“Because somebody blundered”: The Dutchman’s Curve train crash of 1918, the nation’s costliest rail disaster ever in terms of lives lost, has received new public attention in recent years. A Metro greenway incorporating the accident site, off White Bridge Road near Belle Meade, opened a few years ago, and a historical marker was dedicated there soon afterward.
On July 9, 1918, more than a hundred business people, soldiers, war-industry workers and others were killed, and many others grievously injured, when two passenger trains collided head-on at the curve. I wrote about the accident in a July 2007 column, incorporating the full text of the next day’s Tennessean coverage as well as a copy of the front page containing wreck coverage:
Because somebody blundered, at least 121 persons were killed and fifty-seven injured shortly after 7 o’clock on Tuesday morning, when Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway passenger trains No. 1 from Memphis and No. 1 from Nashville [sic: No. 4 came from Nashville] crashed head-on together just around the sharp, steep-graded curve at Dutchman’s Bend, about five miles from the city near the Harding road.
Both engines reared and fell on either side of the track, unrecognizable masses of twisted iron and steel, while the fearful impact of the blow drove the express car of the north-bound train through the flimsy wooden coaches loaded with human freight, telescoped the smoking car in front and piling high in air the two cars behind it, both packed to the aisles with negroes en route to the powder plant and some 150 other regular passengers.
Later that month I interviewed possibly the last surviving witness to the aftermath of the collision, Mrs. Elizabeth Jacobs (1906-2007). Audio of her recollections is at this link, where Mrs. Jacobs recalls being awakened by the sound of the collision as it reached the sleeping porch of her family’s home on West End. She goes on to describe her visit to the site of the accident in the company of her aunt, Frances Lusky.
Stitching up victory: The Nashville Tennessean of July 28, 1918 tells of the communal effort by local women to produce hospital garments, surgical dressings and knitted articles for American men at war in Europe:
The churches of Nashville and all women’s societies, patriotic and social, have formed units of workers, and these units meet in the hospital garment rooms on certain days to do their share in the great work, and so divide the days and hours that every hour of the five working days finds dozens of women sewing there in order that Nashville may go “over the top” in the amount of sewing done for the soldiers, as well as in every other way. Jew and Gentile, Catholic and Protestant, come together and give their services.