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Peculiar Train Accident


A “peculiar accident” was reported by the Fargo Forum on this day in 1902 that involved one fortunate little boy and one speeding passenger train. The incident occurred two days before near Glasgow, Montana, and concerned the Chamberlain family of Forest River, North Dakota. The family was returning home by train from their annual winter stay in Seattle, Washington when the peculiar event occurred.

According to Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain, the family was sitting down to lunch in their train car when Mrs. Chamberlain gave her oldest son an empty glass bottle to toss out of the car’s open window. This was obviously a time before litter laws were in place, as throwing trash from train cars was a common practice of the day. Anyhow, the five-year old boy took the bottle from his mother and proceeded to the opposite side of the car to toss it out. The boy threw the bottle with all his might from the car, and then, in his excitement, leaned over the edge of the window’s sill to get a good look at the bottle’s landing. As he peered after the bottle, the boy lost his balance and fell completely out of the open window. The Chamberlains rushed to the window to see what had become of their son, and saw that he had hit the ground a ways back and had rolled to the edge of the ditch alongside the locomotive’s tracks.

Mrs. Chamberlain sounded the car’s alarm, and brought the steam engine to a halt. The worried parents ran to inform the conductor, who immediately reversed the train an eighth-mile to where the boy lay. Miraculously, the family found the boy conscious and, despite some minor cuts and bruises, relatively unharmed. Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain had their son looked after by a doctor upon their arrival in Grand Forks. The doctor believed that the boy had suffered a concussion in the fall, but could find no physical maladies besides a small cut on the boy’s knee. The train had been moving at full speed when the boy fell from the car, but the small five-year old had managed to walk away from the incident relatively unscathed. The Fargo Forum added that the same accident would normally prove fatal to any adult, little less a small boy.



Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, May 30, 1902: p. 6.