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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Hack in the lake
Date: 06/09/19 07:05
Hack in the lake
I sent this to a friend who had flown over part of the SP's fill over the Great Salt Lake and took the attached photo asking about this wrecked caboose. This was snapped in 1996.
I remember that incident well. This is on the Bagley fill which doesn’t cross the Great Salt lake but the mud flats and the Bear River between Promontory Point and Little Mountain. At the time this was double track territory and an east bound with a single helper unit on the rear had stopped about mid way across the fill. This was during the mid-1980’s when the lake was at its highest in years and the normally mud flats had maybe 3 or 4 feet of water right up to the rip-rap on the fill. The reason the train had stopped was the crew had died on the hours of service and had been picked up by a van to take them on to Ogden so fortunately no one was on either the helper or caboose. To set the stage, it was night and snowing very heavy. Sometime later another eastbound had left Promontory and after stopping for the red ABS signal they were proceeding at Restricted Speed supposedly prepared to stop short of, well anything. In those days the rules for a helper on the rear of the train was they were to have their rear headlight on dim. The crew of the second train saw the rear light of the helper but assumed it was a west bound on the other track who had dimmed their head light for the meet. By the time they realized it was not a west bound but a train on their track it was too late. The speed on impact was no more than about 15 MPH but with air set on the stopped train, it was like hitting a solid wall. The collision punched the poor light weight caboose and a number of other cars right out into the lake. The crew of the moving train was not seriously injured but were now in a panic as they saw the caboose in the water and thought the worse for the crew who would be trapped in the freezing water. They tried to get to the caboose but couldn’t so they went back to their engine and called for help. They were relieved when the dispatcher informed them that there was no one onboard.
Needless to say, the head end crew got a unplanned mid-winter vacation that lasted well into the summer. On this same Bagley fill, just a little east of where this incident occurred was the site of one of the worst wrecks in SP’s history. This one involve two west bound passenger trains. Again in the dark this time instead of snow it was fog that limited visibility . A following train missed a signal and slammed into a stopped train at track speed which was 60 MPH. This happened in December of 1944 and killed 53 and injured 81 others.