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Dutchman’s Curve train crash ‘worst disaster’ in Nashville’s history



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nashville was thrust into world news for a train accident that killed more than 100 people in an instant over a century ago. 

The crash at Dutchman’s Curve is still memorialized today in a tranquil stretch of Richland Creek greenway on White Bridge Pike.

New 2’s Alex Denis met a man who said he still feels the spirits of those who came before.

“I’m sure there are many people who drive up and down White Bridge Road day in and day out and they have no idea,” said Roger Clayton, Sylvan Park resident.

A paved parking lot gives way to an unassuming path that leads to a hidden oasis on a hot day. A wooden bridge arches over a clear stream that’s frequented by those familiar with the spot.

“When we go through this, we can’t imagine that we’re in the city!” exclaimed Clayton.

The area was once cornfields but it also holds a link to that dark day in Nashville’s history.

Clayton said while on his visits to the area, “There’s ghosts,” as he sees and feels those who were killed in the train crash at Dutchman’s Curve July 9th, 1918.

“It was considered to be the worst disaster of any kind in American history up to that point,” said Dr. Carole Bucy, Nashville historian.

The No. 4 train headed westbound out of Union Station smashed into the No. 1 train from Memphis, which was running about a half-hour late.

“That day the signals got crossed up,” said Bucy. “They realized too late that these trains were on a head-on collision course and yet, they couldn’t get a signal from the flagman from the back of the Nashville train to run the message up to the front to get him to stop.”

Pieces of the mangled train still mark the spot today.

“Some estimates say as many as 125 were killed instantly. I mean those wooden cars that the passengers were in ignited like kindle,” said Bucy.

Many of the victims were African American laborers heading to the DuPont Plant in Old Hickory to aid in WWI.

The city paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuit claims filed by families affected.

“But, what is the price of a loved one? In that regard, that is still anytime we have a national catastrophe the whole nation grieves,” said Bucy.

The tragedy captivated the globe and changed safety standards for the railroad industry.

It’s marked by a plaque at the base of where the trains still rumble by.



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