The Staged Train Crash at Crush, Texas

Thomas Rose, Train enthusiast and writer

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It was the 1890’s, the time of change for many a railroad company. Locomotives with large smokestacks, long cowcatchers, and wooden bodywork were being phased out for more reliable, faster, more modern-style locomotives. The Missouri, Kansas, and Texas railroad (Known to train fans as the Katy, a nickname the company adopted in later passenger train names) was looking for a way to dispose of their old-styled locomotives. They didn’t want to scrap them or sell them (A few were sold already) because it was an economic downtime and they would have to sell the engines cheap.

The MKT Railroad was a famous railroad, one of the first to go through Oklahoma, so it had a lot of staff. One of the passenger agents, a man named William Crush, suggested to corporate that there be a head-on collision staged for the public to watch. They approved after consulting with the manufacturers of the engines, who stated their scalding-hot water filled boilers would not rupture and explode during a crash. Crush was decided to be the project manager, overseeing it himself.

The event would make the MKT Railroad a lot of money, because they could sell $2 (A fortune back then) train tickets. They found a remote location, a valley 15 miles north of Waco, Texas. The new location was called “Crush, Texas”. A tent, borrowed from a nearby Ringling Brothers circus, would contain a restaurant for the event. A midway was constructed with games, shows, and food/merchandise stands being built and scheduled. The engines that would be used, numbers 1001 and 999, were painted special colors for the event, 999 a light green and 1001 a dark red. The event was to take place on the 15th of September, 1896.

It was the day of the event. A grandstand was put up right along the track for the collision. Politicians took advantage of the situation and self-promoted themselves. At 5 PM, the crash was set to start, and the locomotives were steamed up. Crush himself rode on his horse to the track and waved his hat. At this moment the trains set off.

The engines started gaining speed, and the engineers and firemen jumped off. The two iron giants glided along the tracks, getting to a good 45 miles per hour before they closed the gap. The moment of impact came.

The engines went off like twin bombs! An explosion of the boilers (Unpredicted by the locomotive manufacturer) sent shrapnel flying through the air. Three people perished after the shrapnel and scalding water hit them. Six people were seriously injured. Crush was fired on the spot, however the MKT decided it wasn’t Crush’s fault that the explosion occurred and rehired him the next day. The MKT paid all lawsuits off with cash or a lifetime pass for the railroad’s passenger services.

Other railroads staged similar collisions in the future for events like state fairs. However, no future event ended up like the one at Crush.


Morales, Carlos E. “At 120 years, the Crash at Crush Remains Stranger than Fiction” KWBU Heart of Texas Public Radio, 15 Sept. 2016,

Hamilton, Allen Lee. “Crash at Crush. ” Texas State Historical Association, 11 June 2010,




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The Staged Train Crash at Crush, Texas