98 years ago today, one of the deadliest train wrecks in American history happened just West of Nashville.
At 7:20 am on July 9, 1918, two Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway passenger trains collided head on in the present day Belle Meade area. The No. 1 left Memphis late that morning and reached Dutchman's Curve 35 minutes behind schedule. Meanwhile the No. 4 departed Union Station on time headed for Memphis. The two collided on a 10 mile single track section after No. 4 mistakenly identified a switch engine as the No. 1 they were meant to pass at the previous double-track section. More than 100 people died in the resulting crash with 171 additionally injured. At the time, Nashville had not expanded to include this primarily rural area and the trains crashed into corn fields. Newspapers reported that every available doctor and nurse was on the scene along with ambulances to transport the wounded to hospitals.
The Nashville Banner carried early reports of the incident that evening when estimates were still low.
Both of the engines and three baggage cars were completely wrecked, and the first baggage car on No. 1 was telescoped. The first combination coach on No. 4, from Memphis, heavily loaded with whites and Negroes, was ripped from end to end, and few if any of its passengers escaped uninjured. Many were killed almost instantly.
George Boyles, a local resident remembers hearing the crash in the early morning.
I guess it must have been fairly in the evening because I remember hearing a crash and then some of the most dreadful screams you ever heard in your life. I've forgotten how many people were killed. There were a number of people killed and many more injured. Of course, didn't have any ambulance service in those days...but there were some neighbors that went over. That area didn't have any road to it, there was no road. To get to it you had to go through Warren Sloan's farm and part of the St. Mary's orphanage farm to get to the curve. But some people did take their cars and rescued people, particularly those that hadn't been seriously injured. A lot of them opened their houses to them that night until they could get a way to get to where they were going. Some of them took them on downtown where it was possible that there was a point downtown that they could meet somebody here in town that could help or to a hotel or something.
Today, Dutchman's Curve is remembered on a historical marker on White Bridge Pike, near Post Road, though it remains a little known event that impacted many in this small town.