HOUSE STOPS RUNAWAY TROLLEY

Wheeling Register, Friday, October 29, 1926

From the Wheeling Area Genealogical Society Lookout, Dec 2003
Submitted by Mary Lou Henderson, Lookout Editor.


MOZART

(Photo from William J. B. Gwinn collection - provided by Linda Fluharty)


DRIFTED LEAVES BELIEVED CAUSE OF CRASH

Prevented Functioning of Mozart Car Brakes, Theory Advanced;
Motorman Dead, 12 Injured in Wild Dash

     Exact cause of the fatal accident on the Mozart Park traction line in which one man was killed and 12 injured may never be known.

     Frank E. Eberlein, 68, motorman of the runaway car, who died at his post, is probably the only man who could have accounted for the wild flight of his car down the steep Mozart grade which ended when it left the rails at a curve at 6:25 yesterday morning and crashed into the store of Leo Pack, plowing halfway through the two-story frame building. And Eberlein's story will never be told.

     The most likely theory, according to A. C. Spurr, general superintendent of the Wheeling Traction company, is that drifted leaves may have temporarily prevented the brakes from holding, permitting the car to gain momentum which could not be checked. The fact that the car had already made one trip and had been stopped part way down the hill for a passenger would support this theory, Mr. Spurr says.

Scene In Car Described

     Motorman Eberlein made heroic efforts to avert the disaster. Applying both brakes in a futile attempt to check the speed of his car he turned to his passengers with a despairing look. "She's gone, boys! I can't hold it," he cried.

     The car rocked wildly as it rushed ahead, gathering speed. It is said there was no panic among the passengers. Cooler heads advised against rushing for the doors.

     Sensing the impending disaster, some of the men threw themselves flat on the floor with their feet to the front of the car. Others followed their example.

     Through it all, Motorman Eberlein grimly held to his position. One hand raised above his crushed and mangled body still grasped a brake handle when his body was removed from the wrecked car two hours after the crash.

     Eleven passengers and Conductor Joseph Gaus were injured. They were:

Joseph Gaus, 46, 2334 Charles street, conductor; fractured leg, cuts and bruises, taken to the Ohio Valley General Hospital.

Louis Riedel, 40, Mozart Hill, manual training teacher at Union high school, badly bruised. Taken to hospital.

William Stroebel, 31, Wabash street, taken to hospital. Not seriously hurt.

Albert Federmeyer, 25, Mozart, taken to hospital. Not serious.

Mrs. Minnie Jones, Route 6 Mozart, taken to hospital. Not serious.

William Beaver, Mozart Heights, bruised and cut, taken home.

Alphonse Federmeyer, Mozart, cuts and bruises. Taken home.

George R. Remke, 50, Mozart, scalp would, fractured rib. Taken to hospital.

Carl Randall, 37, Mozart Hill, taken to hospital. Not serious.

Mrs. Lena Beaver, Mozart, shock. Taken home.

Ivan Klinger, 19, Mozart, broken wrist. Taken home.

William Janeski, Mozart, injuries slight.

     Two of the young children of Mr. and Mrs. Pack escaped injury when the floor of their room broke through as the car broke through the building.

Crowds Flock to Scene

     News of the accident brought crowds of persons rushing to the scene. Within a half hour traffic was blocked in the Right Hand Run road by lines of automobiles.

     Jammed tightly between sections of the building the forward end of the street car where Motorman Eberlein's body lay could not be cleared by a traction company relief crew for more than two hours. In the city ambulance and volunteer automobiles the worst injured were hurried to the Ohio Valley General Hospital, while others were removed to their homes after first aid treatment in nearby homes.

     The car in the accident was No. 28, one of the four taken over from the City railway by City Manager Kirk and later leased to the Wheeling Traction company, known as the Mozart Park Railways Company.

Probe of Wreck Begun

     Officials of the traction company started an investigation immediately. So far as could be determined the brake system was functioning. The theory advanced last night was that drifts of leaves, crushed under the electric brake which operates on the rails, imparting a slippery condition to the steel, was the most plausible cause of the car getting beyond control. The investigation will be continued, however, and an official statement will be given on whatever facts are revealed, Mr. Spurr states.

     The Pack family was asleep when the car catapulted into their home. Mr. and Mrs. Pack were in the second floor bedroom, directly over where the car struck. In two other rooms on the same floor were Stella, aged 16; William, 13; Clara, 9; and Anna, 3.

Screams Follow Crash

     "There was a terrible crash," Mrs. Pack says, in describing the family's experience. "As I opened my eyes, I saw pictures falling from the walls and the floor and walls began swaying. I could feel this rather see it. Our lights were out and the room in pitch darkness. I could hear people screaming and crying. It was not until I reached the street that I realized what had happened."

     "Other people began to appear and as soon as I found my wife and children were safe I joined with these men in assisting the passengers from the car."

     Mrs. Pack's first thought as she awakened was of an earthquake. "Our home was twisting and creaking and I could hear glass falling and people screaming," she says, "and I thought sure an earthquake had struck us."

Injured Given Assistance

     One of the first men on the scene was Louis Myers, an employee of the H. J. Seabright company, who lives nearby.

     E. Gary was another who assisted the injured.

     Motorcycle Policemen Stanley and Pastors, City Fireman Tim Kindleberger and Deputy Sheriff McGill took charge in controlling the large crowd and later they were relieved by state police.

     Street car traffic was resumed on the Mozart division within a comparatively short time. Residents of this district, to whom the street car service is the only general means of transportation, appeared to regard the accident as one of an unavoidable nature.


