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 Post subject: The Ashtabula Horror
PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2014 2:51 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1214
This is a powerful story, and it is nice to see that a film is being made about it. It appears that this film will do a very good job of telling the actual story. The film is called Engineering Tragedy--The Ashtabula Train Disaster.

This is an ad for the film. This does a superb job of capturing the drama of the Ashtabula story:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juiFBEQYs9I

Here is the site for the whole project. It goes into lots of details including the construction of a scale model of the Ashtabula Bridge:
http://www.engineeringtragedy.com/Home.html

This is about the artifact recovery hobby of David Tobias. It begins with the awesome capture of the mystery, drama, and controversy that is part of the Ashtabula Bridge itself. The text bullets are quotations from the book on the disaster written at the time by Stephen Peet. His book called The Ashtabula Disaster. David Tobias says rather than discovering the wreck site, the site discovered him. He describes how the artifacts speak to him about a personal connection to the people who perished that long ago night on the Pacific Express:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIguW-bTKIM

Here is link to Stephen Peet’s book available on line or downloadable at no charge:
https://archive.org/details/ashtabuladisaste00peetuoft

Here is some background information on the filming locations, strategies, etc.:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2lae7Wc_1c


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 Post subject: Re: The Ashtabula Horror
PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2014 3:38 pm 

Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:22 pm
Posts: 339
Thank you. There are several links on the Net with information about this, but I hadn't realized there was a book written close to the event. I'll download it tonight.

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 Post subject: Re: The Ashtabula Horror
PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2014 3:54 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2008 5:56 pm
Posts: 173
Location: Norwalk, Ohio
We had the scale model of the bridge and abutments with the G-scale model 2 engines, 11 car train set up for the very first time together at the April 19th Columbus, Ohio train show. The show had a fairly good turnout and many that attended who stopped by our display set-up seemed interested and had nice things to say about everything. Len Brown also had a video playing continuously of some of our artifacts search efforts at the site from last fall. We also had photo displays and actual artifacts from the disaster site,many of wich were found by David Tobias over the years who let us borrow them for the show.

This past Monday April 28th a group of 4 of us including David Tobias spent the day at the wreck site looking for artifacts. We found a few items so it was worth the 6 hours or so we spent searching.


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 Post subject: The Creature that ate Sheboygan Re: The Ashtabula Horror
PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2014 12:54 am 

Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2005 10:42 pm
Posts: 38
Location: Upstate NY
Heh. When I read the title of the message, I immediately though you were referring to an Midwestern H.P. Lovecraft homage or some Ed Wood-ian B movie. I even thought of a game I played in my teenage years, The Creature that Ate Sheboygan.
http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/i ... s_9639.png

That train in the movie preview needs more tentacles.


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 Post subject: Re: The Creature that ate Sheboygan Re: The Ashtabula Horror
PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2014 8:50 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1214
CSontag wrote:
Heh. When I read the title of the message, I immediately though you were referring to an Midwestern H.P. Lovecraft homage or some Ed Wood-ian B movie.


You would have to actually understand the Ashtabula wreck and its historical context to see why it was aptly named the Ashtabula Horror. It was every bit as terrifying in actual reality as any movie has ever sought to convey in fantasy. Its taint stunted the growth of Ashtabula for years afterward.

The infamous bridge had a reputation for being unsafe from its origination as a new experimental concept using wrought iron to replicate the timber components of a Howe truss. But the iron added considerably more dead weight which seems to have not been adequately accounted for in the engineering of the bridge capacity. The bridge posed assembly problems with the pre-manufactured pieces not fitting together and needing quick fixes in the field. When they removed the supporting false work, the iron truss of the bridge sagged six inches. At one point, they disassembled the bridge to make modifications and then reassembled it. All of this caused widespread doubt about the safety of the bridge before it even went into service.

In a raging blizzard eleven years later, the doubt was validated when the iron truss broke under the weight of the Pacific Express. The lead engineer felt he was going uphill as the collapsing truss angled downward. He widened on the throttle, broke away from the second engine, and shot to safety at the end of the bridge with his engine. The second engine could not climb any further and it slid back, dropping into the gorge. The cars immediately behind him went down. As they did, they pulled the entire train forward, causing each car to drop one by one over the vertical face of the east abutment. Each falling car provided the force to pull the train forward so the next car went over the edge.

All of the cars were heated by coal stoves which broke open and set fire to the wreckage. A crowd gathered and began a rescue, but the fire took over. They watched helplessly as pinned or injured passengers screamed for help as the flames took over. During this phase, firemen had their water hoses trained on the fire, but the chief refused to give the order to turn on the water. Apparently, he was traumatized into a state of indecision.

But on the surface, the fire chief frozen from action seemed incomprehensible, so after the fire, there was a big backlash against the railroad company. It was widely believed that the company had ordered the water withheld in order to let the fire burn up evidence of the company’s culpability in the accident. Another dimension of the horror was the fact that widespread looting set in as the flames died down, and the dead were picked over for their money and jewelry.

To me, the Ashtabula story has a peculiar sense of gravity as though all the participants and components were somehow drawn to their fate. It is very similar to the Titanic story in that regard. This ominous sensation is really amplified in Stephen Peet’s book. It is not only in what he says, but also in the economy of how he says it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Ashtabula Horror
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2014 12:34 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:23 am
Posts: 436
Location: Strasburg, PA
Thanks, Ron. This was compelling.

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