Haunted By a Train Wreck

Visitors to our Wheelchair Engineers program at the Columbia Mall on Interstate 80, at Exit 232 near Bloomsburg in central Pennsylvania, often pause a moment to look at a framed memorial on the left-hand wall.

The memorial remembers the 33 men and boys from a Pennsylvania artillery unit who died in a terrible train wreck almost 60 years ago, on the morning of September 11, 1950.

The memorial may give visitors pause, but they hardly know how deep the feeling goes, for the train wreck has haunted Bob since he was a small child.

“I was nine years old, in the fourth grade, when the catastrophe happened,” he remembers, “and several of the men who died were from my neighborhood. One of them lived on the next street and delivered our winter coal. I would sit on our front porch railing and watch the coal slide down the chute. He had a daughter exactly my age, and our mothers had wheeled us together in carriages when we were babies. Many of those who died were teenagers: one was the brother of my classmate.”

The train wreck victims were killed and injured in Ohio when a speeding Pennsylvania Railroad streamliner, the Spirit of St. Louis, ran through stop signals and rammed the rear of the troop train. The train wreck still stands as one of the worst in American railroad history. Since 1950, only five U.S. train wrecks have had more casualties.

Bob, who is a widely published author and magazine reporter, has written a novel called Smart Boys Swimming in the River Styx that describes the young soldiers in the train wreck and the women who loved them (Amazon – Barnes & Noble).

Copyright 2011 Wheelchair Engineers, all rights reserved.