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Engineer Ryan and Fireman Hall Killed
C., P. & St. L. Engine Left Track Because of a Broken Rail and Dashed into C. & A. Engine – Part of Hall’s Body Still Buried

            A disastrous wreck, one which resulted in the loss of two lives, occurred at the southeast gate of the state fair grounds yesterday afternoon at 4:20 o’clock.  A Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis fair ground suburban train was thrown from the track by a broken rail, and collided with a Chicago & Alton suburban train entering the grounds on an adjacent track.  Both engines were demolished, and the engineer and fireman on the C., P. & St. L. were killed, and a brakeman was injured.


JOHN D. RYAN, engineer on the C. P. & St. L. train.

JEREMIAH P. HALL, fireman on the C. P. & St. L. train.


A.    J. Mack, brakeman on the C. P. & St. L. train; injured about the body, perhaps fatally.

           The wreck is one of the most disastrous that has ever occurred in Springfield, and one which cast a gloom over the community.  At the time of the accident a large crowd were making merry within the state fair grounds.  Suddenly there was a terrible crash, and two lives had been crushed out beneath a mighty mass of iron.  The news of the horrible accident spread rapidly about the grounds and in an instant large crowds were going toward the scene.  For a moment none could imagine the cause of the excitement and hurry, but shortly it was announced that two men had been killed, and this cast a gloom over the large crowd and everything was calm.


            None on the grounds at the time of the horrible accident seemed to realize that within the gates of the state fair grounds, and only a short distance away from the wreck, was the wife of Engineer John Ryan.  She was on the scene shortly, and soon learned the worst.  Her husband had been buried beneath the engine.  The heartbroken, wailing wife was led from the scene as soon as possible, and taken to her home on South Eighth Street.  Beneath the C. & A. engine, and only a short distance from Engineer Ryan, lay the body of his fireman, Jeremiah Hall.  Life was extinct.  Death of both railroaders is believed to have been instantaneous.  The news of the sad accident was soon conveyed to the city, and to the families of the unfortunate victims.  The scenes of sadness presented at the homes of the two men last night can only be imagined.  At the Ryan residence, Eighth and Cedar streets, was his wife, and beside her, her six children, weeping for the husband and father.  At the Hall residence, Sixteenth and Cook streets, the scene was the same.  A widow and three children survive.

The C. P. & St. L. train was entering at the southeast gate of the state fair grounds at 4:20 o’clock.  To the west, a distance of only a few feet, was entering the Chicago and Alton.  Both trains were running at a fair rate of speed, and the rail beneath the former train broke.  The train left the track and dashed into the moving Chicago & Alton train.  A terrible crash followed, which could be heard for some distance.  The C. P. & St. L. engine overturned, carrying with it the engineer and fireman, and their bodies were caught beneath the Chicago & Alton engine.  The Chicago & Alton engine was leaning on its side, having run into the house occupied by the custodian of the fair grounds, and damaged it to some extent.  The building was partially knocked from its foundation.  Luckily no one was in the house at the time.  The coaches which were attached to the engines were badly damaged.  Both engines are completely wrecked, and the track for some distance was torn up.


            A wrecking crew was immediately sent for, and willing hands at once went to work in an attempt to locate the bodies of the missing engineer and fireman.  The search continued for some time, and finally the body of Engineer Ryan was found beneath the engine.  An attempt was made to free him, but to no avail.  The weight of the front end of the engine which was upon him, had crushed out his life.  The wrecking crew at this time arrived, and the weight of the heavy engine was lifted and the body was freed about 6 o’clock.


            Fireman Hall was found lying between the drivers of the Chicago and Alton engine.  It was an impossibility to free him, as one driver of the engine stood upon the form.  Work of clearing the wreck to rescue the body continued throughout the night, and a part of the body was recovered at an early hour this morning.  The weight of the iron mass gradually cut its way through the human mass, and severed it.  The trunk was removed, but the lower limbs are still beneath the ruin.  Throughout the evening, and late into the night a large gang of men were busily engaged at the wreckage, in an attempt to clear it, though little headway was made.  It is not probable that the remainder of Hall’s body will be taken from the wreck until a steam derrick can be procured to place the leaning Chicago & Alton engine on the track.

            The scene which the wreck presented last night was indeed a dismal one.  The C. P. & St. L. engine lay on its side, and only a short distance west lay the disabled Chicago & Alton engine.  Tracks were torn up and the house on the fair grounds was almost wrecked.  This, however, was not to compare with the loss of human life, which had been caused by the accident.


            Exactly how the accident occurred, and just how the engineer and fireman on the C. P. & St. L. engine were caught, and their life crushed out beneath the Chicago and Alton engine, is not and probably never will be known.  The men, who alone could tell the story, are dead.  The engine when it was derailed ran into the front end of the engine of the adjoining track, and ran into the house.  The C. P. & St. L. engine turned over on its side.  It is very probable that the engineer and fireman, so sudden did the appalling accident occur, did not have time to attempt to escape, and were thrown out of the cab, beneath the other engine.  Some believe, however, that the fireman left his engine, and was followed by Engineer Ryan, and both jumped, only to light beneath the grinding wheels of the engine.


            Engineer John Ettinger, who was at the throttle of the Alton engine, escaped with a severe shaking up.  Both he and his fireman were not aware of any danger until the other engine collided with theirs.  They were thrown from their seat boxes, and onto the ground.  Neither was injured.  Brakeman A. J. Mack, on the ill-fated C. P. & St. L. train, saw the engine leave the track.  He attempted to jump and was thrown against a post and severely injured.  He was picked up and immediately taken to Springfield Hospital, where an examination of his injuring revealed the fact that three ribs on his left side were broken, his right shoulder injured, and he was otherwise bruised and scarred about the body and limbs.  He suffered much pain last night.

            When the accident occurred a number of physicians were summoned and went to the scene immediately to render assistance, but no one was injured with the exception of the brakeman, and it was beyond their power to assist the two men beneath the engine.


            What caused the broken rail cannot be accounted for.  It is a fact that this track leading into the state fair grounds is only used once a year, but road officials state that a short time ago the track was inspected and repaired.  They say that yesterday morning it was in the best of condition.


            The body of Engineer Ryan, after being removed from the wreck was taken to Foster’s undertaking parlors.  The face and head were badly bruised, and on the left temple was a deep gash, which penetrated the skull.  The remains were taken to the family residence, Eighth and Cedar streets, this morning.  Engineer John Ryan was 42 years old.  He was well and favorably known in Springfield, where he has resided for many years.  The greater part of his life he spent in railroading, and on all roads which he had worked was a most trusted employee.  He was a general favorite with his fellow employees, and none will miss him more than they.  For many years he was employed on the Wabash road, and left that company during the strike of 1894.  About three years ago he secured a position on the C. P. & St. L. road in the capacity of engineer, and was a trusted employee.  He is survived by his wife and six children.  Walter, William, Francis, Annie, Elizabeth, and Marguerite, and three sisters, Mrs. Margaret Hughes, of Chicago; Mrs. Nora Davidson, of Springfield, and Mrs. Beard, of Bluffs, Ia; also his mother, Mrs. Hurley, of Bluffs, but who at present is in Chicago.  Mr. Ryan was a member of the Knights of Columbus court No. 181, Order of Foresters, and division No. 416, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.  He was also an associate member of the Modern Woodmen of America.


            Fireman Jeremiah Hall resided at 1528 East Cook street.  He was 36 years of age.  He was also an old employee of the Wabash road, leaving in the strike of 1894.  Two years ago he went to work for the C. P. & St. L. road.  For some time he was employed as engineer of the switch engine, and only a few days returned from St. Louis, where he was acting in that capacity.  He was acting as foreman during fair week when he was killed.  He leaves a wife and three small children, Catherine, Mary Ellen and Dennis Hall.  He also leaves his father, Thomas Hall, and four sisters Mrs. Mary Hickey, Maggie Dunham, Mrs. Katie Engle and Annie, all of Springfield, and three brothers, Edward and Thos. Hall, of Springfield and Dennis Hall, who is now in the south.  He was a member of court No. 181, Order of Foresters.

            The funeral arrangements of neither have yet been completed.  Coroner Baer will hold the inquest this afternoon.
Illinois State Register - September 26, 1900

Engineer and Fireman Killed at Fair Grounds Entrance
Overturning of Engines Causes a Loss of Two Lives
Broken Rail the Cause of the Initial Accident During the Week of The State Fair

            Engines on the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis and Chicago & Alton railroads collided at the entrance to the state fair grounds at 4:20 o’clock yesterday afternoon.  Two trainmen were killed and two other men were seriously injured.

            The dead:

            JOHN D. RYAN, engineer

            JERRY HALL, fireman

            Seriously injured:

A.    J. Mack, brakeman

T. F. Crotty of Los Angeles Cal., passenger

            The accident occurred within fifty feet of the entrance to the exposition grounds, at a time when the station platforms within the grounds were crowded with persons waiting to take trains for the city.

            Intense excitement followed the crash of the engines.  A number of women fainted and the crowd was temporarily panic stricken.  Ryan and Hall were thrown beneath the tons of steel of the big Alton engine and both were instantly killed.  Mack, who was on the C. P. & St. L. train, jumped when the crash came.  He was caught by the flying debris and sustained a fracture of two ribs and a bruised shoulder.  Crotty was aboard the Chicago & Alton train, riding in the front coach.  He was thrown violently against a forward seat by the crash and received a cut on the scalp and a fracture of one rib.

            A broken rail on the tracks of the C. P. & St. L. road caused the accident.  At the entrance to the fair grounds the tracks of the two roads run parallel for a considerable distance.  Two suburban trains, carrying passengers to and from the exposition grounds, were entering the grounds side by side, the C. P. & St. L. leading by half an engine length.  Fifty feet from the entrance to the grounds the engine struck the defective rail.  The forward trucks of the locomotive were thrown from the tracks; the iron monster reared on its rear trucks, seemed to hesitate for an instant and then plunged toward the Alton engine, running alongside.

            When the recreant engine left the tracks both crews of enginemen jumped for their lives.  John Ettinger, engineer of the Alton engine, remained at his post and was uninjured.  W. S. of Bloomington, fireman of the Alton engine, made the following statement of the affair to the representative of the Journal:

            “When the rail of the C. P. & St. L. track broke it threw their engine upon us, just as we came up alongside.  They had passed us and were about a car length and a half ahead.  If we had been running at a high rate of speed, we would have been killed also; or, if, instead of toppling upon us they had run straight ahead into our engine it would, in all probability, have killed us instead of them.

            “I did not leave my post, but closed the throttle and set the brake and was one of the last to join the crowd that had formed as if by magic.  Bryant, my fireman, jumped in time to save himself from injury.”

            Fireman Bryant said:  “When I saw what was happening I jumped.  How I cleared the wire fence I don’t know, but I struck in that tree in front of us.”
Illinois State Journal - September 26, 1900