With any new mode of transportation comes new fears for both the public and those involved in the industry. The advent of the transcontinental railroad was no different. When the transcontinental railroad was complete and trains became more commonplace for travel, the biggest fear became the worst case scenario: a head on collision between two trains. The idea of the head on collision remained the biggest fear of the public because it happened and was based on reality, but was rarely witnessed, which made the idea even more lofty. But with the standardization of time in the 1880’s, there were fewer crashes and collisions of railroads, but people were still afraid. Railroad companies began to brainstorm the best way to change public perception, and began to stage head on collisions open to public viewing for a small fee.

Naturally, the idea took off, and head on collisions between trains became the next source of entertainment. For $2, spectators could watch two locomotives crash into each other at speeds of 58 miles an hour in Crush Texas, or even cheaper in Ohio. But this was more than just entertainment. William Crush, the most famous locomotive smasher had actually worked on the railroad known as the Katy. When asked by the executives of the railroad to boost sales, head on collision was his solution. Despite multiple injuries suffered in the crowd from shrapnel and an exploded boiler, this showcase worked, and ridership of the Katy increased dramatically. Crush’s display was not the first, or last time this took place around the country, but it was the most deadly, which makes it the most memorable and begs the question “what role do these staged collisions play in railroad history?”

Ridership in the decades leading up to these staged collisions was steadily declining, and safety measures were not taken into consideration. But with these staged collisions that turned around. People, not just the public were able to see and study the different collisions and put minds at ease. But it also tells about the United States population at the time. These staged collisions could not have happened in any other era because of the industrial revolution which allowed railroad companies to begin to replace old locomotives and iron tracks with steel.

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