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October 9, 1971

Creston, Indiana Train Derailment

From the Lowell Tribune, Thursday, October 14, 1971

A freight train derailed at Creston, about three miles north of Lowell. The accident brought out the curious by the hundreds, from as far away as Michigan and Illinois. The 106-car freight train carried a load of potash (fertilizer) heading south to Monon, Indiana where the potash was stored.

The 26 cars which left the track, in the center of Creston were each carrying 100 tons of the fertilizer. A professional wrecker crew from Bluffton, Indiana was called in shortly after the 9 a.m. derailment and arrived at the diaster scene at 7 p.m. Saturday evening. By 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning the crew had cleared the right of way and was ready to lay new tracks.

With the crew came D-8 Catterpillar tractors, each made with special equipment and other special tools especially for this kind of job.

The 26 cars that derailed tore up about 700 feet of track, ties and road bed, all of which had to be repaired before a train could pass.

To the bystanders at the scene it was unbelievable, the cars twisted, torn, upset and over-turned. Huge pieces of steel were bent as though cardboard. Long pieces of rails bent and twisted into pretzel-like shapes. One such piece of rail rammed through the end of a railroad car. Ties splintered and crushed like they were toothpicks. Parts of rail cars scattered the entire length of the derialment. Wheels, springs, steel bars and rods bent and journal boxes were strewn along the right of way as was the potash from the cars.

Don Cripe, Monon station in Lowell said, "Thank God there were no injuries and the cars were not loaded with combustable materials."

Cause of the $750,000 wreck is still undetermined, according to reports.

The lumber yard in Creston is located just 20 feet from the tracks where the cars derailed.

One Creston resident said, "I was out in the yard when the first car derailed up the road. I saw the other cars starting to back up and fall off the track. It was aweful noisy, but all I was interested in was getting back from the tracks. Some people think all you have to do is get back five or six feet, but there's no telling how far that stuff will fly. If the car had derailed at the crossing, there's no telling what would have happened to my home."

Another resident said he heard the crash of the cars, but thought that his house was safe. After investigation, he found one of the cars lying alongside of his mailbox, some 25 feet from his house.

At 7 p.m. Sunday evening the first train passed through Creston on newly-laid tracks and ties, amid crazily tangled rail cars lying alongside the right of way.

The 2300 tons of potash were sold to a man in Southern Illinois.

IT seems to this writer that the diaster was summed up pretty well by one railroad official who said, "Three quarters of a million dollars in damages is a lot of damages, but there was no loss of life. Cars and track can be repaired but a human life can not. Thank God no one was hurt.


The curve taken from the 155th Street crossing. Street, circa 2003.

Dave Randolph, Fireman on the train, wrote me:


I was the fireman on the Creston derailment. If I remember right we put 34 cars between the two crossings. This is a space that holds 15 car lengths if the cars are upright. We had cars upside down, inside out. cars heading east-west-north & south. What a mess. The car that caused the derailment came off at the south crossing at Cedar Lake at MP. 39.75.  This car was back in the train but I am not sure how far.  The car was on the ground all the way around the two curves between MP 39.75 and MP. 41.75. The first car hit the south crossing at Creston and the mess started.  The curve is still soft and is hard to keep in line.

Dave Randolph


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