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Ashtabula Train Disaster


Train Disaster Picture Panel donated by The Robert S. Morrison Foundation

The Ashtabula River railroad disaster (also called the Ashtabula horror or the Ashtabula Bridge disaster or the Ashtabula train disaster) was a derailment caused by the failure of a bridge over the Ashtabula River about 1,000 feet from the railroad station at Ashtabula, in far northeastern Ohio. On December 29, 1876, at about 7:30 pm, two locomotives hauling 11 railcars of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway carrying 159 passengers plunged into the river in deep snow when the bridge gave way beneath them. The wooden cars were set alight by their heating stoves, but no attempt was made to extinguish the fire. The accident killed 92 people and was the worst rail accident in the U.S. in the 19th century and until the Great Train Wreck of 1918.


The coroner's report found that the bridge, designed by the railroad company president, had been improperly designed and inadequately inspected. As a result of the accident a hospital was built in Ashtabula and a federal system set up to formally investigate fatal railroad accidents.

History Narrative Compilation by Carol Johnson

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