information on wreck of north and southbound Tamiami champions : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

I think this wreck took place back in the 40's not sure what year. The southbound Tamiami champion had a derail of one or two coaches which fouled the northbound track. Inspite of bad weather people were taken off the train and were standing around on the side of an embankment. They then heard the northbound Tamiami Champion approaching at high speed and before people could clear the area the northbound plowed into the wreckage of the southbound. As l recall there was a significant number of people killed. A full detail of the accident would be appreciated if anything is available.

-- Dave Cunningham (, December 01, 2004


Speaking of people who almost rode the ill fated northbound train, an individual who helped me write my article on the cab signal/train stop systems, Charles Hursh, told me that when he was stationed in Savannah GA, he was able to get a two week pass and with a bunch of buddies, went down to the old Union Station and tried to buy a ticket on the northbound Tamiami Champion. Only one of the group was able to get a seat on the train, so the entire group decided to try to catch a Seaboard local instead. Some of their friends did get on the Tamiami Champion and one was killed while the other was injured.

One somewhat infamous individual who was onboard the northbound train was Edward Ball, Jr.. Ed Ball was seriously injured in the wreck, but as we all know he survived and later had his own retribution of sorts to the East Coast Champion and its breatheren. At the time of the wreck, he was President of St. Joe Paper, and the paper company's railroad.

-- Michael W. Savchak (, December 03, 2004.

The late W. F. (Forrest) Beckum, Jr., noted author and photographer, once told me that he was returning to duty after a visit home (Thomson, GA, near Augusta)very nearly rode the northbound train. As a furloughed Georgia RR employee, he was traveling on a pass. He turned down a chance to ride the baggage car of the northbound Tamiami (which would have put him back at his post earlier)for a coach seat on a later train. Had he been aboard the baggage car of the wrecked train, he would likely have been seriously injured or killed.

Unbeknownst to him at the time, his sister also avoided the accident by opting for a later southbound train. With a couple of different decisions, they both could have been involved in that horrible accident.

Bob Hanson

-- Robert H. Hanson (, December 03, 2004.

Oddly enough, there were three sets of trains on the ACL carded as the "Tamiami Champion." Southbound "Tamiami Champions" were trains Nos. 1, 7, and 91. Northbound "Tamiami Champions" were trains Nos. 2, 8, and 92. The two trains involved in this accident were No. 91 and No. 8. The engineer on No. 91 was BIll Meyer, and the fireman was Joe. W. Batchelor. The engineer on No. 8 was Frank Belknap, who was quite a speed merchant. The fireman on No.91, Joe Batchelor, followed me on the fireman's seniority roster. When Joe went ahead to flag against opposing traffic per rule No. 99, he only had a white lantern and one fusee. There were traces of wet snow on the ground from a snow of a couple of days earlier. JOe somehow lost his footing and dropped the fusee in some snow which became wet and would not ignite.Engineer Belknap failed to see the white lantern and passed the front of No.91 at a track speed of 80 MPH. Buie is located between Rex and Rennert, and was known by we of the operating department as "running ground." The ICC blamed the accident on the failure of No. 91 to provide adequate flag protection as per operating rule No. 99. sadly, Joe Batchelor could not live with the guilt of the accident and took his own life a few months later. After the war, I worked regularly with engineer Bill Meyer in passenger service. We firemen rotated jobs in the passenger pool, but engineers worked the same jobs. When I worked with Bill Meyer, he was still going south on No. 91 and returning to Rocky Mount on No. 2 the East Coast "Tamiami Champion." Frankly, Bill was proned to drop his head and nod off on Northbound trips, and he never hesitated to let me run the train for about half the trip. I have him to thank for the opportunity to gain experience in running passenger trains. In most cases No. 2 ran non-stop the 172 miles between Florence, S.C. and South Rocky Mount. Occasionally it would stop at Fayetteville to receive or discharge passengers.

-- Bill Sellers (, December 02, 2004.

An interesting note -- Frank Belknap, the engineer of No. 8, had also been in a head-end collision at Wilmington, NC in October, 1939. He also survived the sideswipe at Buie.

-- Harry Bundy (, December 02, 2004.

Many of those killed in the grinding wreck were soldiers, heading home for Christmas, or to other assignments. According to one report I have read, the flagman that was sent ahead "slipped" on the icy ballast and 'damaged' the fusees so they 'would not work'. (I have not been able to verify this.) Obviously, since the country was at war, so many of the dead were soldiers, and the threat from sabatours couldn't initally be discounted, the security put around the scene by authorities from nearby Ft Bragg was probably pretty tight. Not long ago, a resident living near the site (a Mr Bruce) placed a sign near the tracks as a memorial to the long ago tragedy.

-- Greg Hodges (, December 01, 2004.


You are referring to the December 16, 1943 accident at Buie NC. What happened was that the southbound Tamiami Champion derailed the last two cars due to a broken rail. The train stopped in emergency and the crew did not realize that the last two cars were derailed and fouling the northbound track. The flagman of the southbound train did not go very far from the train when he saw the northbound approaching. The northbound ignored the flagman's signals and plowed into the two fouled cars. A coach on the northbound train was ripped apart and 79 passengers were killed. Only two individuals were killed on the southbound train, both of whom were in the derailed, fouling cars.

A copy of the ICC accident report can be found by going to the US DOT Library web site and clicking on their special collections. Go to the ICC accident reports, go to 1943 and select the last Atlantic Coast Line report for 1943. The ICC lists the site as "Rennert" NC.

I am presently getting ready to do an article on the wreck and have gathered a lot of information on it. Others have or are writing articles on this wreck.

If you need more details, please feel free to contact me and I will try to help.

-- Michael W. Savchak (, December 01, 2004.

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