My "1945 Michigan Train Crash Story" by Lyle Gilbertson (MHS '47)

I was out on a farm southeast of Michigan on the day of that train crash. We heard the explosion and came to town to see what had happened.  My mother, was the soul contact for wire communications from Michigan to the rest of the world and was inundated by the Press Corp, All Emergency Services and all Governmental Services trying to make contact with the world. The Bell System added some capacity to handle the tremendous amount of requests for information from the rest if the world. The local telephone system then was a single wire grounded magneto/battery operated system of very limited capacity but it immediately became the portal to the world.  My three brothers were all in Europe with the Army and Air Force and heard of the event in a very short time. My mother did not get any rest for over three days. I saw the switchboard that was in use then down at Stump Lake in the freight room of the Depot that had been moved to the village. I spent many hours operating th! ! at switchboard until I went away to College in 1947. My mother and I, my dad and a friend operated that switch board on an 24/7 basis for many years.

The engine of the second section of the Empire Builder was pulled back onto a siding next to the coal sheds that were in use during those days used for boxcars to load and unload freight for the town. I remember crawling up on the front of that engine and peering deeply into smoke box and front section of the boiler that had blown up. The club car that was the last car of the first section of the Empire Builder had been removed and placed to the side of the track to permit the main line of the Great Northern to renew very much needed war time transportation. We knew people from Michigan that were on the first section and were slated to get off in Lakota. Thankfully they only sustained minor injuries.

A strange bit of trivia that came out of the news of that accident was the reporting of the death of one of the passengers--This person was reported killed in MICHIGAN, NORTH DAKOTA and had resided in WYOMING, OHIO. 

Lyle Gilbertson (MHS '47)   Greer, SC

If you'd like to share your story of the 1945 Michigan Train Crash, please mail, email or call me. Thanks, Maria Vasichek, PO Box 51 Michigan,ND 58259, or 701 259-2289.  Thank you!