Hit Head-On · Take 6 Men to Hospital

Times-Union Feature Writer

The engines of two Pennsylvania freight trains crashed head-on in East Warsaw at 7:45 a. m. today, sending six crewmen to the hospital, piling up four diesel engines and 15 cars.

It was the second train wreck in Warsaw in the last five months and the fourth in Kosciusko county in less than a year. None of the six men were hurt seriously, and all were dismissed from the Murphy Medical Center shortly before 11 a. m.

The collision occurred on the east-bound track on the south side of the double-track right-of-way, 16 blocks from downtown Warsaw. The original impact was on a curve east of the Grant street crossing.

Residents of the area said the crash sounded like a monstrous rumble of thunder.

Last Sept. 7 a Pennsylvania passenger train, "The Trail Blazer," was derailed just eight blocks west of today's crash, hospitalizing 38 persons. On May 18, 1956, 16 freight cars piled up at Milford Junction, less than a months after 41 freight cars were derailed at Mentone on April 23, 1956.

In today's wreck, the four-unit locomotive and 15 cars of the 116-car east-bound freight left the rails. Some of the cars stopped only a short distance from East Winona avenue, the auto thoroughfare from Warsaw to Winona Lake. None of the west-bound cars were derailed.

Two freight cars, one loaded with hogs and one with grain, were splintered like kindling. A number of hogs in one of the cars were killed outright, some were crippled and had to be shot at the scene, and others were running loose in yards of homes on the east side of the city.

Warsaw firemen were called to the scene about 9:45 when fire broke out in the wiring and engineer's control panel of one of the locomotives. A Columbus City machinist and crew member, Paul Tagtmeyer, 50, was overcome by fumes and was taken to the Murphy Medical Center. He was later released.

Crewmen on the east-bound train admitted to the hospital were Fred Ostermeyer, 39, engineer, of Columbia City; George Koeniman, 34, fireman, of Route 2, Ossian; Robert R. Campbell, 52, brakeman, and N. G. Groves, 32, also a brakeman, both of Fort Wayne; and Claude Mulles, 46, of Route 1, Markle, a brakeman on the west-bound freight. They also were released later this morning.

Campbell and Groves were riding in the rear unit of the east-bound diesel and were showered with glass, pieces of steel and wood from the demolished freight cars.

Jacob D. Fuchs, assistant regional manager of the Pennsylvania railroad, and members of his staff were reported to be en-route to Warsaw this morning by car to try to determine cause of the crash. A spokesman for the company in Chicago indicated that the east-bound freight should have stopped in Warsaw.

Officials said they were "looping" the west-bound freight to allow the passenger train "Liberty Limited" to go on through to the west. This train arrived on the scene just a few minutes after the wreck and was flagged to a halt by a brakeman of the west-bound freight. It was later re-routed through Columbia City and Logansport to Chicago.

Another crack passenger train, "The General," had passed, going west just a short time before the accident. "Looping" is the railroad term used for running a train onto the opposite main line track to allow a faster train to go by.

A crewmember of the west-bound freight said he was in the engine cab when he saw the east-bound train approaching. He said he asked the engineer, "What in the hell is he doing coming through here?" He said he and another member immediately bailed out of the cab.

Crew members on the two trains in addition to those taken to the hospital were Paul Payne, 39, fireman, and A. R. Bruner, engineer, both of Fort Wayne; Carl Lake, fireman, of Harlan; Howard Hirschman, conductor, J. Zwierko, brakeman, and Paul Stettler, conductor, all of Fort Wayne.

Three of the first to arrive at the scene were William Caryer, Charles Sainer and Norman Hankins, all of this city.

Hankins found one of the crew members wandering dazedly in a field just west of the Dalton Foundry. He asked him what happened and the man said he didn't know. Hankins immediately took him to the hospital.

Sainer said he could hear the tower operator, Vivian Cullison, talking to train personnel, voicing a frantic effort for them to "stop, stop, you're going to crash."

Early reports indicated that one of the trains might have disregarded at least two block signals. However, this was not officially confirmed. Pennsylvania officials from Chicago and For Wayne were at the scene this afternoon trying to determine what caused the crash.

Railroad employees were busy clearing the wreckage and trying to put the west-bound track in order first. Emergency units from Plymouth and Columbia City came to Warsaw when they heard there was an emergency here.

Tower Man Tries To Warn Crew

"Stop, stop, you're going to crash!"

Those were the frantic words of Pennsylvania tower operator Vivian F. Cullison, of Etna Green, at about 7:45 this morning as he called frantically through a megaphone to train crewmen just before locomotives of the two freights met head-on in East Warsaw.

However, it was too late. The east and west bound freights met in a thunderous crash that rocked the east part of this city and left twisted steel and lumber scattered over blocks of track.

According to Charles Sainer, he heard a similar call by radio to stop the train. Cullison could not be contacted by Times-Union reporters, but other local railroad officials said that if someone was heard frantically calling to the train crew by radio, it must have come from either Plymouth or Columbia City towers, who could radio direct to the train. Cullison apparently contacted one of these tower operators and asked him to warn the train crew.

An eye-witness account was given to reporters by Dick Siefken. En-route to his business establishment on East Winona avenue, Siefken noticed a west-bound freight train standing idle on the tracks and when he heard another freight train approaching he went outside to take a look, just out of curiosity.

His curiosity was soon chilled, however, when he saw that the east-bound freight was on the same track as the train he saw a moment earlier. Moments later he witnessed the head-on crash.

Workers at the nearby Jomac plant reported their building was jarred to such an extent that they thought their boiler had exploded. After checking and finding everything in order in their own building, they looked outside and saw the accident.


Warsaw Times-Union Friday, January 25, 1957

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