Ashtabula Horror - Train Wreck Disaster
"The Ashtabula Horror" so traumatized this city that three memorials commemorate it: a plaque near the crash scene, an obelisk in the cemetery, and an audio memorial outside of the hospital.
It happened December 29, 1876, when the Ashtabula Creek Bridge collapsed into a 70-foot-deep gorge.
In a blizzard.
With a train on top of it.
Ninety-two of its 159 passengers and crew were killed. As if the crash weren't bad enough, the passenger cars' stoves caught fire and incinerated many of the survivors.
Then robbers invaded the flaming wreck and murdered several more.
This disaster was so bad that it reportedly killed railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt from shock. The bridge designer later committed suicide. The railroad's chief engineer was murdered and it was made to look like suicide. Ashtabula became a shunned town, its growth stunted, with homeowners and businesses bypassing it in favor of Cleveland.
Overall, not much to celebrate, but Ashtabula makes the best of what it has.
Twenty years after the disaster, a tall obelisk was erected in Chestnut Grove Cemetery. Beneath it were buried 19 bodies from the wreck that had never been identified. It's still the tallest gravestone in Ashtabula.
The historical marker used to be down by the railroad tracks, just west of the crash site, but it's been moved north to the grounds of the Ashtabula County Medical Center. It notes that The Ashtabula Horror "is listed as one of the world's ten worst technology disasters in the past 375 years."
The unique audio memorial is in a little garden in front of the entrance to the Medical Center; push the button and you'll hear the harrowing story of the wreck, complete with sound effects. And the Ashtabula County Medical Center is itself a kind of memorial -- the nicest one in town -- as it was built to help lessen the casualty count of any future calamities like the one that happened six blocks south of it.