We ran across this compelling photograph
in the collection of Hazel Haynes Bridges. It is
of a huge train wreck that occurred in 1911 between Ellenboro
and Bostic. Don't you know that everybody in Cliffside who could
get hold of a buggy flew off up there to see the big event and “help
The bare facts of the matter were
written on the back of the photo (along with the apparent signature
of Eula Haynes, a daughter of R. R. Haynes.)
“A Seaboard Airline train crossed a wooden trestle between
Ellenboro and Bostic in Rutherford County—at 5:15 P.M.—May
28, 1911. The trestle collapsed, dropping the train 40 feet into
Watkins Creek and killing five railraoad workers. Locomotives 704
and 706 were pulling the ill-fated coal train. This is locomotive
There's more to the story. Accompanying the photo was a news article
from The Charlotte Observer dated May 28, 1991, that sheds
considerable more light on the event. The article—written by
Joe DePriest, a reporter who has done many stories on Cliffside—was
a Train Mystery” and
began with differnt photo of the wreck that reveals
much more of the carnage and activity around the site.
|At 5:15 p.m. Sunday, May 28, 1911, a Seaboard Airline
train crossed a wooden trestle between Ellenboro and Bostic in
Rutherford County. The trestle collapsed, dropping the train
40 feet into Watkins Creek and killing five railroad workers.
By Joe DePriest
Observer Staff Writer
never much interested Bill Beam—that is, until he saw the old
black-and-white photo in a friend's scrapbook.
He couldn't get the scene off his mind: A train
wreck with the cars scattered all around the tracks and dozens of
people standing around, some even climbing onto the battered cars.
Beam, president of the Lincoln County Historical
Association, wondered where and when the wreck took place. There
were no clues in the photo or scribbled on the back.
But with a bit of perseverance and a lot of luck,
Beam solved the mystery and discovered that one of the region's worst
train wrecks had occurred 80 years ago today.
At 5:15 p.m., an eastbound Seaboard Airline coal
train crossed a wooden trestle between Ellenboro and Bostic in Rutherford
A copy of the photo will be displayed at the Lincoln
Cultural Center when the new arts center and museum opens next fall
in the former First Baptist Church on Main Street.
The new Cherryville historical museum, scheduled
to open in August, will also get a copy.
"All this started last year when I got a call
from a man in California about a train wreck in 1880," says
Beam. "His grandfather was on the train."
As Beam researched the 1880 wreck, he ran across
the unidentified photo in a scrapbook belonging to a friend, Pru
Beam of Cherryville.
Examining the photo closely, he could make out
the number 704 on an overturned steam engine.
"I happened to mention this to another friend,
Howell Stroup in Cherryville," says Beam, "And he said
there was a train engineer buried at Mount Zion Baptist Church cemetery
Beam found the marker. The name L. Mack Lindsay
was on it, along with the design of a steam locomotive with the number
Using the date of Lindsay's death, May 28, 1911,
Beam searched back copies of the Charlotte Observer. That's where
he uncovered the answers to his questions.
Seaboard locomotives 704 and 706 had been pulling
the ill-fated coal train.
The bodies of Lindsay and a fireman were trapped
in the twisted mass of debris. A 150-member work crew spent two days
digging through the rubble and got Lindsay out of engine 706 on May
In the photo Beam found, a crane had pulled engineer
Rod Green's locomotive, number 704, out of the creek. Green, who
lived in Monroe, was also killed in the wreck.
Lindsay, 45, was a veteran engineer. "He was
found near the cab at the extreme bottom of the massive pile of coal
and steel," the Observer reported.
"His skull was crushed, his bones broken and
various bruises on his whole body," the paper said. "Train
No. 40 brought him to Shelby at 8:20 this morning and after being
prepared for burial by a local undertaker, he was sent on a special
train to his home in Cherryville."
In the minutes of Cherryville's Masonic lodge,
Beam found a note that Lindsay wrote on May 24, 1911, four days before
Although he lived in Monroe, he was member of the
Cherryville lodge. In the note, he apologized because he probably
wouldn't attend a June 5 meeting.
"I hope you all will excuse me," Lindsay
wrote, "It seems to be harder for engineers to get off than
This article appeared in the Gaston and Lincoln
Counties edition of The Charlotte Observer. Reprinted with
permission. Copyright owned by The Charlotte