1929 Black Creek Train Crash

These photos do not appear in my book. Damn!

I noticed several weeks ago that Laura Skalitzky had posted a photo of a train wreck on the historical society page, but the society had no other information. I was busy with the book and did not take the time to investigate.

I wish I had.

I suspected it might have been from a fatal crash in 1929 a few miles north of Princeton near where the track crossed the Black Creek. The only other fatal rail accidents that I am aware of occurred in Princeton in 1900 and 1901, one near the depot and the other near the roundhouse, and the photo certainly did not come from the local rail yard.

Today, I checked in with Laura, who sent me several additional photos. There was a number, 198, on one of the cars that I figured might help us track the accident through the Chicago & North Western Railroad archives. Within two hours of contacting the railroad historians, I had my answer.

Yes, the photos came from the Black Creek wreck that occurred on July 15, 1929.

Here’s what happened:

About 100 passengers were aboard the 6:45 a.m. train eastbound when it jumped the rails and crashed through the Black Creek bridge near state Highway 73. The train left the track about 300 feet north of the bridge and rolled along the ties until the locomotive and mail car plunged through the wooden bridge into the shallow creek. Several passenger cars were derailed but did not overturn.

Fireman Eugene Curran, 36, of Fond du Lac, was killed in the crash and engineer A.G. Hassman badly injured. Several passengers were also injured but none seriously.

The Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington concluded the crash was due to the rail flangeways at the highway crossing being filled with gravel. A section foreman told investigators that it was necessary to clean out the flangeways on the crossing four or five times a week due to the automobile traffic.

Elsie Curran, mother of five children all under the age of 7, successfully sued the railroad and was awarded $30,000. The railroad fought it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the judgment in 1931.

The locomotive, one of the oldest in service in the railroad’s Green Bay division, was taken out in pieces about a week later and scrapped.
People came from many miles away to visit the accident scene.
The Princeton Republic estimated more than 500 cars and thousands of people visited the wreckage.


  1. I recently found the site of the wreck. Hard to do since the railroad has been gone since about 1981 AND the old Hwy 73 is not the Hwy of today. WIS CO Trunk Y, at least a portion of it, was Hwy 73 at the time, a gravel road no less. It crosses both the old RR right of way and Black Creek in close proximity. The rail flangeways could easily have been plugged by gravel from the highway, sending the eastbound train into the creek. Once you find the location it’s easy to see how it would have unfolded. By the way, the old right-of-way is now a public snowmobile trail /walking trail.

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