My 1945 Michigan Train Crash Story by Joyce (Swingdoff) Dougherty LHS 1943

On that fateful August day in 1945, I was working at the Wallum Hospital in Lakota, ND.  It was my summer job when I was a college student. 

We had not heard of the train crash until Mrs. Wallum received a phone call from an official asking if we had empty beds for injured people.  He then explained what had happened.  (Refer to Mrs. Baumann's report as to what had happened and why.)

The Wallum Hospital was primarily a maternity hospital and all the beds had been reserved for when needed.  Mrs. Wallum wanted to do something to help and so we did have some beds ready if they were needed.  I don't remember anyone using them, however. 

Later that evening we drove out to the crash site.  There were people still hanging in and out of the train screaming for help.  By this time a crowd had gathered and it was beginning to get dark, so people were rigging up lights and using car lights because there was still much to be done.  It was a sight you would not soon forget.

Our family had a concern with this train, also.  My Uncle John Robinson was in the Army in the European area of the war and was supposedly on his way home and might be on this train.  He was not.  He came home a week later. 

As I reflect back on this day of human tragedy, I think about the servicemen who died on this train.  For weeks and years beforehand they had risked their lives for our freedom and this land.  Then to come to die on the quiet North Dakota prairie. 

Joyce Swingdoff Dougherty

Powell, WY