Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show Train Disaster

A postcard for the Buffalo Bill Museum in Colorado held by the N.C. Museum of HistoryOn October 29, 1901, early in the morning, “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West Show met with disaster in Davidson County. An engineer on a freight train misread a telegraph message reporting that Cody’s train was in two sections and returned to the track after the first section had passed.  The freight train and the second section of the Wild West Train collided, with engineers and firemen jumping just moments before impact.

The wooden cars of both trains were obliterated, and dead and severely wounded animals were strewn around the accident site just outside of Linwood. An eyewitness reported that “the two engines seemed to have tried to devour each other.” The accident was devastating for the show’s horses; about 100 were killed or had to be put down. Cody’s favorite saddle horse, “Old Pap,” perished in the collision and Cody sat down and wept upon surveying the destruction. Annie Oakley, headliner for the show, suffered temporary paralysis.

The wreck was cleared from the tracks by the afternoon of the accident and regular rail traffic resumed the same day. Today the local museum has artifacts from the show and residents are said to own livestock descended from animals that survived.

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