The morning edition of the Pueblo Chieftain on May 15th, 1888 offers some details on the town of Fountain that were not noted by other reporters. It mentions the blacksmith shop of CW Sells (likely Cells), the frame structured school wioth a portion of the walls standing, and the badly damaged Mitchell House- a frame and adobe hotel. The Fountain Hotel, about 1/2 mile from the blast, was also badly damaged. The car of powder that exploded contained 17000 lbs of No. 2 Giant, being shipped to Leadville. The blast destroyed two engines, 14 railroad cars, and the mail and baggage car.
Colorado Springs Gazette
|Location of 1888 Explosion|
On Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe railway south of Illinois Avenue
Depot probably stood just south of car lot on right side of tracks
|May 19, 1888|
Before going to the cattle chute, Conductor Chubback directed A. Orendorf, the rear brakeman, to set all the brakes on the cars remaining on the side track. Orendorf, who worked on the mountain division of the road below Trinidad for two years and a half, and who knows the danger of cars breaking loose, states positively that he set four brakes as tight as he could and then left the train. About ten minutes after a tramp asked him what had become of the rear cars. He looked down the track but could not see the green and red signal lights on the car. He walked to the place where the cars had been standing and was horrified to see them gone. He rushed to the depot to give warning as he knew the No. 7 Kansas City passenger express was due at Colorado Springs at 3:15. The front portion of the freight train then started to overtake the wild cars but before it had gone two miles below the city the fatal explosion had taken place. The night operator at the depot endeavored to reach the operator at Fountain but failed to do so before the explosion. The freight train continued its journey to Fountain and arrived there at 4 o’clock. A horrible ___ meet the eyes of the train men. A dense cloud of smoke was rising from the ruins of the passenger depot, and near it were the promiscuous remnants of the wrecked freight cars. In the gray light of the morning they could see the passengers of the train and the citizens of the place moving the wounded from where they had fallen to the neighboring houses. The town presented a truly…
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The train arrived in the city at 5 o'clock and two Midland passenger coaches were brought over from Colorado City to take the physicians to the scene of the calamity. About half past five o'clock the train started, having on board Doctor Anderson, Gardiner, Solly, Horn, Arnold, Rice and Reber. Agent CC Hoyt, City Marshall Dana, a representative of the gazette and several employees of the road at the depot___.
The car of naptha, which was next to the caboose, immediately exploded, and the burning liquid poured out upon the ground, saturated the locomotive and ran under the platform around the depot. In a few seconds cars, platform and depot were all ablaze. The residents of the village were awakened by the noise of the collision, but the sight of the conflagration soon brought them from their houses. The passenger coaches, which with the exception of the baggage car, had been uninjured were detached from the engine and pushed down the track.
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The body of the man Whitman, who is believed to have a brother living at Greenland was burned into an unrecognizable mass. He was a poor railroad man formerly employed on the CB & Q railroad who had been given passage on the freight train by the conductors. He was in the caboose when the cars broke loose, and one person stated that he saw him on top of the cars as they entered Fountain endeavoring to set the brakes. He was quite sick when he boarded the train at Pueblo and said he was very feeble. It is thought that he was knocked off the cars when the collision took place.
The ground upon which the car of powder stood now resembles a huge pit about ten feet deep and about thirty feet in circumference. The only remains of the freight cars is a small pile of tracks, wheels and twisted iron.
Cause of the Collision
The crew of the freight train ascribe the accident to tramps. They state that there were three tramps on the train whom the conductor had driven off. The brakesman is positive that he set the brakes and that the cars could not have started of themselves. He thinks that tramps started them out of revenge.
Reports of the Explosion
A man who came up on the train from Pueblo stated that the report had been distinctly heard in Pueblo. The amount of damage is merely guess work and no figures can be given for several days. The damage to houses, outbuildings, stores, etc. is estimated at $50,000. This does not include the property of the railroad company.
Jury consisted of Matt France, JH Thedinga, WHD Merrill, ES Bumstead, CL Gillingham and AF Mitchell.
They proceeded to extract Mr. Hutchins from the debris. He said "Don’t lift my left leg.” In removing him a ___ with some papers and bills.
May 16, 1888 Gazette