ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Exploring Texas History: The Crash at Crush

Updated on October 19, 2018
shanmarie profile image

Shannon has written web content and general interest articles for various clients and websites for over a decade.


Author's Note

While researching for my "Chasing the Past" serial story here on HubPages, I accidentally stumbled upon some other lesser-known historical events that took place in Texas. I became intrigued and realized how little I know about this state in which I have lived for exactly half of my life now. So this is the start of a new series. I hope you will explore Texas history along with me, starting with the spectacularly disastrous 1869 Crash at Crush.

Now, if you're so inclined please enjoy the musical score commemorating the event as you read more about the publicity stunt gone wrong. The music was written by famous ragtime composer Scott Joplin, who is said to have possibly been a witness to the collision. He published it mere months after it happened and dedicated the piece to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway when he did so. He even included specific written instructions with the score for how to create the sounds of the crash.

The Great Crush Collision March

What Was the Crash at Crush?

On September 15, 1869 the town of Crush existed for a single day. On this day, people came from all over the state and just to witness the spectacular head-on collision of two locomotive steam engines going full speed at the time of impact. These people witnessed a lot more than they bargained for, though, when the boilers on both trains exploded, causing injuries among the crowd and a few deaths from shrapnel.

Why Plan a Train Wreck?

There is no official reason on record, but many speculate that William Crush, passenger agent for the railway commonly known as Katy, proposed the idea of a staged trainwreck to draw attention to the railroad and simultaneously generate profit. His idea was to send two obsolete locomotives speeding toward one another until they collided while an audience witnessed the spectacle from a safe distance.

Promotion of the event began months in advance, and as anticipation began to build, round-trip train tickets were sold for $2 specifically to bring people to the event. With an estimated crowd of between 30,000 to 40,000 people, the town of Crush became the second most populated city in Texas.

No one lived in Crush, yet it had a very active midway. The town boasted its own jail, employing at least a couple hundred constables holding the crowd accountable for their behavior. The town also contained a train depot, two water wells, grandstands, a reporter platform, two telegraph offices, and a tent from the Ringling Brother Circus. In addition, various vendors and sideshow attractions set up shop. It was to be an unforgettable day of fun and excitement.


The Crash!

Originally scheduled for 4 PM, the crash took place about an hour later due to the crowd’s initial refusal to remain at a 200-foot distance from the tracks. Only news photographers and reporters were allowed to be as close as 100 feet. Once the crowd settled down enough, the two trains rolled slowly down the track until they met in the middle with their cowcatchers (the mounted pieces of metal at the front of an engine used to deflect any debris that may be on the track) were touching. Next, they backed up until they were at opposite ends of the track.

Those on board the locomotives followed a simple set of instructions: wait for the signal, open the throttle to full speed, tie off the whistle cord, and jump off the doomed engines, allowing the trains to gather speed until the point of impact.

According to reports, there was a hushed silence after the impact, which was immediately followed by shrieks of fear as the two boilers simultaneously exploded. Even those who remained at what was thought to be a safe distance were caught up in the deadly shower of debris. Two people died, a photographer lost an eye, and several more crowd members were injured. Hundreds more rushed forward after the debris settled to collect souvenirs.

What Happened Next?

Katy engineers predicted the boilers were unlikely to explode because they were specially designed to resist rupturing in the event of a derailment. For extra precautions, the boxcars were all tied together with a chain so that their couplers could not separate and lose cars. The constables kept the crowd pushed back to what was deemed to be a safe distance. But it was not enough. The boilers unexpectedly exploded, sending debris several hundred feet into the air and out toward the crowd.

William Crush was immediately fired. Those who were injured and the families of the deceased were financially compensated. The event photographer who lost his eye received monetary compensation and a lifetime pass on the Katy railway.

Surprisingly, the disaster did exactly as it was supposed to do. Reports of the incident generated talk about the railroad across the nation. Instead of a decline in business, ticket sales increased. Therefore Crush was rehired and able to work with the company until he retired several decades later. All that remains of Crush, Texas is a historical marker and some pictures in museums.

Quick Recap Video of the Crash at Crush

© 2018 Shannon Henry


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      9 days ago from Texas

      Thank you, Chitrangada. I found some reports that said that another crash was never planned and then I found some reports that said railroads continued to plan crashes after that one. I wonder which is true when it's strange enough to think even one was planned.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      9 days ago from New Delhi, India

      This is interesting indeed and I had never heard of the Crash at Crush!

      Makes me wonder that this was planned!

      Thanks for sharing this well written story with some interesting pictures and video.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      10 days ago from Texas

      Thanks, MzB! Considering this is Texas, I'm really not that far from Waco either, but I never knew of this fiasco until I was researching something else and found it. I think the video at the end was also playing Joplin's tune in the background. It had the better sounds of the crash, in my opinion.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      10 days ago from Beautiful South

      Shannon, I lived in Texas for five or six years, and I'd never heard of the Crash at Crush either. But then I didn't live near Waco. This was a very interesting piece, well documented and well written. I love Scott Joplin, thanks for including him and the other video, too. Great job.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      10 days ago from Texas

      Thanks, manatita. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • manatita44 profile image


      10 days ago from london

      Well- written and nicely documented. I enjoyed that piece.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      10 days ago from Texas

      So true, Mary! Thanks for the smile.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      10 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      He truly lived up to his name, Crush. People's reaction are truly unpredictable.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      10 days ago from Texas

      I know, Zulma! My first thoughts were how in the heck could that possibly make people want to ride a train? I would think, especially since it ended in disaster, that the opposite would have happened. That maybe a fear of what a train wreck looks like would keep people from wanting to travel that way. Instead of a profit, there would be a decline in passenger travel. I sort of get the morbid fascination with grabbing souvenirs and such. Sort of. I wouldn't want a souvenir to from anything like that, but plenty of people do things like that even today. People are crazy!

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      10 days ago from Texas

      Hi, Eric. Maybe you're just a walking encyclopedia? LOL. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      10 days ago from Texas

      Bizzare is definitely the word, Bill. I wonder at some of the market stunts used today. Maybe things haven't changed all that much in the corporate world? LOL

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      10 days ago from Texas

      Pamela, I imagine the types of things seen at carnivals and the circus in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And then I think about how people like to witness things like buildings being brought down with dynamite in a controlled fashion. Or how we stand in awe at the destruction of a natural disaster. When I think of it like that, I can see the appeal. Especially believing it would be safe.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      10 days ago from United Kingdom

      This is a great story. I can't believe someone thought a train wreck would be a great way to advertise train travel. And yet, it worked and they made money. I'll never understand people.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      10 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very cool and I have no idea why I knew of this.

      Thanks for a great piece and story. So cool.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      10 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I love history, but I gotta tell ya, this is one of the more bizarre stories I've ever read...a planned train wreck? Who woulda thunk it possible! Me thinks the guy who planned it had way too much time on his hands with nothing to do. lol

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      11 days ago from Sunny Florida

      Shannon, I had never heard of this historical event, and this was a very interesting article to read while listening to the music. I can't imagine wanting to see 2 trains crash at full speed, but the publicity must have made it sound great.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      11 days ago from Texas

      Thanks, John. I hadn't heard of it either until I stumbled upon an article about it while searching for something else related to the railroads and cattle trails. Like you, I became intrigued. Glad you found it interesting, too.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      11 days ago from Queensland Australia

      Shannon, this was very interesting. I had never heard of the Crash at Crush, and having once worked for the railroad I found it intriguing. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)