South Bend train wreck

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South Bend Train Wreck
Wood engraved view of wreck from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, New York, dated July 16, 1859
Wood engraved view of wreck from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, New York, dated July 16, 1859
Date June 27, 1859
Time Just before midnight
Location between Mishawaka and South Bend, Indiana
Country United States
Operator Michigan Southern Railroad
Type of incident Embankment washed away
Cause Blocked culvert
Trains 1
Passengers 150
Deaths 42
Injuries 50

The South Bend Train Wreck (known also as the Great Mishawaka Train Wreck[1]) occurred on June 27, 1859 between Mishawaka and South Bend in Indiana on the Michigan Southern Railroad killing 42 people and injuring 50 more.[2]

The train concerned was the Night Express from Chicago to Toledo carrying about 150 passengers. Just before midnight it was crossing an embankment known as the Springbrook Bridge [3] over a 25-foot (7.6 m) deep ravine at a speed of 10 to 20 mph (16 to 32 km/h) when the embankment collapsed, plunging the entire train into a torrent of water, drowning many. According to the Chicago Journal "The engine was literally buried in the opposite side of the ravine in quicksand and mud, and the tender, baggage and express car, and two second class cars, were shattered almost into kindling wood, and piled on top of the engine. The two first class passenger cars followed, and were torn to pieces and carried down the stream, while the sleeping car, although making the leap with the rest was less injured".[4] There had been extreme rainfall in the area the previous afternoon and evening and it is thought that the culvert beneath the embankment became blocked causing build-up of water behind the embankment which collapsed as the train was crossing. The westbound train had passed over safely at 8:30 p.m.[4]

One body was found in the St. Joseph River a mile below the creek; other bodies were discovered buried completely in sand and a week after the accident the death toll was 41 persons,[5] though some sources estimate the death toll as much as 60 or 70.[6]

The site of the accident is close to the present intersection of Ironwood Road and Lincoln Way West.[1]


  1. ^ a b City of Mishawaka, Indiana (2002–2012). "Mishawaka's History Timeline". 
  2. ^ Haine, p. 43.
  3. ^ Haine, pp 99-100.
  4. ^ a b "Terrible Railroad Calamity". Chicago Journal. transcriber: Julie Chitwood. RootsWeb. June 28, 1859. 
  5. ^ "The Railroad Tragedy". Davenport Daily Gazette. transcriber: Julie Chitwood. Davenport, IA: RootsWeb. July 4, 1859. 
  6. ^ "The Terrible Railroad Slaughter on the Michigan Southern Railroad". Chicago Times. transcriber: Stu Beitler. GenDisasters. June 29, 1859. 


  • Haine, Edgar A. (1993). Railroad Wrecks. Associated University Presses. ISBN 0-8453-4844-2. This book is notoriously incorrect on many of the train wrecks it lists. Dates, places, people names and such are incorrect. This should not be used as a reference. 

Coordinates: 41°39′25″N 86°12′58″W / 41.65694°N 86.21611°W / 41.65694; -86.21611