Did You Know? Michigan’s 1st Serious Train Wreck Happened in 1873
Lately, there has been a lot of attention on train crashes. Understandably so.
The recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, for example, gained national and international attention (at least on TikTok). As investigations continue into what led up to that crash, details about previous wrecks are being shared on social media.
Out of some sort of morbid curiosity, I decided to see if there was a record of the first train wreck that happened in Michigan. And, there is.
From what I can find, the first serious train wreck happened in 1873 about a mile away from the tiny village of Muir, Michigan. That's according to historygrandrapids.com.
A night express train, the Detroit & Milwaukee, had stopped on the tracks after losing a wheel. Of course, this happened right before dawn which always seems to be the darkest part of the night. A flagman from the Detroit had gone back on the tracks to try and flag down a freight train that was approaching from behind on the same tracks.
Unfortunately, both trains were on a downgrade. Although the flagman successfully warned the approaching train and had gone back the required distance of 800 yards to do so, the train was unable to stop due to the downward slope.
The approaching train collided with the stalled Detroit & Milwaukee which resulted in the death of four people, two women, and two children. Eleven others were injured.
Ultimately, it was determined that 800 yards was not a suitable distance to protect trains while on a downgrade. The flagman was found criminally guilty and the rest of the crew were charged with negligence.
The first railroad tracks were laid in Michigan in 1833. Since then, there have been a number of accidents both mild and severe. If you need to satisfy your morbid curiosity, you can read about more Michigan train wrecks here.
If you're planning on traveling by train make sure you monitor your alcohol consumption. Apparently, it's illegal to be drunk on a train in Michigan:
And, if you've ever wanted to stay in an old train car, of course, there's an Airbnb for that: