released.

"Our physicians were quickly on the scene and cared for the injured in the depot here. Later a special train conveyed them to the Joliet hospital.

"Although the sharp curve in the tracks at Stephen Street may have been partially responsible for the overturning of the cars the wreck was undoubtedly caused by a broken axle under the smoking car.

"The point of the switch at Stephen Street was broken but the locomotive and mail car passed safely over that point and railroad men say the damage to the switch was not sufficient to derail the cars."

From the July 30, 1905 edition of the Grand Forks Daily Herald in Grand Forks, ND:

Five Fatally Hurt: Express Train on Santa Fe Road Ditched in Illinois.

"Chicago, July 29: The California express on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad leaving this city at 10 o’clock went into a ditch tonight at Lemont, a village 30 miles southwest of here. Five people, all of them Italians, were taken from the wreck badly mangled. And although none of them was killed outright it is not thought that they can survive."

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Discover more about Lemont history at the historical society museum in the Old Stone Church at 306 Lemont St. The museum is open to the public and welcomes visitors. For more information, visit the LAHS web site at http://www.lemonthistorical.org/ or contact lemontahs@sbcglobal.net.

The Lemont Area Historical Society also invites readers to share their photos of Lemont’s past, to be added to the LAHS archives.

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