Tragic Happenings

Deadly Railroad Crossing on East 105th Street

East 105th Railroad Crossing

January 28, 1905 - Two Men Killed by Fast Train

An express train on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern railroad, going at a high rate of speed, ran down two men in Bratenahl near Doan Street (East 105th Street, killing one instantly and fatally injuring the other, who died shortly after reaching the hospital.

The men were walking on the tracks on their way home from work at about 10:00 p.m. They were probably engaged in a conversation and did not hear the express train approach.

The engine struck both men with a terrible force, hurling them thirty feet to the side of the tracks. The engineer brought the train to a stop some distance from the accident, and the men were placed in a car and taken to the Glenville station. An ambulance was called, and the men were taken to St. Clair Hospital’s undertaking room.


December 26, 1907 - Hurled Far by One, Driver Dies When Struck by Other

James McCormick, a chauffeur for the Ireland family, drove his wife along with Ireland's servants to St. Clair Avenue and East 105th Street on Christmas morning to catch a streetcar for early Christmas mass at St. John’s Cathedral in Cleveland. Driving a big forty-horse-power touring car, McCormick was in a hurry to return to the Ireland home for breakfast.

The auto was rushing when it approached the East 105th Street railroad crossing. His automobile's roar may have drowned out the noise of an approaching locomotive, which was eastbound returning to the Collinwood roundhouse from the Cleveland Union Terminal. The car and locomotive collided with a loud crash.

Bratenahl policeman James Ryan witnessed the crash. The touring car was lifted bodily and hurled through the air falling ninety feet to the east. The westbound Buffalo Express was thundering down the track heading to where the wreckage fell. The chauffeur's body lay in the debris. Patrolman Ryan ran across the railroad tracks network, praying that he might reach the chauffeur before the train. But, instead, he was beaten in the race.

With a roar, the Buffalo Express swept down upon the splintered and twisted auto. The collision tossed McCormick's body aside and spread the automobile's parts along the tracks for over fifty feet. Patrolman Ryan held a faint hope that McCormick was still alive, but he knew McCormick was dead when he reached the broken body.

Marshall Newkirk of Bratenahl declared that the gates were up, based on the information from Patrolman Ryan. Newkirk charged that negligence of the tower man killed McCormick. He stated that he had written a letter to the railroad a week before complaining that the gates were lowered at night when no trains were approaching. As a result, those attempting to cross had to climb up into the tower and awake the watchman before they could pass. At other times, the tower men kept the gates up, paying little attention to approaching trains.


July 9, 1912 - Fast Freight Plows into Auto.

The Billenstein family had spent the early evening at Euclid Beach and had then gone for a short automobile ride with their guests, Mrs. Johnson and her four-year-old daughter and Miss Connolly.

They returned home as they approached the 105th Street railroad crossing, and the crossing gates were up. The automatic signal that a train was coming had been given. The gate tender heard the signal bell but did not lower the gates believing there was time for the automobile to cross safely.

The switchman realized the gateman’s mistake and yelled to the gateman to lower the gates. Fourteen-year-old Morris Turner of Bratenahl was standing near the switch tender’s shanty. He heard the automatic signal, saw the freight train coming, and about the same time saw the oncoming automobile. Turner yelled to the gateman at the top of his voice. The boy’s actions aroused Clifford Neff, solicitor of Bratenahl, and he, too, shouted a warning to the gateman. But it was all too late. The gates did not come down, and the automobile went headlong into one of the worst crossing accidents.

The freight train was traveling at fifteen of twenty miles per hour. Mr. Billingstein was driving his forty-eight horsepower Winton at a rate of twelve or fifteen miles per hour. The engine crew and members of the automobile party seemed to realize the impending crash at about the same time. Before the northbound automobile reached the third track, Mr. Billenstein attempted to swerve into a space separating the two tracks. Unfortunately, his effort was too late, and the locomotive struck.

The crash hurled the automobile into the air, and the occupants tumbled out, sending some a distance of 100 feet. When the car came down, it landed on one of the women. The crash threw Mrs. Johnston under the train’s wheels with her left hand caught. Before her hand could and before it could be released, it was necessary to back the train.

Rescuers went to the aid of the injured. Some of the women were taken to Glenville hospital in automobiles. Ambulances took the more seriously injured. Mr. Billingstein died at the scene. Mrs. Johnston later died after suffering a severe injury to the spine and her left hand cut off.  Cora Billenstein, age 18, died the next day after suffering internal injuries, a fractured right leg, and suffering from shock.


July 9, 1912 - Family Saved in Crossing Crash

Dr. Magner was driving south on East 105th Street after returning from a six-week outing at Euclid Beach. A glaring electric light south of the 105th Street railroad crossing prevented him from seeing the gate in a down position until his car stuck it. Then at once, he knew he was in danger. He threw on the brakes and stopped the engine, and the automobile stalled on the north track. He looked about and saw the train approaching. There was no time to start the engine and avoid a crash. The freight train was only a few feet away.

His wife and child were in the rear seat, buttoned in behind the curtains of the car with their luggage piled up at their feet. Thinking only of his family, Dr. Magner leaped from his seat and ripped off the curtains, tore open the door, and pulled his wife and child from the rear seat. A few minutes later, his automobile was a heap of junk alongside the track, nearly 100 yards further east. It had been picked up on the locomotive’s cowcatcher and rode there until the train was able to stop.

The wrecked car showed the force of the collision. Only one wheel remained. The rest was a twisted mass, and the car’s body was in splinters. Had persons been occupying the vehicle, they would indeed have been killed.


Clifford Neff, the solicitor for Bratenahl Village, stated that the village and the Lake Shore and Michigan South railroad have agreed for two years that the East 105th crossing should be eliminated. The entire right of way for the railroad was within the Cleveland city limits. Bratenahl was willing to pay half of the thirty-five percent half of the cost that Cleveland otherwise would have borne.