1894 Rock Island railroad wreck

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1894 Rock Island railroad wreck
Aftermath of the wreck
Aftermath of the wreck
Date 9 August 1894
Time 21:20
Location Wilderness Park, Lincoln, Nebraska
Coordinates 40°44′38″N 96°42′45″W / 40.74389°N 96.71250°W / 40.74389; -96.71250 (1894 train wreck)Coordinates: 40°44′38″N 96°42′45″W / 40.74389°N 96.71250°W / 40.74389; -96.71250 (1894 train wreck)
Country United States
Rail line Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad
Cause Sabotage
Deaths 11
List of rail accidents (1880–1899)

The 1894 Rock Island railroad wreck occurred when a locomotive carrying two passenger cars was sabotaged on August 9, 1894, in Lincoln, Nebraska.[1][2] The train was purposely derailed from a 40-foot trestle which today passes above the Jamaica North Trail at Wilderness Park in Lincoln, Nebraska, killing 11. To date, the sabotage is one of the largest instances of mass murder in the state of Nebraska, along with the 1958 killing spree of Charles Starkweather, and the Westroads Mall shooting of 2007.[3] It is also the largest officially unsolved crime in Lincoln history.


Locomotive 213 departed with two passenger railcars from Fairbury, Nebraska, at 7:30pm on 9 August 1894, due to reach Lincoln two hours later, at approximately 9:20, the train careened 40 feet off a 400-foot-long trestle which was then southwest of town. The engine burst, spilling hot coals everywhere, and soon the whole train was aflame. Eleven of 33 passengers died.

George Washington Davis

The crash was determined to be an act of sabotage. There were pulled spikes present, as well as wrench marks in the rail, and gouges in the ties made by a crowbar. A 40-pound crowbar was located near the scene. Within two days, police arrested George Washington Davis, who some survivors claimed to have seen holding a lantern at the accident site.

In 1895, Davis, an African-American, was convicted of second-degree murder after two jury trials, during the first trial, first-degree murder could not be proven. Davis never confessed to any wrongdoing, and had a strong bed of supporters who believed he was wrongfully convicted, he was paroled ten years later, with then-Governor John Mickey citing a lack of evidence or motive, and "grave doubts" as to Davis' involvement.

Historical marker[edit]

In 2010, on the 116th anniversary of the wreck, a historical marker was dedicated along Jamaica North trail, at the site of the crash.[4]

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Epilogue: A forgotten mystery of death and destruction". Lincoln Journal-Star. 2010-02-22. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  2. ^ "Original story from 1894: Death by fire". Lincoln Journal-Star. 2010-02-22. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  3. ^ "Omaha's Deadliest Hour: 19-year-old man kills eight and himself at Westroads Mall". Omaha World Herald. 2007-12-05. Retrieved 2012-04-24. [permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Historical train crash marker dedicated southwest of Lincoln". Lincoln Journal-Star. 2010-08-09. Retrieved 2012-04-24.