Rhonda's View Rendezvous:
Circus train wreck in Babcock 100 years ago
One newspaper called it right when it said the Campbell Brothers Circus was playing with bad luck.
Just before coming to Rhinelander on Aug. 11, 1910, the circus train was in a wreck in which they lost many trained horses.
Then, on the morning of Aug. 16, the same train en route to Sparta, was struck by a passenger train going from New Lisbon to Star Lake.
It took the accounts of several newspapers to piece together what actually happened. It seems the circus train of 42 double-length railway cars was headed south at six mph, and was switched onto a side track a half mile south of Babcock, when northbound passenger train No. 15 of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, traveling 25 mph, smashed into the center of it when a division switch was left open. The passenger train was to have come to a complete halt before reaching the crossing. As a result, one circus employee, John McKay of Texas, was killed and six other circus employees seriously injured, some not expected to live.
The injured were taken to Tomah by train, and McKay's body was brought to Grand Rapids to the Ragan and Shaver funeral parlor and prepared for burial.
His only known family, a sister in St. Cloud, Minn., never was located.
Six circus train cars were demolished, and the passenger engine was overturned, along with the mail and baggage cars damaged.
Although shaken, there were no injuries or deaths on the passenger train.
The engineer and fireman from the circus train jumped before the collision to escape injury, as did the engineer of the passenger train, who then ran into the woods and hid. Immediately after the crash, the wrecked cars caught fire, but circus workers with buckets of water prevented destruction of the train.
A wrecking crew came from Tomahawk to clear the wreckage, and rail traffic was delayed nine hours. The loss would fall upon the railroad.
Six camels, four Shetland ponies and two trick horses were killed. Two elephants who escaped through the woods at top speed were captured three miles away, seriously injured and later poisoned by their attendants. A big box of "fancy imported snakes" was broken open and remained at large in Wood County. read more: http://www.wisconsinrapidstribune.com/article/20100810/WRT10/8100322/Rhonda-s-View-Rendezvous-Circus-train-wreck-in-Babcock-100-years-ago