Tragic Death of Three Men in Clarksburg, WV


The Daily Telegram., April 02, 1904

Three Men Killed in a Rear End Collision of Engines—Thomas Quinn With Body Cut Off Below Waist and Remaining Portion Horribly Mangled Live for Hour and a Half and Talks Calmly to Attendants.

Engines Back Into Each Other Rounding a Curve–One Was Dragging Flat Car of Steel Rails and Shock of collision Drove the Rails Through Bodies of Three Men Sitting on Pilot Between car and Engine– Train crew Jumped and Escaped Injury.

Image of B & O Locomotive No. 1239 a similar engine to the one that was involved in the accident that resulted in the loss of life of 3 men

Two men were instantly killed and a third was so horribly mutilated that he died within an hour and a half, though it was miraculous that he lived at all, in a rear end collision of two engines in the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Yards near the junction just before eleven o’clock Saturday morning.


THOMAS QUINN, of Pittsburg.

Strong men shuddered, hardened railroad men turned their heads and trackmen shed tears at the sad and awful sight which was presented in a passenger coach which brought the victims of the accident to the depot. Two men through whose bodies heavy steel rails had been driven with a frightful impact lay in the aisle of the coach. Kind hands had thrown clothes over the upper part of their bodies, hiding from view the mangled remains.

A third man lay on the floor of the coach with his resting on the sill of the platform door. His body was cut nearly in two below the abdomen. His right leg was cut entirely off. From an ugly gaping hole in his side his life blood streamed. His arms were crushed and the flesh torn in shreds revealing the bone. Yet in the valley of the shadow of death he lingered for an hour and a half after the accident and then calmly closed his eyes in eternal sleep.

During all this time he was perfectly rational and talked, and answered all questions. This man was Thomas Quinn who, as well as the other victims were employees of the track gang of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.


Doctors had been hurriedly summoned when the passenger coach arrived at the depot carrying the remains of the killed and the man who was in the throes of death. They at once prepared to render medical attention to the living man, but when they looked and saw the nature of his injuries, they shuddered and drew back, telling those standing by that their services would be of no avail.

Quinn asked if he was going to die and when they told him that he had only a short time to live he requested that a Presbyterian minister be sent to administer unto him. Calls were sent for the nearest minister and shortly Rev. S. K. Arbuthnot arrived and remained with the man in prayer until his spirit took its flight. Quinn talked calmly to those attending him. He suffered no great pain only complaining now and then that he was very sick. The shock of the terrible injuries was so great that actual pain and suffering was dulled and benumbed.

Image of the Hazel Atlas Glass Factory near where tragic accident happened which claimed lives of three men

The collision occurred in the west end of the railroad yards, east of the junction and just opposite the Hazel Atlas glass factory, where the tracks curve around the spur of Pinnickinnick Hill.

Yard engine No. 1646, in charge of Engineer Thad Teter, Fireman T. M. Moore and Conductor Frank Milstead, was coming east. It had been to Wilsonburg switching cars and was returning to the Clarksburg yards with orders giving them the right of way east to their destination. The engine was running backward. In turning the bend around the spur of the hill the tender of No. 1246 crashed into the tender of construction engine No. 308, which was running in the opposite direction, and also backwards. No, 308, was dragging a flat truck on which were loaded about twenty five steel rails, which the workmen had been using in track construction. The flat truck was being dragged by the engine, coupled to the pilot hawser. On the pilot of No. 308 three men, Quinn, Shafer and O’Brien, were sitting.


The shock of the collision was so great that the steel rails were thrown with terrible impact towards the engine. The rails struck the men sitting on the pilot. The rails were thrown with such force that those which struck the unfortunate men were driven clean through their bodies.

The fireman, engineer and conductor on No. 1246, seeing the engine coming jumped and alighted on the ground uninjured. The train crew on No. 308 also saw the inevitable collision and jumped in time to escape injury. Several trackmen on the flat truck jumped off and also escaped. The three men sitting in between the engine and the flat truck had no warning and were crushed to death by the steel rails.

Engineer Will Wright, Fireman Dellet Lawson and Conductor Brad Tucker were on No. 308. They all escaped injury.

The remains of the men who were killed were picked up and placed on a passenger coach which was brought to the scene of the accident. Quinn was tenderly bourne into the car and laid on the floor and the coach was towed to the depot as above stated.

The bodies of the men who met instant death were terribly mangled. Shafer’s head was mashed into a pulp. The rails were driven through their bodies above the waist.

The remains of all three were removed to the undertaking establishment of the Clifford Osborn Undertaking Company and prepared for burial. Coroner W. P. Camp was not notified of the accident until the remains were taken to the undertakers. He then took charge of the case and began an investigation into the matter. 


