The story behind the deadly 1896 Texas train stunt is the subject of the Allen Library event

More than a century before the beginnings of Donkey, there was the Crash at Crush. Like the TV and movie franchise known for its silly and dangerous stunts, the Crash at Crush had the unmistakable quality of a train wreck — partly because it was a real train wreck.

On September 15, 1896, the town of Crush in McLennan County was host to a publicity stunt that involved the deliberate collision of two high-speed trains. The impact blew the engine boilers of both trains, resulting in a rain of debris that killed two people and injured many others among the 40,000 spectators.

Award-winning author Mike Cox will discuss the ill-conceived disaster March 31 at 7:30 p.m. in a free live event at the Allen Public Library. The event will be streamed online at gox.swagit.com.

Cox, writer and historian, wrote the definitive account of the debacle with his 2019 book Crush, Texas train crash: America’s deadliest publicity stunt.

The stunt was dreamed up by Katy Railroad manager William Crush, who chose a location near Waco for the big crash. The town nicknamed Crush briefly boasted of being the most populous in Texas, thanks to reduced rail fares that brought spectators from across the state to watch the show in a carnival atmosphere. But the joy quickly turned to horror when pieces of steam locomotive – some as big as an elephant – started raining down on the packed pits.

In his cover the next day, The Dallas Morning News declared the disaster “a scene that will haunt a man…make him nervous every time he hears an engine whistle and disturb his dreams with black clouds of deadly iron hail”.

Cox is the best-selling author of more than 35 non-fiction books, as well as hundreds of magazine articles, newspaper columns, and essays. In 2011, he received the AC Greene Lifetime Achievement Award, given annually to a prominent Texas author. He was elected to the Texas Institute of Letters in 1993.

The library is located at 300 N. Allen Drive in Allen. For more information on the live event, call 214-509-4911.

Jessica C. Bell