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Maurice Lewman

Incident at La Fontaine

September 02, 2002

This article was submitted by Mervin McNew of Marion Indiana in the 1934 issue of Railroad Stories, (predecessor of Railroad Magazine I think). - MEL

Mervin wrote,

"I have been a reader of your magazine since I was knee high to an angle iron. First read it back in 1907 at Greensburg Indiana. Finances did not permit me to buy it, so Mike Brogan a crossing watchman would let me read his copy. The article "Ashtabula Catastrophe" recalls a similar one on the Big 4 in the fall of 1926."

"Train # 75 a manifest freight southbound from Benton Harbor Michigan to South Anderson Indiana came thundering into La Fontaine Indiana. The big Mike (2-8-2) rolled onto a short bridge, which collapsed sending the engine into the bed of the creek with her cab down and her front end up in the air. The tender upset of course, burying engineer Fank McClintic, brakeman Simon Phiel and fireman Homer Miller in the cab. To add to that horror, a gasoline tank car 5 cars back followed 5 boxes into the gully. It burst into flame burning the bodies in the cab beyond recognition. An undermined abutment was supposed to have caused the wreck."

This bridge was about 150 ft. south of the depot and is still there today. Many years ago I saw pictures of this wreck.

I fired for Walter McClintic, a nephew of Frank, many times. This creek runs beside the east side of the track and makes a 90 degree turn under this bridge. Of course every train and engine crew knew about this accident and every time there was a belly washer, when you came through La Fontaine this accident was on your mind.

Thanks to Richard Lewman for sending me this article and who would have made a heck of a railroader.

Maurice Lewman

Maurice worked the Michigan Division from 1947-1981. He then worked on the Bee Line from 1981-1992. From 1947 until august 1950, he worked on the section at Shirley and Markleville. In 1950 he started firing on steam and then on through the diesels. Maurice said, "I had the pleasure of working with C. C. Staley and Ron Buser many times."

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