This post was inspired by an upcoming publication by Ohio Train researcher Brett Dunbar.

By Madeline Reynolds

Passenger cars were a popular mode of transport in rural Ohio in the early twentieth
century. Cars would run between the urban areas of Columbus, Mansfield, Galion,
Bucyrus, and countless other small towns in the region.

It was a convenient way of getting to work, and before the popularization of the
automobile, it was the only way of quickly transporting goods and people.
But that doesn’t mean it was infallible. Railroads had their own share of problems, and
one of them was the possibility of cars derailing and crashing. Another problem was the
possibility of bridges collapsing and other events that can quickly send a car and it’s
passengers crashing into a river.

Such a fate nearly befell a group of passengers traveling between Mansfield and
Bucyrus on September 9 th , 1911. They were passing through Fairview Avenue over the
Olentangy River in Galion. Some were likely heading into work in Bucyrus, while others
were likely heading further abroad to Cleveland for business and pleasure.
It was an ordinary day for the passengers and conductor, when some of the back cars
that carried goods derailed.

The motorman then began to feel the wooden bridge over the Olentangy River give
way, and he set the train to full speed to try and get car #126 over the bridge to save the
passengers lives.

With that sudden burst of speed, the passengers were knocked off their feet, and the
car itself derailed off of the tracks before coming to a stop.

Miraculously, no passengers were severely injured as the cars after them plummeted
into the river. They were badly shaken as they made their way out of car 126, but the
conductor successfully got the passenger car over the ravine and brought it to a safe
stop, saving dozens of lives that day.

His name was A. A. Eberly and the Motorman was A. J. Fairchild, and between their
quick thinking and fast reflexes, they were able prevent a terrible calamity.
The passengers themselves were quickly transferred to another car to get them to their
destinations, bringing the accident to a rapid close.

As the investigation into the incident began, they discovered the bridge had been
washed out from a recent storm, eroding the support of the bridge, and causing it to

The Cleveland Southwestern and Columbus Railway Company wasted no time in
replacing the bridge with a temporary construction. With a tremendous amount of manpower, they managed to construct this bridge in no time at all. The company was
running cars over the river that afternoon.

Men working on repairing track in 1911
1911 Fairview bridge collapse in Galion. Photos used with permission from the Leonard Seigal collection.

The city also wasted no time in arranging a real bridge replacement with Hughes Bros.
the company involved with many bridges throughout Ohio. However, the full cost of the
replacement fell to the railroad company for not properly inspecting the bridges after
major weather events.

The incident was then brought to a close, however the quick thinking of the motorman
and conductor has helped shape the history of Galion, Bucyrus, and Mansfield. Without
their bravery, passengers would have plummeted 15 ft into the river, and some would
have lost their lives. Businessmen, families, women, and children who helped shape our
stretch of Ohio into what it is today.

Want to learn more about Brett Dunbar’s upcoming publication? Send us an inquiry!