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The History of the Sweeping Industry

Kalamazoo, MI Freight Train Strikes Street Sweeper, May 1907

From the Elkhart Daily Review, Elkhart, IN: Dateline May 6, 1907

At Kalamazoo -- Others Injured -- Train Struck Street Sweeper -- Eighteen Cars Piled Up.

Editor's Note: We have included several photos of horse-drawn sweepers of this same general period. Unfortunately, no photo was included with the article reprint.

Lake Shore Fireman A. L. Wenger was scalded to death in a freight wreck at the Portage street crossing in Kalamazoo at 1:30 o'clock this morning and other men were injured and nineteen cars were piled up.

Horse Drawn Sweeper Engineer Ira J. Miller of the corner of Second and Harrison streets is suffering from the tearing of ligaments in one ankle and the laceration of one finger. He returned home at noon, accompanied by Mrs. Miller, who had hurried to Kalamazoo.

Brakeman Frank Teeters of No. 321 South Prairie street was burned on the hands and head and remained in Borgess Hospital. Engineman J. W. Null and Fireman Dennis Robbins, both of Elkhart, escaped injury, they being in the head engine, which miraculously escaped damage.

The train was in charge of Conductor Sherman Morrison, who escaped injury. His other brakeman, Mr. Walters, was thrown from his feet, but was not seriously hurt. The train, which was a double-header, struck a big street sweeper and hurled it against a switch in such a manner as to throw the switch, and as a result of the combined conditions one engine, the first, was overturned and nineteen cars were piled up.

The deceased and Engineman Ira J. Miller of Elkhart were in the cab of the second engine, 5049, and Engineman J. W. Null of Elkhart and Fireman Robbins of Elkhart were in the first, 5047. When the head engine struck the sweeper and its two horses bit of the near horse caught on the pin in the pilot drawbar and dragged the horse against the switch, throwing it just before the tender of the second engine struck the switch.

London HorseDrawn Sweeper The tender followed the switch rails and pulled the engine over on its side, while the head engine broke loose and proceeded. The great engine fell over on its left side, pinioning Wenger down, in which position he was scalded to death. Teeters had just dropped from the first car onto the tender and the shock threw him into the cab, just in front of the firebox door. His feet became entangled n the chain, and for the first brief seconds that he struggled he had to push and shove the coals away from him by his feet and hands.

In the meantime Engineman Miller was endeavoring to leap and climb upward to the right-side cab window, which, because of the engine's position opened skyward, and he had to make several attempts, his wet gloves making his holds insecure and the steam and smoke blinding him. the opening of the window had been reduced by the crushing of the frame to about sixteen inches, and as he leaped and scrambled he could feel Teeters and Wenger beneath his feet. At last he succeeded in grasping the window frame and pulling himself out, and Teeters, with like experiences, followed.

Wenger was adding fuel to the fire at the time of the accident, and the door was opened, thus permitting the fire to fall out. The train consisted of fifty-three cars, most of them empties, and with the loaded cars at the rear. The train was going downgrade, and its speed and momentus was such that the wrecked cars were piled at least forty feet high, declared one spectator. The Lake Shore and the Michigan Central wrecking crews are working on the debris.

Both the sweeper horses were killed. Mr. Null telephoned his family that he had not been injured, which was contrary to a report that had spread here. Mrs. Miller left for Kalamazoo via the interurban to South Bend and thence over the Michigan Central soon after receiving word of the accident.

HorseDrawn Sweeper Mr. Wenger, whose home was on the Goshen & Michigan branch between Sturgis and Shipshewana, had been in the company's employ four years and was recently promoted to engineman, but had been set back due to the usual spring adjustment. Two week ago he resumed work after a six-week siege of typhoid fever. He was married only about eight months ago, and is survived by the wife and his parents. Mrs. Wenger left her home over the W. H. Theis hardware store after learning of the accident, and what arrangement have been made for the disposition of the remains are not known here. Mr. Wenger was about twenty-eight years of age.

A Kalamazoo dispatch to the Review says:

"By the wreck of a Lake Shore freight at 1:30 one man was killed and one injured, probably fatally. The dead is Abner Wenger, fireman and the probably fatally injured is John N. Brownell, who was in the [illegible] of the city street sweeper. The wreck had peculiar features. The street sweeper was going up Portage street when it was struck by the freight running double-headed. When the second engine hit the switch it was derailed, piling up nineteen cars in a picturesque heap. Fireman Wenger was instantly killed. The impact was so great that residents in the vicinity thought an earthquake had occurred. The tracks will be blocked all day, deranging the city street car service and the interurban traffic, as the principle lines run up Portage street. The dead and injured were rushed to hospitals."

We're always on the lookout for more sweeper-oriented information we can add to the website, so keep us in mind if you find interesting information about sweeping.

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