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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Engineering Tragedy

Bridges are surrounded by history...phenomenal designs, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as railroad trestle bridges. Each share stories of remarkable engineering but neither without its share of tragedy. In the 20th century, disaster struck the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge when its place in history was secured by the collapse of the old bridge while under maintenance. This event is documented as The Biggest Thing Afloat Sinks since Murrow Memorial Bridge is one of the longest floating bridges in the world.

This Day in History: December 29, 1876

  • Today's Engineering Tragedy reflects the disaster of a railroad trestle bridge in Ashtabula, Ohio that occurred much earlier than that of the sinking Murrow Memorial Bridge. Unlike the earlier tragedy where lives were spared, such was not the case on this day. The lives of those who were spared forever changed with even more tragedy ensuing in the aftermath of heartache and devastation.

    Go behind the scenes of the Engineering Tragedy documentary film 
    for a closer look at the story about the Ashtabula Train Disaster of 1876.

    A Sneak Peak into the Collapse and Crash...
    At 7:27 p.m. the No. 5 rounded the final bend. Running between 10 to 15 miles per hour, she began her slow crawl across the bridge. At first the crossing proceeded normally. The bridge creaked as always, but held as the Socrates, the Columbia, and then the first few cars pushed forward onto the north side of the bridge. At 7:28 p.m. the engineer of the Socrates, Dan McGuire, heard the distinct sound of a loud crack. He knew immediately something was wrong, terribly wrong.
    The bridge was breaking apart. The engineer of the Socrates pulled the throttle and ran his engine the remaining few feet to the abutment and to safety. The other cars were dragged forward when the second engine, The Columbia, broke from the Socrates, crashed into the abutment, and fell in the gorge. Passengers were jostled and thrown about by a violent series of bumps when the cars derailed and the track disintegrated underneath them. Then there was darkness…silence…falling. Cars began to crash one by one into the frozen creek. It was a sickening and horrifying sound as the first cars slammed into the gorge, then the rest, falling or being launched off the edge, struck the car in front of it. [Source: Engineering Tragedy]
    When the all-iron railroad bridge collapsed during a raging blizzard, it sent the luxury train, The Pacific Express No. 5, plummeting 70ft into the frozen river. Of the 172 souls that were on board, only 75 survived (43.6%), most with serious injuries. Of the 97 who perished (56.4%), 47 were identified, 50 were unidentifiable. Loss of life did not reach the numbers of the Titanic since its passenger and crew capacity was much less but this incident has been declared the worst bridge collapse and train disaster of the 19th century in the United States.


  • Engineering has come a long way since the 19th century with a lot being learned along the way unfortunately amid disaster. One must always keep in mind if it is man-made, it is subject to error!