Texas over Time: Crash at Crush

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Crash at Crush, TexasImages from the John Oscar Birgen “Swede” Johnson collection

  • On September 13, 1896, William George Crush organized the infamous collision of the Katy Roundhouses on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad.
  • Crush, as the new General Passenger Agent of the MKT System, had the idea to demonstrate a train crash as a publicity stunt and was assured by all but one mechanical engineer that the boilers of the trains would not explode.
  • For the price of $2 a ticket, over 40,000 spectators came out to the pop-up town of Crush, Texas, to see the “famous duel of the iron monsters.”
  • Just after 4 pm, Crush threw a hat up into the air, signaling red No. 1001 and green Old No. 99 to begin racing at 90 miles an hour towards each other. The thundering crash of the locomotives sent flying debris towards the massive crowd, causing three deaths and other injuries.
  • One of the two photographers capturing the event, Jarvis Deane, was among the injured. He lost his eyesight after a missile put out his eye and a metal bolt lodged into his head.
  • The incident inspired Scott Joplin to write “The Great Crush Collision March.”

See all of the images in our Flickr set. GIFs and factoids prepared by Haley Rodriguez, archives student assistant.