• U.S.

Transport: Awfullest Thing

2 minute read

Down from the Rockies and across the flats of Utah one morning last week pounded the Flying Ute, crack fast freight of the Denver & Rio Grande Western and a great favorite with hobos. Coming into Midvale. 10 miles south of Salt Lake City, she was two hours late by fog, snow, sleet.

Also late was Driver Farrold Silcox and his school bus containing 38 Mormon children on their way to the District High School. On the other side of the tracks he still had others to collect. At a grade crossing near Midvale Driver Silcox stopped, looked, listened. Then he started across the tracks. The 48-car Flying Ute, which Driver Silcox seems neither to have seen nor heard, at that instant roared out of the storm, screamed its warning and struck. A young bo named Witter, who was riding an icy tank car near the engine, jumped out in the snow to see what had happened. “It was the awfullest thing I ever saw,” he said.

It was the awfullest bus accident anybody ever saw. Sixteen of the 38 children somehow got out alive. But three of them were horribly injured, one dying three days later. Driver Silcox was dead. No bus crash had ever cost so much life; the last biggest at Salem, Ill., March, 1937, took 20 lives. Utah’s Public Service Commission, painfully aware of the danger that lay athwart the State’s other 2,054 unprotected grade crossings, sought jurisdiction over all the State’s school buses, planned to delegate to one older student in each bus the job of flagging his bus over railroad tracks.

At Luck, Wis., day before the Midvale smash, a Soo Line train drove into a school bus at a grade crossing, killed the woman driver and three children, critically injured five others.

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