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Roger Hensley

  Railroads of Madison County
The Wreck at Shiloh Ohio
June 25, 1947

Click on the photo for the associated photo.

I was given these photos in 8x10 b&w format and when I began to research where they were taken and who took them, I found the photos were of the NYC (Big Four) wreck at Shiloh and were taken by Tom Root who now has Tom Root Air Photos. Tom was still alive and kicking as of 1997 and working in Plymouth Ohio in case you have an interest in acquiring a set of these photos for yourself.

Here is what his son Steve told me about the story behind the photos. Parts have been removed.

Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 20:58:57 -0800 (PST)
Subject: NY Central Train Wreck

*** set out ***

In fact, he still does business as Tom Root Air Photos. Flies and photographs from a Piper Super Cub. Not too many sole proprietorship businesses are still in business 50 years later. (I certainly do not intend to be.)

Re your photos: Dad was courting my mother, and was supposed to have a date on the day the train wrecked. He got over to Shiloh (four miles from Plymouth) and took pictures. Developed and printed them and went back and sold them out at $1 a piece. Ran home and printed more. This was always a famous event in my family -- the time Dad stood my mother up. His defense was that it paid for the honeymoon.

Dad always explained the accident as having occurred (or maybe it was the working theory) because the three letter identifier for Shiloh was SHI, and the next town down the Big Four tracks was Shelby -- identifier SHE, which led (or might of led -- after all, the crew died) to confusion. When I talk to him after he gets the copies of your postings, I will ask how this was known -- was it a typo on instructions or a supposition as to what the engineer must have been thinking?

By the way, my dad took air photos and other photos of train wrecks whenever he could -- although, for ground shots, you are looking at some of the best. He used and uses a 4x5 negative size Speed Graphic (he and my wife recently gave me one -- incredible detail is possible which cannot be duplicated with 35mm). He could put together a terrific web site, in my opinion, but he is not yet connected.

I am sending this privately, but if you would like to post it that would be OK by me.

Steve Root

As near as I can tell, this is what happened...
There was a work zone and the train was running against the normal flow of traffic. One copy of the train order and clearance form were found in the center pocket of the engineer's bib overalls still wrapped in the delivery string. There had been a temporary block established in Shiloh less than 24 hours before the accident. There was also a miscommunication in that there were only 2 copies of the "track orders" prepared for the train because someone forgot that it was a double header. Therefore, only the lead engine and the conductor got the orders - not the second engine. Also there had been a change of where the trains went switched back to their normal track after going against the "Current of Traffic" between times that these engine crews had this area last. The train hit the crossover switch at track speed with the result that both engines cleared Track No. 1 and were buried in the ditch adjacent to the right-of-way."

It was June 25, 1947 and the train was train 431 called the 'St. Louis Express' by some. Although there were 6 deaths to crew and track workers, there were no serious injuries to the passengers though several cars were derailed.

Picture Credits:
Photos by Tom Root Air Photos, Plymouth Ohio.

Big Four Memories page 1

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