Gasconade Bridge Train Disaster

The Gasconade Bridge Train Disaster occurred on November 1st, 1855.

With more than 600 passengers aboard the Pacific Railroad excursion train celebrating the railway line's opening, outside St. Louis the bridge collapsed and the locomotive plus 12 of the 13 attached cars plunged into the Gasconade River. Over 30 people died and hundreds were seriously injured. The passengers were on their way to Jefferson City to attend inauguration festivities.

Initially, the chief road engineer had planned to stop the train at the Gasconade River bridge, so the guests could see the new 760 foot long structure. Due to being behind schedule a fatal decision was made to not stop and continue on to the Jefferson City destination. When the train reached the bridge over the Gasconade River, the temporary wooden trestle work between the east bank and the first pier collapsed. The train plunged 36 feet into the river. Only one car remained on the tracks after the disaster. The steam engine and seven cars fell through the broken timbers, with the others cars rolling down the embankment. Over thirty individuals were killed with hundreds injured seriously.