Frisco flagship steam engines collide head-on in July 1922; nearly an entire family perishes

June 7, 2019

 

 

The Frisco 4500 Meteor is a landmark steam locomotive that once moved passengers and freight overnight between Oklahoma City and St. Louis via Tulsa. This engine, once used on the Meteor route, is on permanent display at Red Fork, Tulsa, Route 66 Historic Village, Oklahoma. N 36° 06.494 W 096° 00.968 14S E 768598 N 4000077 Source: Waymarking.com. Photo: Mary Lou Montgomery

 

MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

 

Felix Andrew Hammer, his wife, Della Mae, and their five children were aboard the Texas Special, operated by the Frisco Railroad, during the early morning hours of Saturday, July 22, 1922. They were reportedly traveling home from Oklahoma, seated in the front seats of the front passenger car of the Frisco’s east-bound all-steel flagship train, the Texas Special.

A second named flagship train, the Meteor, was scheduled to pass the Texas Special at Logan, Mo., about 25 miles west of Springfield. One train was to wait on the siding while the other passed. But instead, an open switch or misinterpreted orders led to one of Missouri’s worst rail catastrophes. The two trains collided head-on near Logan.

One newspaper account noted that Engineer C.H. Ring of the Meteor applied the brakes to the steam engine, and then attempted to jump to safety. That same report said that when his body was recovered, the cigar he was smoking was still clenched between his teeth.

On July 22, 1922, the Chillicothe Constitution reported: “The baggage and mail car of the ‘Meteor’ were completely wrecked and lying beside the uptorn (sic) tracks. Two steel coaches on the (Texas) special and the baggage car were telescoped and piled up into lumps of twisted steel.”

The Texas Special was a combination Frisco and Missouri-Kansas Railroad, (or M.K.T. or the Katy) train, which ran from San Antonio to St. Louis. The Texas Special operated over the Frisco line from St. Louis through Springfield, Mo., to Vinita, Okla., where it met Katy lines. When the Texas Special changed lines in Vinita, it changed crews as well. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Meteor ran between St. Louis and Oklahoma City.

Logan was/is but a village. The main line and siding rails were used as a passing point for trains traveling in opposite directions.

 

Greatest loss

While there were many injuries aboard the two trains, the Hammer family suffered the greatest loss.

Killed on impact were Felix Andrew Hammer, 35, a farmer living in Camden County; Della Mae Hammer, 31; Verba Mae Hammer, 7; Clara Katherine Hammer, 6; and Donald Leon Hammer, 3.

Marjorie Hammer, who, a newspaper reported, was found four hours after the accident cradled in her dead mother’s arms, survived, as did 11-year-old Bernie Hammer, who suffered a fractured skull.

The following month, the Frisco settled with the family for $25,000. Mrs. Hammer’s parents, Fernander Zechariah and Hettie Louisa Brown West, took custody of their surviving grandchildren. Tragically, young Marjorie died a year later.

Bernie Hammer was raised until adulthood by his grandparents. He died in 1969, at the age of 59.

All seven members of the Hammer family are buried at the High Point Cemetery at Stoutland, Mo., Camden County, located northeast of Springfield.

 

Engineer’s error

While much was mentioned at the time about his vast experience and the respect of his colleagues and the Frisco officials, it was implied via newspaper articles that the burden of blame for the accident rested upon C.H. Ring, the engineer of the Meteor. The east-bound Texas Special arrived at Logan prior to the Meteor. The Texas Special engineer and fireman stopped the train on the main line per rail orders, got off the engine and waited for the west bound train, which was instructed to go on the siding.

The St. Louis Star and Times reported in its July 22, 1922 edition:

 “Suddenly (the Meteor) came around a long curve immediately ahead of the Logan station with speed undiminished. The (Meteor) engine telescoped (the Texas Special) and the two engines rose high into the air and then crashed on their sides. The first coach (of the Meteor), back of the baggage car, was a chair car in which there were a large number of passengers. This car was completely demolished and it was in it that those killed and injured had been seated.”

While the accident occurred around 4 a.m., little could be done to help the injured until daybreak.

The St. Louis Star and Times reported on the day of the accident:

“Farmers of the vicinity and townspeople of Logan who were awakened and attracted to the scene by the crash, found uninjured members of the crews and passengers trying to fight their way into the wreckage to remove the dead and injured and to enable those in the coaches to get out. Workers groped about for the most part in the dark, aided only by the light of train lanterns.

“Those of the injured that workers were able to get out of the wreckage were taken into Logan homes and attended by a Logan physician and residents. Some were laid on the station platform and along the right-of-way.”

Medical assistance didn’t arrive by rail until 10 a.m.

 

Frisco Hospital

The 40-50 injured passengers and crew were ultimately taken by rail to the Frisco Hospital in Springfield for treatment. From 1899 to 1922, Frisco employees had a hospital at their access, originally operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Holy Cross. (Source: thelibrary.org, Springfield-Greene County Library District) The hospital was a three-story brick building located at the corner of Broadway Avenue and Atlantic Street. The building was razed in 1924.

 

Engineer Ring

Fifty-six at the time of his death, C.H. Ring had been a railroader all of his life. He started working in the round house in Terre Haute, Ind., at the age of 13. After a failed first marriage, he was united with Frances Hawes Lyman on March 21, 1902, and for more than 20 years they resided in Monett, Mo.

Pallbearers were engineers and friends of the deceased, William E. Blankenship, Thos. Mansfield, J.A. Beatty, J.M. Mulhall, Mr. Schafnitt and John Farrow.

The Monette Times reported on Mr. Ring’s funeral, and quoted Frisco Vice President T.A. Hamilton: “Mr. C.H. Ring, who lost his life in this particular accident, was one of the best engineers on the Frisco railroad.”

 

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com

 

 

 

This 1919 postcard depicts the Texas Special, which ran from San Antonio, Texas, to St. Louis. Effective March 4, 1917, the Texas Special operated over the Frisco line from St. Louis through Springfield, Missouri, to Vinita, Oklahoma, where it met Katy lines. When the Texas Special changed lines in Vinita, it changed crews as well. In the early days of joint operations, down the Katy line in Muskogee, Okla., the locomotive was changed also. Photo source: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

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