By: Karen Bruner Stroup, Ph.D., Retired Director, Community Education and Child Advocacy, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health; Secretary, Riley Hospital Historic Preservation Committee Richard L. Schreiner, MD, Edwin L. Gresham Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine; Retired Chairman, Department of Pediatrics; Chairman, Riley Hospital Historic Preservation Committee; Retired Physician-in-Chief, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health
In the early decades of the 20th century, Indiana commuters relied on the speed and convenience of interurbans that allowed people to travel from city to city along dedicated track. Interurbans were single-car electric trains that were powered by electricity and tethered to power lines running just above the track. When you arrived to a city, city streetcars got you to wherever you needed to go.
The Indianapolis Traction Terminal, the largest in the world, once was a busy place with interurbans running trips across the state, almost hourly, all day long, and competing with the heavier steam trains coming through Union Station. Interurban lines connected small towns with most of Indiana's big cities (like Fort Wayne, Lafayette, Peru, Terre Haute, and Richmond) and the cities with each other (like Chicago, Toledo, and Columbus).
Interurban accidents were common, often fatal, and usually involved one to two people at a time. But, a retrospective return to 1910 to horrific interurban crashes happening near Bluffton on September 21 and in Tipton on September 24 puts a third interurban crash in Indianapolis at midnight on September 24 into new light today.
On September 21, 1919, two cars on the Fort Wayne and Wabash Valley Traction line, filled with passengers traveling to a county fair, collided at 12:30 pm north of the village of Kingsland, six miles north of Bluffton. The larger car failed to pull over at the appointed switch and telescoped the smaller car on a blind curve. Forty-one passengers died, despite the efforts of local residents in what is remembered today as the worst interurban crash in American history.
On September 24, 1910 at 11 am, 6 people were killed and 14 were injured in another interurban crash at Tipton, Indiana that was eerily similar to the Kingsland crash just days before. In this crash, an extra south-bound freight train on the Indiana Union Traction line crashed into a north-bound Kokomo Limited near the city at 11:00 am. The freight train’s two cars were heavily loaded.
At midnight on September 24, 1910, there was yet another interurban crash, this time in Indianapolis. The Winona-Flyer on the Indiana Union Traction Line, bumped with terrific force into a southbound Union Traction freight train at 34th Street and College Avenue. People in the neighborhood remembered that there was a doctor who lived near the crash site and telephoned him. Walter Douglass Hoskins, M.D., at the time, lived at 3358 N. Central Avenue (likely the location today of the Raphael Health Center parking lot.) Just imagine receiving a frantic phone call at midnight, the urgent cry for help to Dr. Hoskins to come quickly to a location only blocks from his home. Most of the passengers had come through from Tipton that day so the Tipton crash as well as the Kingsland tragedy were fresh in memory and dominant in the conversation.
As electric street lights lit the crash scene, Dr. Hoskins cared for the three people injured that night in the Winona-Flyer crash: the conductor, one passenger, and the motorman. Dr. Hoskins believed that the motorman, who leaped from the car and struck his head against the rail of the track, might be seriously hurt; he was taken home by automobile.
Dr. Hoskins was born in West Newton, Indiana on October 29, 1871. He graduated from the Indiana Medial College in 1894. He was appointed as a Lecturer in Pediatrics in 1908, the first year of the Indiana University School of Medicine and the School’s fledgling Department of Pediatrics. Two years later, in 1910, his quick action as the sole first responder in the Winona-Flyer interurban crash was a shining example of the importance of always being at the ready to practice medicine at all times and in all kinds of places. Dr. Hoskins, who died at age 49 on April 29, 1921 from pleurisy and pneumonia, was an Associate Professor of Pediatrics for the IU School of Medicine and an active member of the Indianapolis Medical Society, the Indiana State Medical Association, and the American Association at the time of his passing.
40 Killed and 8 Injured When Cars Collide Near Bluffton: Traction Disaster Worst in History, Indianapolis Star, 9-22-1910, p. 1, accessed through Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Public Library.
Top left: Walter D. Hoskins, M.D., courtesy IUPUI University Library Special Collections and Archives
Top Right: The Winona Flyer, courtesy Indiana Historical Society
Bottom left: Tipton wreck, September 24 1910, courtesy Indiana Historical Society
Bottom right: Kingsland wreck, September 21, 1910, courtesy Indiana Historical Society
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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