Mistaken orders, or the failure of delivering orders to engine No. 308, is supposed to have been the cause of the accident. No. 1246 had received orders to proceed through to Clarksburg and the orders gave it the right of way. It seems that the trainmen of No. 308 had not been given orders of the former engine’s right of way.

Neither of the two engines were derailed. Engine No. 1246 was not injured to any great extent. Engine No. 308 and its tender was mashed and battered up but did not leave the rails. The fender was crushed up against the boiler and the cab sides splintered. It was smashed up badly where the other engine struck it and the steel rails that were hurled from the flat truck were driven clear through the front iron work and lower part of the engine where the men were sitting. The engine and car was towed up into the wards. The engine is practically useless but it may be possible to repair it for future use.

So far as it known at present the dead men are all single and leave no relatives. They were employed on the construction gang of the railroad.


The Daily Telegram., April 04, 1904

To Engine No. 380, Did Telegraph Operator Swindler, Causing Collision That Killed Three Men and He Will Be Tried For Involuntary Manslaughter.

Cover of the The Railroad Telegrapher, a monthly publication for the labor union of the Railroad Telegraphers

A warrant was issued by Magistrate M. S. Riley late Monday afternoon at the instance of Coroner W. P. Camp against G. C. Swindler, late telegraph operator at the Short Line railroad junction, for his arrest, charging him with involuntary manslaughter. 

The issuance of the warrant was the result of the verdict of the coroner’s jury which held an inquest Monday afternoon as to the death of the three men, Thomas Quinn, John O’Brien and Peter Shafer, who were killed in the collison of freight engines in the Baltimore & Ohio railroad yards Saturday morning. The following were the jurors Jasper Kyle, W. H. Cole, S. F. Reed, J. I. Alexander, Oliver P. Boughner and J. Hornor Davis. The jurors viewed the remains at the Clifford Osborne undertaking parlors and repaired to the coroner’s office in the basement of the court house.

Swindler was put on the witness stand first and in his testimony he acknowledged that the collision was due to his own mistake in not delivering to engine No. 308 orders, which gave the right of way, to engine No. 1646. No. 803 passed his station without the orders and the collision which killed the three men resulted. His assistant Wade Stout was examined and the jury then went into session and rendered a verdict that “the death of the three men (Thomas Quinn, John O’Brien and Peter Shafer) were caused by a collision of trains on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad * * * 

Said collision being the result of the negligence of G. C. Swindler, telegraph operator at the Short Line Junction.”


The Daily Telegram., April 05, 1904
The Clarksburg Telegram., April 08, 1904, page 8

Of Men Who Were Killed in Railroad Collision in B. & O. Yards Saturday Morning Take Place Tuesday.

The funeral and burial of the three men who were killed in the railroad collision in the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Yards Saturday morning, occurred Tuesday. Funeral services over the remains of Thomas Quinn and Peter Shafer were held at the undertaking establishment of the Clifford-Osborne Company at ten o’clock in the morning by Rev. William M. Hudson, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. Burial followed in the I. O. O. F. Cemetery. The remains of John O’Brien were taken to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the afternoon, where funeral services were held. Burial was made in the Holy Cross Cemetery.


The Daily Telegram., April 05, 1904


Will Be Tried By Circuit Court as the Charge of Involuntary Manslaughter–Is Arrested But Waives Examination and is Released on Bond.

G. C. Swindler, former telegraph operator at the Baltimore & Ohio railroad station, at the Short Line junction, who forgot to deliver orders to train No. 803 last Saturday morning, which resulted in a collision that killed three men, was arrested late Monday afternoon on the warrant charging him with involuntary manslaughter, which had been issued in Magistrate M. S. Riley’s court at the instance of Coroner W. P. Camp. As soon as the coroner’s jury, which held the inquest over the remains of the three victims of the collision swore out the warrant as he is compelled to do according to law..

Swindler was taken before the magistrate for a hearing. He waived examination and was bound over to circuit court in the sum of one thousand dollars. He furnished the bond with J. E. Boyles as surety and was released.

Sketch of Court

Swindler is a young man, not more than twenty-five years of age. He has been working in the railroad service for over five years and had been employed at the Short Line Junction for two years. Swindler is all broken up over the accident and deplores his unfortunate mistake exceedingly. He said the collision was due to his mistake and could not account for it, only that it was forgetfulness on his part.

According to the railroad rules, Swindler was relieved from his position shortly after the accident.


The Daily Telegram., May 04, 1904

G. C. Swindler, of this city, has been appointed operator in the office of Bailey & Melton, stock brokers, under the management of C. E. Day, in the Irwin building. Until recently he was in the employ of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company.

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