Train Derailment in 1960 Nearly Forgotten by Marlow Residents

by Toni Hopper

Many Marlow residents couldn’t recall the 1960 train derailment, but one woman did – and she shared the above photos with The Marlow Review just a few days after it happened.

Susan (Shaw) Martin’s father, Ray Shaw, had worked for the Rock Island, which is how they were allowed to take photos of the derailment.

“Best as I remember, it was just south of Main Street by the crossing and everything fell to the side.” She was about 13-years-old. She also remembers there were 8-track decks that a few residents were trying to take.

Eighteen Cars Leave the Rails: Property Damage Tremendous; Fortunately No One Injured

That was the long headline for the June 10, 1960 train derailment that happened on the Choctaw Street Crossing in Marlow. The story that published was lengthy and extremely descriptive. One section “Contents of Wrecked Cars” included the contents of the 19th car – Piggy back car, 2 hoboes. In the 18 cars that were derailed, everything from instant coffee, barley, flour, feed and grain products, to bath- room fixtures, camera film and two Cadillac cars was in the listing. There were no livestock, oil or propane cars on the 85- car train. There were actually 16 Cadillacs on the train, which were collected by General Motors. ‘Two hobos, riding on the nineteenth car, the first one behind all the wrecked cars, escaped uninjured.’ They were seen with thumbs up on the highway trying to hitch a ride quickly out of town.

The article also reported that sightseers kept Marlow businesses and cafes busy for several days. Following is a limited portion of that story as originally published – typos and all.

A high balling Rock Island freight train, thundering southbound through town, crashed into a highway road packer stalled on the Choctaw street crossing, derailing the three unit Deisel locomotive, and plunging eighteen freight cars into a mass of tangled wreck- age, about 11 a.m. Friday (June 10th) for the worst train disaster in this area in many years. Miraculously no one was injured, but damage amounted to several hundred thousand dollars.

A tractor, driven by Luke Williams, pulling the road packer, stalled, leaving the packer sitting on the railroad track. Williams and Clark Ward had brought a winch from the nearby county road yard and were preparing to hitch it onto the packer to drag it off the tracks when the wreck occurred. Engineer Tried to Stop Train The engineer, Earl Epps, El Reno, started applying his brakes a considerable distance before reaching the stalled road packer, however, the train continued for a distance of some 360 fee, buckling rails and toppling diesel engines from the tracks. The momentum of the long freight load was credited by railroad officials with causing the intense pileup immediately behind the engines.

The engineer, brakeman Bib Weideman and fireman Trent Windham in the locomotive miraculously escaped uninjured. Conductor Frank Span and rear brakeman Vernie Niles, in the caboose, were also uninjured. There were 18 cars that left the rails and became part of the mangled wreckage. The remaining cars of the 85-car freight train remained upright on the rails and blockaded cross town traffic for a distance of eight blocks for a period of approximately two hours.

Published June 15, 2023 - The Marlow Review - Marlow, OK

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