Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Limit in a near collision

This story was published by The Ypsilanti Daily Press on Wednesday, May 27, 1908.

But for the courage and presence of mind of Motorman Jacob Schaible, an accident almost identical as to the circumstances to the Denton wreck, would have occurred to the Detroit limited on the Detroit, Jackson & Chicago railway near Addison switch at 3 o’clock Tuesday afternoon. This is the limited on which Motorman Isa Fay, of Jackson, and nine other persons lost their lives in a head on collision.

Arriving at Addison, Schaible alighted and stood by the block light until a Michigan avenue car pulled in. The motorman of the city car gave the limited “the block.” That is he switched the block light, indicating that the single track leading father into Detroit was clear.

Schaible turned on “the juice” and his car was just getting nicely under way when another interurban car, apparently traveling at 25 miles an hour, swung around the curve just ahead.

For one moment the motorman, frightened, stepped back, although his hands didn’t leave the controller and the air brake. Perhaps the thought of Fay’s fate—both feet ground off and instantly crushed to death as he remained at his post vainly trying to avert a collision—flashed through his mind. A second later he had thrown the reverse, brought his car to a standstill and was then speeding backward.

And none too soon! He had but cleared the switch when the onrushing local swept into it. Considering the rate at which the local interurban took the switch it had been running at a high rate, or its motorman didn’t appreciate the grave danger and hadn’t applied his brakes sharply.

Men seated in the front of the smoking compartment were aware of the near head on collision. Some grew suddenly pale and remained motionless and speechless in their seats from fright. Others called, “Look out for a collision,” jumped to their feet and prepared to leap from the door. Some of them personally thanked the motorman for “saving their lives,” as they styled it.

“The city man gave me the block,” was the only comment he made.

An official of the road says the block light was working badly, and the trammer had “flag” orders. They were warned to be on the lookout for approaching cars.

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