An eatery was set up in a tent borrowed from Ringling Brothers circus. A carnival midway sprang up, with medicine shows, game booths and cigar stands to entertain the spectators as they waited for the main event. Some special policemen were brought in to keep order. Almost all train wreck fans were put on a hill at least yards away for what the Dallas Morning News termed "a perfect view of the destruction. The two engines, one green and one red and each pulling six cars covered with "gaudy advertising", slowly met at the point of collision to be photographed.
Then the trains backed slowly up the low hills to their starting points. As they started their run, the two train crews abandoned their posts and jumped from the train.
At impact, estimated to be at 50 miles per hour for each engine, the smashing of metal and splintering of timber filled the air. But just as the dust from the smoking heap started to settle, both boilers exploded simultaneously and the air was filled with flying metal missiles "varying in size from a postage stamp to half of a driving wheel," the News reported the next day. Two people died and at least six other people were seriously injured by flying debris, including a Waco photojournalist, Jarvis Deane, who lost an eye.
While the railway moved in quickly to remove the larger wreckage, souvenir hunters swarmed over the site, carrying off most of the remains despite burning their hands on the shrapnel. The Katy settled all claims with cash and life-time passes. Impresario Crush, a disciple of P. Barnum, was "fired" the evening of the crash, but rehired the following day.
Great Crush Collision
Rumor even had it he got a bonus for all the attention he brought the railroad, which curiously saw a surge in business afterwards. Could there have been a wreck at the crossing in Temple? And could Joplin have added sound-effects and descriptive narrative to a piece already written but unpublished?
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Or had he quickly composed a work to fit the situation? It was quite a surprise to me to discover that Joplin, a Texas-born composer and son of an emancipated slave, had written a song commemorating a marketing gimmick concocted to sell tickets on a regional railroad with deep ties to Central Texas.
Beginning with the so-called Panic of , the economy of the United States began a decade-long slide, with high unemployment, devalued currency, and the collapse of several major railroads epitomizing the dire situation. The event was staged on September 15, in a valley north of Waco.
Two locomotives were placed at either end; one was painted bright green, the other bright red. Both had been toured around the state in the months leading up to the crash in order to generate publicity. At PM, the two trains were released under a full head of steam, speeding down the track at approximately 45 mph. The aftermath of the spectacle is almost unthinkable in modern times. And within a few decades, the whole event would pass from the collective memory with the exception of railroad fans and Texas history buffs.
Click the image above to access a PDF of the complete score. In fact, the work was copyrighted a mere 30 days after the spectacle, leading biographers to believe that Joplin had either witnessed the crash himself or heard about it from one of his acquaintances who worked as a porter on the Katy line. While the particulars of how Joplin learned of the crash are unclear, what is known is his reaction as recorded in song.
My work on this blog post brought about an exciting opportunity to bring this piece back to life. Working with our sound engineer, Stephen Bolech, we arranged for graduate student in performance studies Eunhye Shin to perform the piece at First Baptist Church, where Stephen also serves as a sound engineer.
The piece is included below, performed for the first time in more than a century, mere miles away from the site of the marketing spectacle it was created to commemorate. Original on display at the Texas Collection. As I post this, the U.
Great Crush Collision March - - Sheet music - Cantorion - Free sheet music, free scores
The information seems to be the same as available online, but it has four decent-sized photos accompanying it. Particle physics, 19th century style! Thanks for the hat tip, Jim. Your email address will not be published.
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