Mount Vernon derailment

This picture shows the three engines tumbled over the embankment near the depot west of South Main Street in Mount Vernon in the accident which occurred in May of 1949.

MOUNT VERNON -- One inevitable side effect of heavy railroad traffic in the 20th century was train derailments.

When a train runs smoothly, everything is great. But when one comes off the tracks, it is a mess that takes major effort to fix.

According to Frederick N. Lorey's History of Knox County, Ohio 1876 – 1976, the Pennsylvania Railroad line remained very busy running freight trains even after passenger rail service declined in post World War II -- when people in the United States started increasingly traveling by automobile.

Mount Vernon Derailment 2

A close up of the engines which derailed. After repair, the engines were returned to service. The later derailment in Danville was credited to a broken wheel flange, but no reason was cited for the Mount Vernon accident.

In May of 1949, the Pennsylvania Railroad switched from steam to diesel-powered engines. But the change came with a flurry of accidents.

Lorey says that on a Sunday soon after the diesel engines started, the wreck pictured here happened near the Pennsylvania depot, just west of South Main Street in Mount Vernon. The engines derailed, then tumbled over the embankment.

Other difficulties followed, including a huge, 17-car derailment near Danville just a month later. In that accident, the wayward cars tore up 50 yards of track, shutting down all traffic on the railroad until the cars could be cleared and the track repaired.

On July 4, 1969, a flood washed out the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks at Brinkhaven, and the line was never repaired. From that point on, the line ran only as a spur from Columbus to Knox County, at first continuing as far as Danville, but today ending in Mount Vernon.

CA&C Depot

The Pennsylvania Railroad depot was originally the Columbus, Akron, & Cincinnati Railroad depot, built in 1907 for that line, which was later sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad. The depot, now restored, today serves as a welcome center for Ariel Foundation Park.

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