Sunday, January 27, 2019

Train Wreck in Irvington--1940

With two rail lines cutting through the neighborhood, Irvington residents have seen a fair number of accidents over the years. On Saturday, April 27, 1940, residents in southern Irvington were jolted by a thunderous crash. Nine train cars pulled by a double header (two locomotives) sped along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from Cincinnati. As the train traveled through the community, a coal gondola (open-air car) came loose causing the other eight empty stock cars to slam into each other near South Spencer Avenue. Amazingly, neither the conductor, Ralph Lowry, nor the engineer, Carl Shaefer, were injured in the spectacular crash. Curious neighbors raced to the scene and found the train cars strewn about and the tracks torn up. Since it was a lovely spring day and on a weekend, many walked or rode their bikes down to the scene of the accident.

The Sohn family dwelled at 378 South Downey Avenue. The B & 0 Railroad was just south of their backyard. On the following Sunday, Anton and Ruth Sohn grabbed their family and headed to the accident scene to survey the damage. They didn't have to walk far as the crash site was just behind their home. At some point, Mrs. Sohn photographed her husband and children standing next to the wreckage. The story of the crash made page seven of the Sunday edition of the Indianapolis Star. A dramatic fire in downtown Indianapolis along Pennsylvania Street and Hitler's blitzkrieg through northern Europe occupied the main headlines on the front page of the paper.

Anton and Ruth Sohn dwelled at 378 South Downey Avenue. Mr. Sohn operated a grocery store along Fletcher Avenue. In this photo, he posed with his children most likely on Sunday, April 28, 1940, next to the train wreckage along the B&O RR in Irvington. (Photo courtesy of Anton and Bill Sohn)
Local residents gathered to view the wreckage of nine train cars along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on April 27, 1940.  Mrs. Sohn of 378 South Downey Avenue kept the newspaper articles about the crash in a diary. (Indianapolis Star, April 28, 1940, 7) 
 Information and images for this story are courtesy of the Sohn family.

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