Motorman Died a Hero At His Post

Spoke Calmly to Passengers When Car Got Out of Control;
Terrifying Rush Down Hill Related.

FRANK S. EBERLEIN

     "She's gone, boys. I can't hold her."

     There was no fear in the voice of Frank S. "Daddy" Eberlein, 68 year old motorman, when he informed the conductor and 11 passengers on the Mozart Park street car yesterday morning that the car was beyond control of the brakes and was running away down a steep grade. Daddy Eberlein stuck to his controls until the end, when the car struck a sharp curve at the foot of the hill, jumped the track, and ploughed through the store of Leo Pack. Eberlein was killed instantly.

     There were cool heads in the runaway car. Albert Federmeyer, 25, of Mozart, one of the passengers, said the aged motorman stood at his post straining every effort to bring the car to a halt. Federmeyer, one of the six passengers taken to the Ohio Valley General Hospital after the accident, related the story of the terrific rush down the steep grade and of the crash at the curve.

Little Confusion in Car

     Federmeyer said when the motorman turned to the passengers and told them the car was beyond control there was little confusion. Some went to the rear platform, Federmeyer said, but he and others shouted to them not to jump, and to take a chance on getting down the hill and around the curve without the car upsetting. Federmeyer said he first tried to shut the front doors of the car, but that they were stuck and he couldn't move them. He said he thought that if they could close the front doors they could all get in the passenger section of the car and take a chance on the front section breaking the force of any collision which might occur.

     When the doors failed to open Federmeyer said he told the others to lie down either on the floor or on the seats, which run the length of the car and extend their feet toward the front of the car. He said he and a majority of the others took the advice. When the car struck the curve, jumped the track and struck the store, he and the others were projected forward violently. Federmeyer said his feet struck against the front section of the car with a jolt, the impact bending his back and breaking a number of his ribs. As the car ploughed through the store and partly out the other side he said tons of debris fell on the car. He was covered and was unable extricate himself for some time. Every one else in the car was injured, a number being knocked unconscious. The body of the motorman was not extricated from beneath the debris of the wrecked car and house until nearly two hours after the accident occurred.

Motorman Spoke Calmly

     Federmeyer said that the motorman first told them the car was beyond control when they were heading down the grade nearly a quarter of a mile above the curve. He said Eberlein spoke calmly when he said: "She's gone boys, I can't hold her." When they reached the foot of the grade and struck the curve they were moving at least 60 miles an hour, Federmeyer said at the hospital yesterday. "Never again for me on the street car."

     In addition to the fractured ribs, he suffered a cut on the forehead and his bands and arms were slightly cut.

     Mrs. Lena Beaver, of Mozart, another passenger on the car, escaped with only slight injuries and was able to go to her home after being attended by a physician.

     The car started to run away about a quarter mile from the curve, Mrs. Beaver declared. It had stopped at Stop 14 when she got on, she said, and appeared under control at that point. She said she first suspected something was wrong when she noted the unusual speed of the car and saw the motorman tugging his hand-brake.

Didn't Appear Excited

     "He did not seem to be excited, " she said, "and apparently was trying to reverse the wheels for I could hear a loud noise beneath the car. The next thing I knew there was a crash and I was lying under a number of other passengers on the floor of the car. I was conscious the whole time."

     Hospital officials yesterday refused to allow official investigators to question Joseph Gaus, 46, conductor on the car. Gaus is the only one of the injured whose condition is serious, it was said. He suffered a fracture of one leg and is suffering greatly from shock.

     Mr. and Mrs. Leo Pack and their four children were asleep in their rooms above their grocery store at the time of the accident, being shaken from sleep when the car leaped the rails and crashed through the store. None of the members of the family was hurt.

     "It sounded like a terrific explosion," Mrs. Pack said. "Pictures were falling - from the walls, and the floors were swaying. The lights had gone out, and it was pitch dark inside. I heard people screaming and crying and could not realize what had happened."

     The grocer, his wife and neighbors roused by the crash helped extricate the injured from the wrecked car and gave first aid. His wife declared her first impression of the accident was that an earthquake was rocking the house.


Obituary

VETERAN STREET CAR MAN FORFEITS LIFE TO HIS DUTY

Car Accident Victim Sticks to Post; Tries To Halt Runaway

     Frank S. "Dad" Eberlein, 68, 303 North Wabash street, Island, who for 20 years has been a motorman on the Mozart line of the Wheeling Traction company, was instantly killed Thursday morning at 6:25 o'clock when his car leaped the rails and ploughed into the store of Leo Pack, at the foot of the long incline.

     Mr. Eberlein was the first employee of the City Railway company after its organization about 20 years ago. For 10 years prior to that he had been with the Wheeling Traction company. He came here from Bloomsfield, O.

     When the City Railway company line was taken over by the traction company "Dad" Eberlein was retained as motorman on one of the hill cars. His long years of experience with the Mozart line gave him a knowledge of the long sweeps and dangerous curves of the hill which may have averted an even worse tragedy than that of yesterday, in which he forfeited his chance for life to remain at the post of duty.

     Mr. Eberlein is survived by his wife, Mrs. Lydia Eberlein; one daughter, Mrs. Carl Steger, Bellaire, O., and a sister, Mrs. J. W. Speer, Pittsburgh, Pa.

     He was a member of the Second Presbyterian church, Local Union No. 103, Streetcar Workers, and of several fraternal organizations.

     Funeral services will be held from the home on Friday evening at 7:30 o'clock. Rev. W. D. Lewis will officiate. Saturday noon the remains will be taken to Bloomfield, O., for burial. Interment will be in the family plot at that place.



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