~William George Crush
The only person who loves staging a pointless, violent spectacle out of sheer boredom more than an American is an American in the 19th century. We’re talking about a population that actually gathered around to look at re-assembled trees for entertainment. They probably needed the Internet more than any other population in American history. You know how bad it was back then? Someone said “let’s set up a fake city just so we can crash to trains into each other really fast and invite everyone to watch it” and 40,000 people said, “That is badass!”
Actually, come to think of it, that is pretty badass. Well, until everything exploded. We’ll get to that in a bit.
The Crash At Crush: That One Time We Established a City So We Could Smash Two Trains Together
Back in 1896, Texas had a bit of an image problem. They had a shitload of railroads, a lot of land, but the population wasn’t exactly flocking there after they picked the wrong side in the Civil War. The population there really started to grow in 1901 after the discovery of oil, but they couldn’t bank on random oil fields five years prior to that, which got William George Crush thinking. He was a general passenger agent for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (railroad companies are very bad at naming things) which went by “Katy” for short because the initials of the states spell out “Em-Kay-Tee” which sort of sounds like Katy and, listen, like we said, railroad companies are very bad at naming things. The point being, Crush looked at his name, saw it kind of looked like “crash” and said, why don’t I stage a huge train crash as a publicity stunt? For Texas for some reason?
And that’s what he fucking did.
Now, admittedly, this idea was awesome. Basically, he would set up a temporary city, named Crush after himself, in the middle of Texas. And in Crush, Texas, he would crash two trains together as fast as they would go. It would be a free event, and train ticket prices from anywhere in the state would be reduced to $2 so people could go out there to watch the carnage for themselves. The day was set for September 15th, and sure enough, 40,000 people showed up, enough to make Crush, Texas the second largest city in the state for that one day (again, Texas was really hurting back then).
This seems safe
It was a huge event, taking place of just three miles south of West, Texas (yes, there’s a city called West, and weirdly, it’s in East Central Texas). Ringling Brothers erected circus tents, and a grandstand was erected. The event itself was delayed for an hour, because crowds refused to listen to police to back up far enough to what they considered a “safe” distance. This would prove to be sort of ironic, in a macabre sense, considering how things went down.
Shit shit shit shit
Two trains, a red and green one, were set up on opposite ends of a 4-mile track. The engineers got the trains rolling, then jumped off, and both trains managed to smash into each other at 45 miles per hour. That was expected. What wasn’t expected was that this would cause these trains to explode like a chase scene in a goddamn Michael Bay film. Debris shot up into the air and fell onto the spectators, killing three and injuring many more. Now admittedly, if you go out of your way to watch two trains smash into each other at a high speed, and then argue with police who want to be killjoys and make you watch this happen from farther back than you would like you probably were surprised that exploding trains could kill you with debris. The rest of us, well, we try to avoid those situations.
It was a tragedy, and Crush was fired immediately for his role in it. But, because the past is both hilarious and terrifying, he was rehired the next day when the event got less negative press than the company expected. That’s right, a train company crashed two trains on purpose, killed three people, and most people were like, “Well, you know, that’s not too big of a deal, at least they didn’t forcibly drag a guy off a plane he got bumped from.” Again, the past is terrifying.
And so we have the ridiculous, kind of cool, kind of tragic story of Crush, Texas, and the two little engines that probably shouldn’t have.