While the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis propelled the city into an international spotlight city. 40 percent of the 20 million fairgoers came from the local midwest states. With only 10,000 automobiles on the roads of America, most people from the United States came to the Fair by train. The Missouri Pacific Railroad offered attractive Fair rates to take passengers from the Midwest to St. Louis.
Often selling more tickets than there were seats, the Missouri Pacific Railroad was rather lax on railroad passenger safety; some passengers had to stay in the aisle or in between cars.
On October 10th, an eastward train was taking a packed group of excited passengers to the World's Fair in St. Louis. They were operating on a single track.
A westward freight train were told to enter a side track (near Knob Noster), and wait for four eastbound trains to pass through. The crew, working 17 straight hours with out rest, fell asleep as they were waiting for the passing trains. Upon wakening, they did not know how many trains had gone by. Recklessly, they decided to get back on the single track and continue west, not knowing that the eastbound St. Louis train had not yet passed!
As the westbound freight train whooshed through Montserrat, an alert railroad agent telegraphed the eastern Sedalia station, that something was wrong, because the train passed too soon. The Sedalia operator, immediately wired Warrensburg to stop the eastbound passenger train headed to the World's Fair, but it was too late, he knew they would crash.
At 4:10 a.m. at Dead Man's Curve, the two trains collided in the pitch black wildness miles from any town. Slamming on their brakes, the crew jumped off the train (which was company policy). Only one crew member (a brakeman), died. The tremendous energy of the force smashed the passenger locomotive underneath the freight engine forcing it upward, where it landed on top of the first passenger car, steam scalding the injured and dying.
After hours before help arrived, the injured were taken to hospitals in Sedalia and Warrensburg. The Missouri Pacific backed in trains to help take out the injured and remove the dead. Most of the fatalities were from Kansas and southwest Missouri, as the first to board, they took seats in the forward cars.
30 people who were going to attend the World's Fair were killed. Many more were injured.
The freight train engineer and conductor were brought up on counts for manslaughter, but were found not guilty,even though the engineer's stated that to keep awake, he was "pumped full of morphine."
Two brakemen on the freight train were seen robbing valuables from the dead including the brakeman killed on the passenger train. They were convicted.
Kansans who died in the train wreck of 1904:
Mrs. W. J. Darst, Dexter Baird Allen, Pittsburg Marion Francis Allen, Pittsburg Dollie Sullivan, Cedar Vale T. H. Alley, Cedar Vale Ollie Herring, Coffeyville Jessie Herring, Coffeyville Clarence Herring, Coffeyville Bruce McIlheney, Kingman Dr. H.P McIlheney, Kingman Susan Cooper, Oxford Phil Ragel Edna Rose Emma Regel Edna Joseph Arther Regal Edna Harry Carr, Sedan Mrs. J. J. Cassment, Sedan Nell Sullivan, Cedar Vale Dollie Gregg, Sedan Kansans who were injured:
A. J. Wood, Oxford Mrs. A. J. Wood, Oxford J. H. Sullivan, Cedar Vale Mrs. J. J. Esch, Dexter J. J. Esch, Dexter Robert Vaughan, Cherokee Estell Mahan, Cherokee Clem Dozier, Cloverdale J. R. Venning, Grenola Mrs. C. C. Huston, Wellington Mrs. Noah Bowman, Oxford Noah Bowman, Oxford Fred Barnes, Oxford J. R. Cole, Winfield William Looke, Oxford Mrs. William Looke, Oxford Irma Caldwell, Oxford Cora Reese, Oxford James England, Dexter Ameila England, Dexter Bert Potwin, Fayette Mrs. W. E. Foreman, Independence W. E. Foreman, Independence Clifford Ragel, Edna J. D. Hale, Dexter Mrs. J. D. Hale, Dexter Ruth Stewart, Independence Julia Wood, Oxford Bert Trottman, Cedar Vale E. C. Nicholson, Dexter William J. Darst, Dexter George R. Eakes, Kaler Charles Cassment, Sedan