Other Accounts Of The Wreck

Robert Hall

Mr Robert Hall was 13 years old at the time of the Monon Wreck. His family lived at 131 E. Commercial Avenue at the time. This address was the second house west of the crossing on the south side of Commercial Avenue, roughly 50 yards away from the crossing. Here are his recollections of the morning of May 22, 1952.

"What I remember most about the wreck was the noise. When train usually came through Lowell they normally made the ground rumble and shake. Living that close to the tracks, we were pretty use to it. They usually made the whole house shake.

That morning I was home with my Grandmother and was upstairs sleeping. The rumbling and noise of the train woke me up and there was something different about the way this train sounded coming into town. They grew louder and soon the rumbling was replaced with what I thought were explosions. I can't remember exactly how many there were, but they seemed to gone on for quite some time. When I looked out my upstairs bedroom window, I remember seeing a huge fireball from the street. At first I thought Hardings had caught fire, but when I got downstairs and outside, I could see it was down at the railroad crossing.

The whole street was on fire. The crossing I mean. There was a pile of freight cars where the depot was and everything was burning. I remember two tank cars in the crossing and there were flames maybe 40 feet high. The heat was so intense we had to move up the street by the hotel. I seem to remember the heat causing the windows in Hardings and the Mobile station to crack, or break. Anyway, it was pretty hot in our front yard. Standing in the driveway between the Hepp's house and ours was pretty much impossible for a while. Grandma and I moved up Commercial by where Ruby had the hotel and watched from there. It took forever to get the fires under control I seem to remember. Most of the Lowell firemen were caught on the east side of town. I remember hearing someone say that the whole downtown might be on fire, but it didn't turn out that way. Once the other fire departments showed up and started controlling the fire we were able to get a little closer.

I seem to remember walking down to the crossing in the morning and boy, what a mess. There were still some small fires, but the sight of all the wrecked freight cars on top of one another was pretty impressive. There were cans of Vienna Sausage all over the place. Did I pick any up? Contrary to other people may have told you, yes I may have picked up a can or two. It's so hard for me to remember back that far. I do remember the town stinking for many weeks after that because of all the spoiled meat which was I believe dumped over by where the Post Office is now. That field over behind the elevator. Boy did it stink over there."

-Robert Hall...March 26, 2000-

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