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Train Wreck Tragedy

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On this date in 1912, the final report on a horrific accident appeared in papers, telling the full story of a tragedy. On December 30th of 1911, a train derailed near Sharon in Steele County. The Great Northern passenger train No. 3, dubbed the Oregonian, was passing through Steele County at around 10:00 in the morning on a frigid day of -20 degrees, with a 12 mile an hour breeze that made the day seem even colder. The train was going about forty miles an hour on a slight curve, when a rail snapped in the intense cold. The engine, tender, and the first four cars rolled over, catching fire.

Though fellow passengers rushed to the aid of those in the burning cars, the fire soon became too hot as they attempted to chop through the wreckage with axes to free trapped passengers.

A train was dispatched from Devils Lake with nurses, doctors, and other helpers. The fire was still burning when they arrived. Despite the best efforts of the rescuers, the dining car was consumed by the blaze. Five passengers there were burned beyond recognition.

Injured passengers were rushed to hospitals in Fargo, Devils Lake, and even Breckenridge MN. All of them would recover. It was eventually confirmed that the five people in the dining car were the only fatalities. They were Albert Lodge, Joseph Mosher, M. Mahoney, Martha Keefer, and the unnamed five-month-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Bailey.

Winter has always been one of North Dakota’s most notorious killers, the dangerously cold combined with harsh winds being a constant worry. Settlers found this out in the very early days of the state, and though technology and quality of life have advanced considerably, winter weather remains a threat.

Dakota Datebook by Katie David


Bowbells Tribune, Jan. 5, 1912

Jamestown Weekly Alert, Jan. 4, 1912

The Bottineau Courant. Jan. 5, 1912

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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