David Watt and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Work Day: Workday Wednesday

02 May 2012 8:01 AM Posted by Brenda L.

I knew that my great grandfather, David Watt, had been injured in a train accident during his time as a train engineer, but I didn't know the extent of the accident.  My dad remembers his grandfather being scarred and part of his ear missing.  My cousin Judy sent me pictures of the intersection where the accident happened and the aftermath of the accident. 

I had been wanting to get a newspaper article about the accident for awhile and finally found one.  There is something about reading a newspaper account of the accident that affects me.  My thoughts after reading it was: 

  • First, I didn't know how close to death he came.  He was 55 at the time of the accident.
  • Second, I can't imagine what my great grandmother must have felt as she was taken by train to his bedside.  Was she scared to get on the train?  Did she travel alone?  Was she remembering another time when she was in St. Ignace for her wedding to David Watt?  She travelled from Marquette, Michigan to St. Ignace, Michigan, a distance, today, of about 170 miles. 
  • Also, I can't imagine the pain David Watt must have been in.  Steam burns hurt like the devil.  I have only been mildly burnt by steam while cooking.  He was severely burnt.  This accident happened in 1913, so I imagine burn care was primitive.  There weren't any skin grafts.  Salves were used to stop pain and infection.  Infection and/or death was common as a result of burns.  I have heard how painful recovery from burns is with our modern medicine.  Can you imagine what it was like in 1913?

Picture of David Watt taken sometime after his train accident in 1913. 
Notice part of his left ear is missing. 

David Watt survived his burns and lived another 32 years.  In addition, he eventually went back to work.  What a strong, courageous man he must have been.  I can only get to know him through articles like this and my father's memories of him.  Memories I will cherish. 

Source:  "Train Crash; Engineer Hurt," The Evening News, 20 October 1913, Article relating to David Watt's injuries from a train accident in which he was the engineer.; online images, Genealogy Bank (www.genealogybank.com : accessed 28 April 2012), Historical Newspapers; The Evening News, Vol 13, No. 160; Front Page Column 1.

TRANSCRIPTION

TRAINS CRASH;
ENGINEER HURT

DAVID WATT TAKEN TO ST. IG-
NACE-MAY DIE.

COLLISION OCCURS AT TROUT
LAKE AT 7:46 LAST NIGHT

MANY PASSENGERS WERE BADLY
SHAKEN UP-ENGINE SMASHES
INTO DEPOT-ACTUAL CAUSE
OF CATASTROPHE HAS NOT
YET BEEN LEARNED

Several coaches were derailed and an engine each on the Soo Line and South Shore roads suffered considerable damage as a result of a collision which occurred last night at the joint railroad crossing at Trout Lake, when South Shore train No. 2 collided with the Soo line train No. 7, which left this city last night at 6:20 o'clock.

The exact cause of the collision has not yet been learned.  All of the passengers on both trains were considerably jarred when the two trains struck and some, it is stated, were bruised quite badly.

From the information obtained so far, the only person who sustained serious injuries was David Watt, engineer on South Shore engine No. 2, who was severely burned.

The engines were about demolished and the coaches were damaged slightly.  It is stated that the South Shore train has the right of way at the crossing.  It is possible that the Soo Line engineer did not notice the approaching train, as there was a string of box cars on the "Y", which, it is thought, would obstruct his view.

David Watt, of Marquette, engineer on the South Shore train, was penned in his cab when the engines struck and was severely scalded by escaping steam and water from the boiler.  He was rushed to St. Ignace as soon as possible, where physicians are endeavoring to save his life.  A special train carried Mrs. Watt to the bedside of her husband in St. Ignace in record time.  Other passengers were severely jarred up and one woman suffered a broken finger.

The hands of the depot clock at Trout Lake stopped at 7:46, recording exactly the time of the collision for when the engines struck the depot the clock was stopped.  Considerable damage was also done to the depot."



6 Response to "David Watt and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Work Day: Workday Wednesday"

  1. Judy G. Russell, CG Says:

    What a terrific find -- and what an amazingly strong man he must have been!

  2. Brenda Leyndyke Says:

    Judy, I agree. I only wish I had known him.

  3. Jana Last Says:

    Wow! This is an amazing story! It struck me when I read that he was pinned in his cab and subsequently burned. How terrible! What a blessing that he survived his injuries.

  4. Brenda Leyndyke Says:

    Jana, I agree. I hope he wasn't conscious the whole time as I imagine the pain must have been awful.

  5. Susan Clark Says:

    Great post, Brenda! It's interesting how powerful the newspaper account is. Perhaps we are so familiar with family stories and perspectives that we discount the stories, but to see a contemporary account from a neutral source of the accident packs a punch.

  6. Brenda Leyndyke Says:

    Thanks, Susan. It sure did pack a punch. I guess I never realized how severe it was.

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