Hagenbeck-Wallace Confusion

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GaryIndianaRailFan
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Hagenbeck-Wallace Confusion

Unread post by GaryIndianaRailFan »

Forgive me for the long post.

I’ve been reading up on the New York Central/Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus Train Wreck of 1918. With the 100 year anniversary of the accident coming up in a couple years, I’m sure there will be others trying to find information as I am. I’ve read blogs, books and watched all of the scarce media material dealing with this topic on the Internet. I would say about 50% of the information I’ve read is as accurate as it possibly could be, using my own discernment skills to place things into proper context. There’s not a lot of material that is easily available online. Newspaper articles about the accident almost read like tabloids and I took a lot of what the journalists of that day wrote with a grain of salt. I also take with a grain of salt what the authors wrote in the books that cover the disaster.

My main confusion is about the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus route that supposedly originated in Michigan City, passed through Gary and into Hammond i.e. Gibson. According to the material I’ve read, Extra 7826 (the circus train) was ordered to take the G&W (IHB Dune Park Branch), getting off onto the Michigan Central line, and change tracks as it came into Ivanhoe Junction (Ivanhoe Interlocking), in the Brunswick neighborhood of Gary, Indiana.

I don’t believe that this is entirely accurate. Trust me I am wanting to be corrected if I am wrong, thus the purpose of this post.

I am no expert on the layout of the railroads in 1918 as far as knowing where every junction and interlocking is located. There is little talk about the route the circus trains took immediately outside of Michigan City. It is also my understanding that Dune Park Yard was in Porter County and the G&W (Gary & Western) passed though Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore west into Gary. My confusion is that, according to the material I’ve read, Extra 7826 was to get off of the Dune Park Branch and onto the MC ( Michigan Central) tracks. How was that possible coming off of the G&W (IHB Dune Park Branch) at Ivanhoe? I'm assuming Ivanhoe because according to what I've surmised, there is no way to get to the MC tracks before Ivanhoe Junction from the G&W inside of Gary city limits.

Also, in this source material, it stated that Extra 7826 passed Tolleston (Junction) Tower, which was in between 9th/10th & Grant Street, by the diamond that the PRR Fort Wayne & Wabash RR crossed the Michigan Central tracks. I don't know exactly where Tollestion Tower stood, but the G&W does pass this area but north about 150-200 yards of Tolleston Tower on elevated tracks. Yet the books seemed to indicate that it passed literally next to it, which would be impossible once again if it truly was on the G&W. I think it would be impractical for Extra 7826 to have interacted with Tolleston Tower being up on the G&W, though I imagine the short distance would not keep Tolleston Tower from letting Ivanhoe Tower know Extra 7826 was coming towards him.

West of Grant Street, there are only two turn offs from the G&W before it passes Ivanhoe Junction in Brunswick. The first is a feeder track that runs behind the old Budd factory (now Chicago Steel), located off of 5th & Chase Street. I used to work for a contracted private security firm for Bucko Construction, which is located between the IHB Dune Park Branch and the Michigan Central tracks at 9th & Chase. Their property runs almost the entire length of both of these lines from Chase Street west to Clark Road. I used to sit and watch from my car IHB engines taking the old G&W around that infamous bend in the tracks, crossing Clark Rd and entering behind Chicago Steel, turning off before the tracks elevate into the first bridge that spans 9th & Chase. The connecting tracks onto the actual elevated line have been removed at this area, easily verifiable on Google Maps.

The second turnoff occurs after Burr Street, right before the actual junction at Tolleston, Fairbanks Street if you’re following on Google Maps. The way it is set up, there’s no way that Extra 7826 could have gotten OFF of the G&W and ONTO the MC headed west… unless back in 1918 the turnoff was cater-cornered in the opposite direction (which I doubt). If the turnoff were pointed in the opposite direction, it would have been the front/middle of Extra 7826 getting hit where it stopped instead of the last four cars. In my opinion, Extra 7826 HAD to already have been on the Michigan Central tracks especially if it passed Tolleston Tower, and crossed over ONTO the G&W at Ivanhoe, in order for its last four cars to have still been on the MC tracks when Mr. Alonzo Sargent and his fireman arrived with his empty troop train. Also it was said that Sargent had to “stop” a few times after leaving NYC Yard in Michigan City because of a freight train in front of him having issues, and that would mean, if true, he was not on the G&W at all. The story goes that Extra 7826 did not stop after leaving Michigan City until it literally got to Ivanhoe Junction. It's confusing.

I’ll add one more speculative tidbit to my little dissertation. It is my opinion, looking at old areal maps, tower charts and diagrams of this section of the G&W IHB Dune Park Branch that runs though Gary, these rails have not changed all that much at least since the early 80’s. From 1998, where the earliest aerial map I could find is dated, until now these areas looks exactly the same, especially at the accident site (except for Ivanhoe & Tolleston towers being demolished & the diamond being removed). I would speculate that it probably wouldn’t have looked much different in 1918 as far as general track layout is concerned.

I know as far back as 1975 there had been talk about the G&W/Penn Central/Conrail IHB Dune Park Branch being completely abandoned, debate is ongoing about if they actually officially abandoned it or not. Conrail couldn’t officially abandon the line by law until at least two years of disuse had occurred (IHB put up a fuss about the date), and the official abandonment notice was accepted by the government August 9th, 1994, so I would say Conrail abandoned the line sometime before August 9th, 1992. Finding an exact date is like finding the holy grail. So at least since 1992 there have been no changes to the way the Gary portion of the Dune Park Branch looks, besides for NS recently destroying a few of the bridges.

