The Alton Wreck
By J.R. Edwards, Publisher
The direct cause of the wreck which cost 21 lives on Wednesday of last week, is no longer in doubt. The train orders which were found on the body of Engineer Anderson have been examined by a number of railroad men at Slater and their unanimous opinion is that had the orders been obeyed no wreck would have occurred. They also claim that the engineer and the conductor were equally responsible according to the rules of the road. It is evident that Conductor McAnna misunderstood his orders, and the engineer relied entirely on the judgment of the conductor and placed the orders in his pocket without reading them. Both of them were dashed to death as a result of their mistakes and no one will be unkind enough, under the circumstances, not to spread the mantle of charity over their fatal error.
But this is not the only misfortune the Alton has experienced of recent date, nor can the trouble be traced to any single cause. Indirectly the change of management, the change of rules, the change of officials and the discharge and retirement of old employees and the employment of new men, may be factors in its misfortunes. We do not mean to say that these changes have not been necessary in many cases, but in our opinion they have occasioned trouble.
When the road changed management it was the opinion of the old officials and the men under them, that it was only a question of time when they would have to seek employment elsewhere. They naturally grew uneasy and were not in a frame of mind to accomplish the best results. Old employees who had run on the road for year made errors and were discharged. Then came the big engines before the track was fully prepared to receive them. This caused some good engineers and firemen to give up their positions, which with the increasing business of the road forced the officials to employ new men and promote others to new positions.
This chain of circumstances, it seems to us, in connection with the extremely hot weather, shortage of power and disabled engines was to some extent indirectly reflected in the Sulphur Springs disaster.
But back of all of this the irresistible desire of the American people which forces railroad corporations to run their trains at a frightful speed. In this age of progress and development the traveling public is too often jeopardized by its own demands.
Source: The Slater Rustler, 19 July 1901
Submitted: Conni Braun