On June 8, 1921, a train engine jumped the tracks outside Medora, Indiana. Perhaps it was the hot weather and rain that made the train engine leave the tracks. Seventeen loaded boxcars piled up, some being “reduced to kindling wood.” Three people died and two more were injured. Cattle and cantaloupes were also among the casualties.
Two cars hit a tree in front of the Asher Gordon house. A second newspaper records his name as Asher Gardner. The tree smashed into the front room and demolished it and its contents. The Gordons were not injured.
The accident occurred about 2 am on June 8, 1921, just west of the Medora depot. It wasn’t a collision; the engine simply jumped the tracks and several boxcars followed. Crews immediately began the clean-up work as the wreck blocked the main and passing tracks. A few trains had to be detoured around the area, but a temporary track was constructed around the wreck by 1 in the afternoon. The wreckage was cleared away by the end of the day.
A number of theories arose as to why the train left the tracks. The switch was in its proper position and no other cause could be proven. The mystery still remains more than a hundred years later.
After the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, railroads became the number one form of transportation and the largest industry in the United States. In addition to passenger travel, railroads permitted the shipment of goods and livestock across the country. Train accidents were very common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with thousands of collisions and derailments a year. Risks of train travel decreased with advances in technology and public safety, and fatal accidents dropped sharply by 1940.