Budd-Michelin Rubber-Tire Trains

The Wikipedia page.

Long informative article here (a PDF).

Newspaper source: The Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) 25 May 1932, Wed Page 13

Posted By: Paul - Wed Oct 13, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Inventions, 1930s, Europe, North America, Trains

The Crash at Crush

Sep 15, 1896: Over 30,000 spectators watched as two locomotives were deliberately collided head-on. The event was a publicity stunt staged in Texas, about midway between Waco and Hillsboro. It was named the "Crash at Crush" after the railroad agent William George Crush, who had dreamed up the spectacle.

The event didn't exactly go as planned. The boilers of the locomotives exploded upon impact, despite the earlier assurances of engineers that this wouldn't happen, sending shrapnel into the crowd. Several were killed. Many more were injured. According to

The [railroad] did have some claims by irate relatives of the victims, but refunds, cash payments and lifetime passes took care of them. A lifetime railroad pass in the 1890s was like winning the lottery.

There's now a historical marker at the site of the collision.

More info: Farm Collector

source: Baylor University

Posted By: Alex - Wed Apr 28, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Disasters, Nineteenth Century, Trains

Reuben Lindstrom’s Wind Driven Vehicle

In 1940, Reuben Lindstrom was granted a patent for a "wind driven vehicle". It was a toy made out of tin cans. It resembled a model train, and the wind could make it go by itself. In his patent, Lindstrom explained that he deliberately avoided using a sail to propel the toy.

In wind driven vehicles it is desirable to avoid use of elevated wind responsive devices such as sails, windmills and the like and this is particularly true in toy vehicles simulating various types of full-sized vehicles for the reason that it is desired that the toy vehicle resemble as nearly as possible the full sized vehicle which it simulates.

Instead, he had shaped the wheels "to constitute wind responsive impeller blades".

Digging more deeply into the history of this patent, it turns out that Lindstrom was quite a character. For a start, he never cut his hair because, so he said, whenever he did he got heart trouble. In America, in the 1940s, this was unusual enough that it made the news.

Warren Times Mirror - June 28, 1949

He was a regular fixture around Wisconsin Rapids. A 2001 article in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune called him "our most unforgettable character."

In addition to his wind-driven toy train, he had built a kind of motorized bicycle, described as a "weird contraption of bicycle wheel, one cylinder gas motor, pulley, levers, scooter and miscellany." He used this to get around on roads and railroad lines.

He basically lived as a street person/free spirit, always carrying around "a picture of a woman with a large snake wrapped around her neck." Some people referred to him as the "inventor hobo".

One of the quotations attributed to him: "Fashion is the main religion of this world. If you are different, they think you are nuts. Most people stay away from me because they think I'm a religious fanatic. The girls also stay away from me."

Also: "Dirt's natural and it keeps human diseases from penetrating the skin and entering my body."

He died in 1988.

There's some more info about him at

Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune - June 9, 2001

Posted By: Alex - Sun Apr 11, 2021 - Comments ()
Category: Bums, Hobos, Tramps, Beggars, Panhandlers and Other Streetpeople, Inventions, Patents, Toys, 1940s, Trains

Train Robberies

Are train robberies an extinct crime? The Wikipedia page for the topic does not list one later than 1999.

Here's one from early in the 20th century that I found interesting.

Two booking cards from Spokane, WA police. One is for Charles McDonald, who is listed as a "miner," age 27, 5 ft. 9.5 in. and weighing 151 lbs. Arrested Oct. 25, 1907 for the crime of train robbery. Includes Bertillon Measurements for more detailed identification. Plus tattoos, scars, moles, etc.

Second card is for Ed Smith, alias Geo. Frankhauser. Also listed as a "miner," age 30, 5 ft. 5 3/4 in., 135 lbs. Arrested the same day as his compatriot. Same Spokane police card.

