Collision Derailment Kills Four - Run Away Cars On Main Track - Olustee, OK - 6/3/1970

Discussion in 'General' started by gjslsffan, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. gjslsffan

    gjslsffan Staff Member Staff Member

    This was in a post of mine some time ago.

    I took pictures of these pictures at the Museum in Quanah, TX. Sorry for the poor quality of my images, I just wanted these pictures to be seen.


    Olustee, OK.

    Four crew members of a Frisco freight train were killed early today when the train derailed near this southwestern Oklahoma community.

    The Highway Patrol reported the 86-car train rounded a curve and smashed into seven freight cars that escaped a sidetrack in Olustee sometime during the night and rolled about 1-1/2 miles northward down the track.

    The Highway Patrol identified the victims as James Willard Heahth, 60, of Oklahoma City, the engineer; Robert Ray Thornton, 30, of Moore, the fireman; Jerry Arthur Howard, 23, Oklahoma City, a brakeman, and Terry L. Lober, 23, Harrah, also a brakeman.

    All four were in the front engine of three diesels pulling the mile-long train.

    Altus police reported the train was en route from Quanah, Tex., to Oklahoma City. About 25 of the 86 cars were derailed, and some overturned.

    The accident occurred about 1-1/2 miles north of Olustee about 1:45 a.m.

    The crash knocked out telephone service to the small towns of Olustee and Eldorado, about 14 miles to the southwest.

    "It looked like the boxcars on the siding polled downhill about a mile and a half," a trooper said. "The cars broke through a derail and went into the main line.

    "The freight train hit them as it rounded a curve and the lead engine was completely demolished."

    A six-inch segment was sliced out of one rail "like two karate chops had cut it " at the point of the collision, one person at the scene reported."

    (Ada Evening News ~ June 3, 1970)

    This is a post from Terry Jankowski on the same wreck.

    "The sad thing about the Olustee wreck was that all four, I think it was four, were killed. All of the crew were riding in the lead unit at the time. Some kids had released handbrakes on some loaded grain hoppers which rolled out, knocked the derail off, ran through the mainline switch, and sat on the main for several hours.

    Since it was dark territory, there was no warning to the crew. No one reported these cars to the railroad which if done would have prevented this tragedy. Two of those killed were part time workers which the Frisco would hire in the summer back then.

    I was in the army in Lawton and remember the wreck. I hired out in June of 1971 and talked to diesel shop workers who saw the lead unit, SD34 912, I think, and they told me the toilet was still sitting in place even though the nose had been sheared off. The engineer's glove was still on the brake valve. Terry"

    A couple of these were marked as the wreck mentioned and the other was with them but not labeled.

    Please provide corrections as needed.

    What was left of the cab of SLSF 912


    SLSF 912



    If I run across anymore like these I will post them.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2024
    SteveP and Ozarktraveler like this.
  2. paul slavens

    paul slavens Member

    Wow that is unreal.

    So sad for the crew and the families.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2024
  3. gjslsffan

    gjslsffan Staff Member Staff Member

    Yea Paul, a sad story for sure, they didn't suffer though.

    I will never ever forget that day my Grandpa took me to see it, the destruction was just astounding. Just utter destruction. I wonder if they ever caught whom ever knocked those hand brakes off?

    If equipped, those flop over derails have failed more than once. The split point derails don't fail. There was another wreck around Olustee in 1966 I was told, but very little info on that.

    I told the curator that I would be back one day and make a donation as long as I could take the photos out of the binders and copy them with my scanner which I would take with me.

    I could not get away from the glare from the lights in the museum, so I am afraid some of these images will be compromised, but hey it more than we have had right?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2024
    SteveP, Sirfoldalot and Ozarktraveler like this.
  4. Thanks for all the info Tom.
    Ozarktraveler and gjslsffan like this.
  5. RogerRT

    RogerRT Staff Member Staff Member Supporter

    This reminds me of the one that happened down in Texas on the FW&D, only it was in reverse.

    The kids lined a switch off the main into a cut of hoppers on a siding in dark territory. I think the video of it is on Utube, but the crew walked away from it. Hard to believe but the standard cabs did not offer much protection like the wide cabs do.

    I've seen many SD40-2's with the cab completely torn off from the nose all the way back to the main generator.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2024
    Ozarktraveler and gjslsffan like this.
  6. Ricky Brown

    Ricky Brown Member

    I grew up in Olustee and was living there when this happened.

    There were several rail cars (9?) scattered in a field that remained there for what seemed like months. Keep in mind that I was a kid at the time, and it could well have been only weeks. My brother and I went out there a few times.

    I can't recall the engines being out there. I don't know if they were removed sooner, or if I just don't remember them. If the engines had still been there when we went out there, I would think that I would remember that, but that was well over half a century ago, so maybe not.

    One of the kids inv0lved in releasing the brakes and allowing the cars to roll out on to the main track got some probation out of the incident. I don't know about the others.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2024
    SteveP and Ozarktraveler like this.
  7. Ricky Brown

    Ricky Brown Member

    I might be mistaken, but I think that there was a fifth crewman who was riding in the caboose and survived.
    SteveP likes this.
  8. Peddling Joe

    Peddling Joe Frisco Employee

    If my memory serves me correctly, the badly damaged engine was the one I saw loaded on a flat car and parked on the transfer pit in the West Yards shop?

    At least one crew member riding in the caboose reportedly survived and had no way of knowing what happened up front as no one was answering the radio. Did some of the cabooses have a portable landline phone they could hook up to the adjacent railroad phone line?

    Assuming the landline had not been destroyed by the derailment up front.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2024
    SteveP and Ricky Brown like this.
  9. SteveP

    SteveP Member

    Does anyone have or have seen the FRA or NTSB Investigation report on this accident?

    I have searched the FRA and NTSB databases and was unable to find one on this.


    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2024
    Recon1342 likes this.
  10. Recon1342

    Recon1342 Member

    I found it odd that a multiple fatality wreck would not have an associated report in any of the federal databases, but I was unable to locate it as well.

    The only thing I can think of is A) the report has not been digitized, or B) the report somehow fell through the cracks. The main FRA site only goes back to 1975, but I cannot find any info anywhere else either.

    This is gonna keep me up at night; I hate unsolved problems.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2024
  11. skyraider

    skyraider Member

    The NTSB Carol reports only go back to 2010 for surface accidents.

    The FRA doesn't seem to list Frisco, SLSF, or Saint Louis and San Francisco.

    Furthermore, their database only seems to go back to 1975.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2024
    Recon1342 likes this.

Share This Page