Massive Head-On Train Collision in Laurel

This photo begs further investigation (click on it for high-resolution).

Laurel, Maryland. July 31, 1922. "Two B&O freights wrecked in head-on crash at Laurel switch." National Photo Company glass negative (Shorpy)
Laurel, Maryland. July 31, 1922. “Two B&O freights wrecked in head-on crash at Laurel switch.” National Photo Company glass negative

Source: Shorpy

This looks like a massive train wreck (obviously), and what continues to amaze me is in those days, people would rapidly gather around a crash site to inspect it.

Two large freight trains were barreling down the same track towards each other when collided in a massive explosion of steel and coal. The Washington Post reported on it the following day, August 1st, 1922.

Six men narrowly escaped death yesterday afternoon when two freight trains of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company crashed in a head-on collision near Laurel, Md. David Ramsey, one of the engineers was taken to a Baltimore hospital suffering from a broken leg. The others escaped injury by jumping just before the crash.

Both engines and four freight cars were demolished and the passenger and freight service of the railroad company was tied up for several hours while wrecking crews removed the debris. Commuters between Washington and Baltimore who were unable to obtain a lift from passing automobilists were forced to walk to their destination.

Well that sucks. Not only are you in a giant train wreck, you need to walk to your final destination in the July heat of Washington. Great.

The accident occurred at a crossways near Laurel, where the east and westbound freights met in an open switch. The train crews hard hardly jumped to the ground when the heavily loaded freight cars crashed into one another, the eastbound engine being hurled 25 feet in the air.

Wrecking crews were quickly sent to the scene of the wreck, and emergency telephone connections established with the train dispatcher’s office at Baltimore.

Passenger trains of the Baltimore and Ohio were sent out over the tracks of the Pennsylvania road to Overton, Md., then to the main line of the Baltimore and Ohio.

Officials of the railroad at the scene of the wreck refused to place responsibility for the accident, and busied themselves at once to clear away and repair the 50 yards of track torn up by the collision.

I’m shocked that nobody was killed in the accident. Can you imagine the panic and sheer terror of the crew as they saw the other train coming at them down the track?

Here’s another angle of the wreck.

July 31, 1922. Train wreck at Laurel, Maryland. "2 Freights Crash at Laurel Switch -- B&O Trains Wrecked," Washington Post, August 1, 1922, Page 3. Close variant of this photograph illustrates article.
July 31, 1922. Train wreck at Laurel, Maryland. “2 Freights Crash at Laurel Switch — B&O Trains Wrecked,” Washington Post, August 1, 1922, Page 3. Close variant of this photograph illustrates article.

Source: Wikipedia

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • Can’t believe many things about this. Closest hospital – Baltimore?
    No one seriously hurt.
    Somethings never never change! Rubberneckers.
    Accident not far from where the historical marker is located re:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Morse

    Congress appropriated $30,000 in 1843 for construction of an experimental 38-mile (61 km) telegraph line between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore along the right-of-way of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. An impressive demonstration occurred on May 1, 1844, when news of the Whig Party’s nomination of Henry Clay for U.S. President was telegraphed from the party’s convention in Baltimore to the Capitol Building in Washington. On May 24, 1844, the line was officially opened as Morse sent the famous words “What hath God wrought” from the Supreme Court chamber in the basement of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., to the B&O’s Mount Clare Station in Baltimore. Annie Ellsworth chose these words from the Bible (Numbers 23:23); her father, U.S. Patent Commissioner Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, had championed Morse’s invention and secured early funding for it. His telegraph could transmit thirty characters per minute.

    Neat article & pics.

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  • Eeeee

    That kid in the first pic has the whitest arms but the darkest legs. Stockings?