Frankhauser and McDonald pulled off one of the most daring train robberies, truly worthy of the "Wild, Wild West," although they accomplished their heist in the 20th century. The pair took up residence near Rexford, along the Northern Pacific line that the Oriental Limited regularly traveled. They surveyed the line, and decided on their spot. September 9, 1907, when the engineer and fireman took over the engine, two men came out of the darkness and ordered them at gunpoint to follow directions and they would not be hurt. They ordered the train to proceed at 40 mph until they reached a pre-selected location. The train was ordered to stop, while Frankhauser went to a cache and took out a small black bag. They had the fireman knock on the baggage car door and ask to come in. When the door was opened, the baggageman was ordered out, and the dynamite from the bag was used to blow the safe - and half of the car. They found nothing, so they decided to try the mail. Here, purely by accident, they stumbled on four small packages in a mail bag. They were addressed to the Old National Bank of Spokane and contained an estimated $40,000. But their mistake of tampering with the mail brought down the wrath of the postal inspectors, who would not let them get away with the robbery.

While the train was ordered to stay for 10 minutes, the pair escaped into darkness. They partied throughout the Northwest, posing as mining promoters. They sometimes "bought out" a bar for the night and had private parties for selected "friends," including "working" women. Eventually, a man by the name of Jesse Howe became suspicious, and alerted the Spokane police, who were waiting at the end of another party.

They obtained saws in the Kalispell jail, according to Frankhauser, and hid them in strapped to their ankles. When they were transferred to Helena, the guards found McDonald's saw, but Frankhauser managed to hang on to his. They spent two months sawing the bars on the windows. When they finally made their break March 21, they got over the wall by piling the bloodhound's doghouses on top of each other.

They were spotted by two women while coming over the wall, but managed to get ahead of the searchers. The two remained on the run for months, following the Missouri River north. They lived by taking what they needed from farmhouses and cabins (some occupied, others not). When the sheriff spotted them in Fargo, they split up. Frankhauser took a job for the Northern Pacific, but was arrested while going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving. He claimed he never saw his friend again. He was tried in Helena and sentenced to life in prison at Leavenworth, KS.

According to some newspaper reports, he escaped from Leavenworth. Others say he died there. One report indicates that another train robbery occurred in Benecia, CA that looked a lot like the work of this pair. This time they reportedly caught up with McDonald, but his buddy was still on the run.

Whatever the truth, it has the "feel" of another Butch and Sundance story. [See also "The Criminal Record: Stories of Crime and Misadventure from a Century Ago," Vol. 5, Issue 4 (April 2010).]

Posted By: Paul - Sun Feb 07, 2021 - Comments (5)
Category: Crime, Scary Criminals, Twentieth Century, Trains

The Wreck of the City of San Francisco

One weird thing about this once-famous train crash: no perp was ever found.

Even with this lead, from a contemporary account.

Rather reminiscent of the One-Armed Man from the 1960s TV show THE FUGITIVE.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Jul 15, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Death, Destruction, Unsolved Mysteries, 1930s, 1960s, Trains

Alaskan Land Train

Built by the US Army in the 1950s, this colossus was designed to transport cargo in the arctic — operating like a train, but without tracks. It was used successfully for over a decade (for the last time in 1962), but was eventually made obsolete by the development of helicopters. Read more about it at

Posted By: Alex - Fri Dec 04, 2015 - Comments (8)
Category: 1950s, Trains

Training For A Darwin Award

There's stupid, there's crazy, then there's THIS guy!

Posted By: patty - Sat Aug 01, 2015 - Comments (4)
Category: Can’t Possibly Be True, Mental Health and Insanity, Goofs and Screw-ups, Trains

The Saluda Grade

The Saluda Grade is the steepest section of railroad in the USA. There have been numerous horrific tragedies involving runaway trains here. But this propaganda-cum-safety video from Southern Railway makes the whole affair seem a candidate for our boredom contest.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Aug 09, 2014 - Comments (7)
Category: Boredom, Regionalism, Documentaries, 1980s, Trains

Lampo the Traveling Dog


Full story here.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Feb 12, 2014 - Comments (6)
Category: Dogs, 1950s, Europe, Trains

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