By Terri Horvath
Zionsville owes its origin in 1852 to the railroad. Town founders foresaw that the area around tracks laid for the Indianapolis Cincinnati and Lafayette Railroad would draw an assortment of businesses. Zionsville was born. The booming potential for business, however, also brought a downside. With the arrival of train and interurban traffic in Zionsville, serious vehicular accidents increased greatly.
By the early 20th century, numerous accident reports related to the railroad and interurban had been filed. The reasons varied from daredevils trying to outrun a train to the intersection to speeding trains unable to cope with the track’s curves.
This photo shows a derailed car of a passenger train on July 25, 1909. The southbound train was rounding the curve north of town at high speed when all seven cars derailed. This train left the track and was scattered over several hundred yards. The baggage car was the first to leave the track and was thrown to the right. Attached to it was the smoking car, and the coaches followed the trajectory. The cars passed through a resident’s yard and demolished telegraph poles, fences and shrubs. The high bank kept them from turning over or from jamming together. This embankment was cited as the reason no one was killed.
Thirty-five of the 200 passengers were injured. Treating the victims on site were Drs. J.F. and O.E. Brendel. Everyone on board left on the relief train, except Magnolia Miles, who had a more serious injury. She continued her trip within 24 hours.