• Speedrail NMRA Fan Trip Wreck of 1950

  • General discussion about fallen trolley and interurban lines in North America, past and present.
General discussion about fallen trolley and interurban lines in North America, past and present.

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by 3rdrail
I happened to stumble on this article tonight and was shocked to learn that a 1950 NMRA fan trip on the new Speedrail interurban line in Greenfield Wisconsin (near Milwaukee) had resulted in a terrible accident killing ten rail fans including William A. Wight, the Associate Editor of Model Railroader magazine. The trip had been run in conjunction with NMRA's Milwaukee convention that year, and along with the terrible tradgedy of harming persons there to celebrate the line, was directly responsible for Speedrail's operations to fold the following year. (One ticketed fan overslept that morning, missed the trip, and avoided injury or death !) Almost sixty years later, my heart goes out to all the traction fans who suffered harm that day, engaged in what should have been a joyful occasion.
Here's the article written by Joe Russ:
  by BaltOhio
An unremarked later casualty was Jay Maeder, Speedrail's president and guiding light. He was a fan who was determined to save the Milwaukee interurban lines and, as noted, lost everything after the wreck. He died prematurely, of a broken heart some say.
  by 3rdrail
It's very telling that for an incident in which I'm sure many were carrying cameras, that I have never seen a photograph of the wreck, nor has word of this calamity spread as legend among traction fans. I was also surprised that in spite of multiple investigative organizations conducting seperate investigations, that a cause was never determined.
  by Jollygreenslugg
The Speedrail accident of 1950 was covered in the Central Electric Railfans Association bulletin on the Milwaukee Electric system, No112. It also gets extensive coverage in Larry Sakar's 1991 book about Speedrail. Both books have photos from the day, including some rather poignant shots taken by William Wight, and recovered from his camera after he was killed.

Here is a brief summary of Speedrail;

Pics of the Speedrail cars;

Here is a good summary of the incident;

The Milwaukee Electric is my favourite system, and the tragic story of Jay Maeder and Speedrail is one that every traction fan should know. He gave it a really good go but was against it from the start.