Thursday, May 26, 2011

Doddlebug Disaster: Cuyahoga Falls 1940

Bonnie Way Riley, Wife of Ronald Riley lost her father (Russell  Way) in this incident.  A group of students in the Falls started a school project to learn more about about this disaster.  They were responsible for getting this memorial installed.

On a warm summer night, July 31, 1940, The engineer of the Doodlebug was told to put the single car passenger shuttle on a siding and wait for a 73-car freight train to pass. The Doodlebug was a Pa. Railroad gasoline powered car that ran from Hudson, Ohio to Akron, a distance of around 25-miles carrying passengers to work in Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Stow, Kent and Hudson. It also carried people wanting to go shopping in the differant small towns. For whatever reason, probably a mis-communication, engineer Thomas L. Murtaugh continued the Doodlebug on its trip. At about 6:00 pm the silence of the evening was shattered by a loud crash on Hudson Drive when the Doodlebug ran head-on into the freight train. Murtaugh, conductor Harry B. Shafer and Tod E. Wonn were in the front of the Doodlebug and jumped seconds before impact. They would be the only survivors, however, they were badly injured. The 350-gal. gasoline tank ruptured on impact and sprayed the entire interior of the coach with flaming gas. By the account of the medical examiner, 9-passengers were killed on impact. The remaining burned to death, unable to escape the flames. 43-passengers died in all. Residents from the homes and businesses in the area came running to help, but they couldn't get within 20-feet of the wreakage because of the flames and smoke. They would live the rest of their lives with the screams of the victims as they were forced to stand horrified and watch the tragedy. After fighting the fire for 45-minutes, it would take the firemen another several hours to be able to remove the bodies from the burned out hull of the car. Most were burned to the seats and had to be removed using saws. The tragic event remains the worst rail disaster in Cuyahoga Falls history. The Doodlebug went for decades unknown but by the witnesses, untill three 7th graders from Sill School decided that this tragic event needed to be remembered and the victims needed to be honored. These students, Joseph Gajovski, Nathan Gera and Clarissa Melvin spearheaded a project to have a monument erected at the spot of the tragedy. They did well. Today, a large monument lists the victim's names and allows future generations to know what happened on that terrible July night in 1940.

Earl C. Clifford, Lois Helmick, Joan Schreiber, Cleon H. Wills, Elmer E. Davis, Loren C. Morris, Charles T. Squires Jr., Betty Fahrney, Mary Fahrney, Fred H. Palmer, Nelson Vaughn.

Adam Ellenbrook, Wilbur Harpley, W.P. McKee, Lois A. Perry, Albert Johns, Otto Bedarf, Sophie Ellis, Leonard Kirchner, Fred Howard Duve, Jacob Henry Peters, Mary Badonsky, A.J. Bailiff, Charles W. Frank, Bruce Kermit Kelly, Lillian Gilbo, C.E. Tarleton, Albert Burke, Russell Way, Nina J. Morey.

Louis Fountain, Cleveland, Ohio; L.C. Letzkus, Pittsburg, Pa.; E.W. Gibbons, Endicoff, NY; W.H. Rice, Pittsburg, Pa.; Harry B. Smock, Cambridge, Ohio; Margaret Lagani, Bayonne, NJ; William Schmitz, Mecken, W. Va.; Ernest C. Durbin, New Castle, Pa.; Anastasia Miksa, Pittsburg, Pa.; Dolores Simpson, Charleston, W.Va.;Charles Bilderdeck Crew, Unknown Location; Robert Orem, Unknown Location.

It is such a sad story. 

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