The Chatsworth Wreck
From city, town and hamlet there came a merry throng
To view the great Niagara, with joy they sped along.
The maiden and her lover, the husband and the wife,
The merry prattling children so full of joyous life.
With hand upon the lever and eye upon the track
The engineer is standing while the shades of night grow black
To see the smouldering timbers that lay along the ridge,
Oh God, in pity save them! It is the railway bridge.
A mighty crash of timbers, a sound of hissing steam;
The groans and cries of anguish, a woman's stifled scream.
The dead and dying mingled with the broken beams and bars;
An awful human carnage, a dreadful wreck of cars.
AlI honor to the brave ones who flame and fire fought
AII through that night of horror, a glory dearly bought
Over land and o'er the water this thrilling message crossed
The bridge was burned at Chatsworth, a hundred lives were lost
But oh, how much of sorrow, and oh, how much of pain
Awaited those who journeyed on that fatal railway train.
From Folk Songs Out of Wisconsin, Peters
Collected from F. A. Fair, Grand Forks, ND, 1923
Note: According to "Folk Songs Out of Wisconsin," the wreck occurred in 1881 in
Chatworth, Illinois/ The train was headed for Niagara Falls.
According to "Long Steel Rail" (Norm Cohen, 1981 & 2000), the song is also known
as "The Bridge Was Burned at Chatsworth," a ballad about one of the worst train
wrecks in American history - on the Toledo, Peoria, and Western Railroad, August
10, 1887 (note date, which is verified by other sources), when a burning trestle
collapsed near Chatsworth, Illinois. Eighty-one people died in the wreck, and
372 were injured. The original text of the
Thomas P. Westendorf and was widely popular for many years.