Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Michigan in Nelson County, North Dakota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck

 
 
Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, August 28, 2022
1. Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck Marker
Inscription.  
The worst rail disaster in North Dakota history happened Aug. 9, 1945 at 7:20 PM, one thousand feet west of here, on a one degree curve to the West. The first section of a Great Northern passenger train had to make an emergency stop, then the engine of the second train plowed into it from behind.

The two Empire Builders were traveling to the West Coast as a pair. The first section had the Pullman sleeper cars, with 237 aboard and the second section carried between 600 and 700 in coach cars. A new crew came on in Fargo with section one leaving at 3:25 and section two pulling out about 10 minutes later. Passengers were almost all military men and women. World War II was winding down and would in fact, officially end within the week.

There was no time for the second train to stop. The second engine plunged into the rear car of section one, sending it skyward and splitting it down the middle. One serviceman saw the second train coming and jumped out the window. The remaining 34 were either killed instantly or were overcome by steam escaping from the engine below. Roughly two thirds were military, the rest were primarily women
Paid Advertisement
Click on the ad for more information.
Please report objectionable advertising to the Editor.
Click or scan to see
this page online
and two small children. Only one person was found alive, a woman, who was trapped with her head outside a window. Sadly, she died after being released.

Within minutes, the people of Michigan, population 500, began rescue efforts. Welders went for their equipment, cutting through the steel and rubble. As darkness came on, people lined up their cars and aimed their headlights on the train until alternative lighting could be rigged. People provided coffee and food, and others provided space and typewriters to reporters.

The first engine had developed a wheel bearing that was burning out. Smoking, there was no choice; the train had to be stopped. In fact, it stopped three times. Signals were left to warn the second train. The following engineer slowed for a number of miles but then resumed to 55. When he came upon the stalled train, the engineer hit the emergency brakes and turned off all power, but he was only able to slow to 30 MPH before impact. Amazingly, the crew survived.

List of Those Who Perished
Army Military

2nd Lt Tennis B Hickman WA • PFC Stephan J Morgan MT • 1st LT Charles A Leoley WA • 1st LT Donald J Peters WA • CPL Paul F Nance WA • 1st LT Jerome W Ladenburger WA • S SGT Elwood J Lien FL • PFC Raymond R Brennan WA • S SGT Edward J Dunkley MT • S SGT Burt J Cohen WA • SGT Clyde Johnson MT • CPL Rubin Abramowitz
Marker detail: 1945 Michigan Train Wreck image. Click for full size.
2. Marker detail: 1945 Michigan Train Wreck
MT • SGT Ernest J Dellar MT • CPL Richard D Healew FL • PFC August W Wichman WI

Navy Military
Ensign Rose Ellen Wilson CA • LT JG Adelaide Frances McManus NY • LT JG Adda Jane Patterson PA • LT George Henry Kern OH • LT JG Louis S Stuller WA

Civilians
Harry H Hanson ND • Mrs Betty Jane Lofthus WA • Mrs Olive Brannon NJ • Mrs Martha M McGriff OR • Lloyd S Burdick MT • Mrs Mary Ellen Fyfe MI • Noreen Gale Fyfe MI • Mrs Ruth Barraclough WA • Florence E Vandenburg WA • Gregory J Vandenburg WA • Mrs Mollie Zaslovsky NY • Jarvis Pearson IL • Mrs Murriel V Cummings MT • Eleanor Kubes IL

 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: DisastersRailroads & StreetcarsWar, World II. A significant historical date for this entry is August 9, 1945.
 
Location. 48° 1.453′ N, 98° 7.384′ W. Marker is in Michigan, North Dakota, in Nelson County. Marker is at the intersection of 1st Street and Broadway, on the left when traveling east on 1st Street. Marker is located in Michigan Veterans Memorial Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Michigan ND 58259, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Also see . . .
1. Michigan Train Wreck.
On departing Grand Forks there was thirty minutes between the trains; but four miles west of Niagara the brakeman on First 1 reported smoke coming from the tender, a hot box (overheated
Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck Marker (<i>north side</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, August 28, 2022
3. Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck Marker (north side)
journal bearing) was discovered and repacked, and a water line fixed to supply water to cool the journal. First 1 stopped again at Petersburg to check the journal and adjust the hose. All the time Second 1 was gaining on it. First 1's final stop was made at Michigan on a shallow curve as the journal was smoking again. The engineer was inspecting the journal when the conductor heard Second 1 approaching – he ordered the fireman to get the train moving. The flagman lit a fusee and ran back down the track to warn the oncoming train, but it was too late; just as First 1 began to move off, and four minutes after it had stopped, it was struck from behind by Second 1. According to the ICC Report, the whole of the front train was "driven forward 165 feet by the impact. A coroner's jury found the flagman and conductor of the lead train to be responsible for the accident and they were dismissed from service. The locomotive of the first section, No. 2584, has been preserved and is on display at the Havre, Montana station.
(Submitted on September 19, 2022, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

2. Survivor recalls horror of 1945 train crash that killed 34 in North Dakota.
News of the Michigan accident made the front page of the next day's New York Times, but it quickly faded from the headlines.
Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, August 28, 2022
4. Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck Marker
(Michigan Veterans Memorial Park Pavilion in background)
The day of the accident was also the same day the second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, and attention turned to prospects of an end to World War II. "To think that all those soldiers and sailors had survived the war and were going home to be with their families, to end up getting killed like that, it's just awful."
(Submitted on September 19, 2022, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

3. Michigan 1945 Train Wreck.
The only eyewitness that evening was Annette Desautels, who had just gotten off work at the Red Owl. “...when I got to the Great Northern tracks,” she said, “I...wondered why the train had stopped there, since the Empire Builder never makes a stop at Michigan... I could hear the shrill whistle of a second train coming...then I saw a railroad man with a red flag drop off the rear platform... run back down the track a ways, then frantically attempt to flag the oncoming train.”
(Submitted on September 19, 2022, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck Marker (<i>north side</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, August 28, 2022
5. Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck Marker (north side)
Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, August 28, 2022
6. Site of the 1945 Michigan Train Wreck
(railroad curve about 1000 feet west of marker)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 19, 2022. It was originally submitted on September 18, 2022, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 345 times since then and 28 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on September 18, 2022, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Share this page.  
Share on Tumblr
m=206392

CeraNet Cloud Computing sponsors the Historical Marker Database.
U.S. FTC REQUIRED NOTICE: This website earns income from purchases you make after using links to Amazon.com. Thank you.
Paid Advertisements
Mar. 2, 2024