Engineer Davis Killed by His Ditched Locomotive.
Santa Barbara Freight Train Rolls Down a Steep Embankment to Demolition.
Los Angeles Times | Monday, October 24, 1898.
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There was a disastrous train wreck yesterday afternoon near Camulos, on the Southern Pacific's Santa Barbara line, resulting in the instant death beneath the fragments of his locomotive of Engineer Harry Davis, and the infliction of broken bones and burns upon Fireman Hugh Berry. Five cars were demolished, ten head of cattle killed and the track torn up for a distance of several hundred feet.
At 3:45 o'clock yesterday afternoon a special freight train was speeding down the Santa Clara River Valley from Saugus, going toward Santa Barbara. Five miles east of Camulos the train reached a sharp curve to the right, built on the top of a high embankment. Conductor Charles Tupper and the men with him in the caboose felt a sudden jar, as if the car had uncoupled. The train stopped. They jumped out and ran ahead. There they found the engine lying on its side, with an oil-tank car reared over it, several cars piled up behind, and in the ruin the dead body of Harry Davis. As they looked Fireman Berry crawled out from under the fragments of his locomotive, dragging a broken leg after him, and shrinking from the scalding water and steam which poured about him from the shattered boiler. His thigh was broken in two places, and he was in agonizing pain.
Scattered amid chaos of splintered cars were the dead bodies of cattle, blood pouring from their wounds, while the injured brutes pinioned in the wreck bellowed with pain. The rest of the animals, set free by the destruction of the cars, had scattered in every direction.
Fireman F.L. Dascomb hurried off to Camulos, the nearest station, to flag any approaching trains, and to dispatch a messenger to Piru, the nearest telegraph office. Conductor Tupper and Brakemen Ben Swain and Thomas Henderson and the drovers in charge of the cattle, carried the injured fireman to a place of safety. An engine soon arrived from Saugus to take back the ten uninjured cars and to remove the dead engineer and the wounded fireman.
The property loss from the wreck is about $25,000, consisting of a locomotive, an oil car, two stock cars and a carload of hay. Except for the railroad, the only person whose property was destroyed was Butcher G.C. Sherman of Santa Barbara, whose cattle, on their way to be slaughtered, were killed. The animals were immediately skinned and prepared for market.
The accident is supposedly due to spreading of the rails. From marks of wheels on the ties for several rods it is evident that a light car, presumably the one immediately behind the locomotive, jumped the track as a result of the swing around the sharp curve: that the terrific strain of the wheels of the derailed truck caused the rails to spread, and that in consequence, the heavy locomotive toppled over to the left down the embankment. The train was going about twenty miles an hour at the time, and the momentum of the fourteen cars piled up the first cars of the train in inextricable confusion about the engine.
The wrecked train was a special, not usually run on Sundays, which had been sent from Santa Barbara before 8 o'clock yesterday morning to bring back from Saugus Sherman's three carloads of cattle, a carload of hay, a lot of empty beet-cars, and some oil-tank cars.
A story of tragic interest attaches to Harry Davis's death. Sunday was for him usually a day of rest. Until 11 o'clock Saturday night he had expected to be free yesterday, but at that late hour came the news that orders had come that he must get up at 6 o'clock yesterday morning to go to Saugus. He went to do his extra duty — and went to his death. Davis was a man of 35, an engineer of long experience on the road, valued by his employers for his skill and reliability, and esteemed by his fellow-railroad men. He was an unmarried man and lived with his sister, Miss Helen W. Davis, and his brother, Harvey Davis, at No. 103 West Ann street. His parents live at Downey. He was a member of Pentalpha Lodge No. 202; Signet Chapter No. 57; Los Angeles Council, No. 11; Los Angeles Commandry No. 9, all branches of the Masonic order. He had taken the first degree in the Los Angeles Commandery and was to have taken the other two degrees next Thursday, which would have made him a high-degree Mason. He had been in the employ of the Southern Pacific Company since 1881 and belonged to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. His run was from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. His remains are at the undertaking rooms of Bressee Bros. An inquest over the body will be held some time today.
John Berry, the injured fireman, was brought to the city on a special train and removed to the Sister's Hospital. He was conscious at all times. An examination at the hospital proved that the only injury he had sustained was a fractured thigh. He will be examined more closely today, but as he does not complain of pains, it is probable that he was not internally injured, as at first supposed. Berry is married and lives at No. 117 East Elmyra street.
The accident caused serious delay in railroad traffic. The passengers on the afternoon train from Santa Barbara reached Piru at 6:30 p.m., and were kept waiting there for four hours, unable to obtain anything to appease their hunger more substantial than peanuts and chewing gum. At 10:30 they were taken on to the wreck, and after a tramp through the mud past the ruins, and a tedious wait in the open air, they were transferred to a train backed down from Saugus, nine miles distant, and landed at Saugus at midnight. There they were given time to drink a cup of coffee and eat a roll, and then they were sent on to Los Angeles, arriving at 1:45, five hours late. The passengers on the afternoon train from Los Angeles shared a similar fate, arriving at Santa Barbara after midnight.