If anyone cares to shed some light on the situation, I’d appreciate it. MC stands for Michigan Central, not Michigan City. I’ve seen a lot of posts and even some historians get that mixed up, as well as the city the disaster occurred in.
“...what thrills me about trains is not their size or their equipment but the fact that they are moving, that they embody a connection between unseen places.”
― Marianne Wiggins

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justalurker66
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Re: Hagenbeck-Wallace Confusion

Unread post by justalurker66 »

I'd consider the Interstate Commerce Commission report a good reference ...
http://specialcollection.dotlibrary.dot ... ect+537%29
Track Diagram.jpg
"The circus train, extra 7826, drawn by engine 7826, consisted, in the order named, of 7 stock cars, 14 flat cars, 4 sleeping cars and a caboose, all except the caboose being the property of the circus company. this train left Michigan City at 2.30 a.m., June 22, with orders to take the Gary & Western at Ivanhoe. It proceeded at about 25 miles an hour, slowed up on account of the caution signal east of Ivanhoe, due to the diverging route being lined up, and was stopped by the engineman upon a signal from the conductor with the train partly over the connection and the engine only a few feet from the Elgin, Joliet, & Eastern crossing. The cause of this stop was a blazing hot box on the south side of the train which was noticed by the flagman from the rear as the train approached Ivanhoe; this proved to be on flat car No. 72, some 10 or 11 cars from the rear end. The train stopped at 3.55 a.m. and was struck about 3.57 a.m. by extra 8485."

The EJ&E (now CN) has been double tracked and the MCRR (now CSX) has been single tracked but the crossover to the G&WRR (IHB) remains in place. The length of the crossover has been extended. On the diagram above the home signal is 925ft east of the old tower location (west of EJ&E). Now the home signal is 1775ft east. The rear of the train was 1915ft east, approximately the alley between Hobart and Stevenson Sts.

I am not sure where you got the idea that the circus train was getting ON to the MC at Ivanhoe. It was getting off of the MC after traveling from Michigan City through Porter and Gary.

The bridges on the Dune Park branch over the toll road were removed between 1998 and 2002. The bridge over CSX lasted until 2012. Some day they will have to go the other way and remove the bridges over US12/20 and the South Shore.

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GaryIndianaRailFan
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Re: Hagenbeck-Wallace Confusion

Unread post by GaryIndianaRailFan »

justalurker66 wrote:
I am not sure where you got the idea that the circus train was getting ON to the MC at Ivanhoe. It was getting off of the MC after traveling from Michigan City through Porter and Gary.
Firstly, I apologize for the delay.

The idea was based on the description of the route taken by Extra 7826 as described by Richard M. Lytle.

Maybe it was the way it was written. Paraphrasing Mr. Lytle he wrote that Extra 7826 was ordered to take the G&W (IHB Dune Park) connection, getting off of the Michigan Central (CSX/CN) line, and change tracks as it came into Ivanhoe Junction (Ivanhoe Interlocking).

I had assumed that he was wrong based on how he wrote that. It reads as if Extra 7826 was ordered to take the G&W and then get OFF of the MC line and go BACK onto the G&W. I explained how this made no sense. I see now that I was wrong, and that I simply misunderstood what he wrote. I appreciate the information, it paints the picture a lot clearer. So Extra 7826 (circus train) was traveling along the MC, and did not travel along the G&W except where it stopped right before the accident. Everything makes a lot more sense now. Just makes the accident even more terrible knowing that the troop train, Extra 8485, was on the same track for at least an hour before the accident occurred. Eerily in February 1921, almost 3 years after this, a similar accident occurred in Porter where a MC engineer blatantly ignored caution signals. He ran though an interlocking and caused an approaching New York Central train, which had right-of-way, to plow though it. Scores of people were killed.

That diagram is the holy grail, I'd been searching for something like that for a while now. It's interesting that the MC (CSX) line used to be double tracked double tracked.

I absolutely hate the notion that the G&W bridges could be even considered to meet the wrecking ball. I would love to see that line reused. Its crazy to me that it was ever abandoned in the first place and not even being seriously considered to be reused again. NS could have used those bridges, elevating traffic and avoiding tearing up the PRR line. They don't even use the old PRR corridor that much. Those bridges are just as much a part of Gary as anything else is. I would love to see them at least used as a part of a trail at the very least. Gives people access to the other rail lines east of Lake Street that have been turned into trails.
“...what thrills me about trains is not their size or their equipment but the fact that they are moving, that they embody a connection between unseen places.”
― Marianne Wiggins

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justalurker66
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Re: Hagenbeck-Wallace Confusion

Unread post by justalurker66 »

GaryIndianaRailFan wrote:I absolutely hate the notion that the G&W bridges could be even considered to meet the wrecking ball. I would love to see that line reused. Its crazy to me that it was ever abandoned in the first place and not even being seriously considered to be reused again. NS could have used those bridges, elevating traffic and avoiding tearing up the PRR line. They don't even use the old PRR corridor that much. Those bridges are just as much a part of Gary as anything else is. I would love to see them at least used as a part of a trail at the very least. Gives people access to the other rail lines east of Lake Street that have been turned into trails.
The bridges over US12/20 and NICTD/South Shore need to go. There is nowhere a train could go north of US12 without building new bridges over CSX,the toll road and now NS. Removing the bridge over the PRR cut the west end of the line. The route is done. Even as trails crossing CSX, NS and the toll road would require a lot of expensive rebuilding.

The bridges parallel to the MC (now CSX) line have minimal hope for future use with the "South of the Lake" high speed rail route. There is an option to use the elevated alignment through Gary instead of the CSX ... with connections to the PRR at the west and back over to the MC at the east. Unless grade separation is added at other locations I do not see the benefit (and the possibility that SOTL would come down PRR to MC is low).

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