Historic Markers Across Florida

The Great Train Wreck of 1956

Marker ID:  
Location: on the Withlacoochee State Trail, a "Rails to Trails" bicycle trail, about one-tenth mile south of the trail intersection with S. Istachatta Rd., Floral City, FL
County: Citrus
Coordinates: N 28° 41.021    W 082° 16.369
  28.68368333    -82.27281666
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


The Great Train Wreck of 1956

You are standing on the site of one of the worst train disasters in Florida history. The tragedy occurred October 18, 1956, on a dark and foggy morning in Pineola. At 5:12 a.m., people from five miles around were awakened when two freight trains collided head-on.

Catastrophe Unfolds
The trains, loaded with perishables and dry goods, were traveling on the same track, full speed at 49 mph. Realizing they were on a collision course, Dunnellon Dispatcher Braddock phoned Croom Station agent Cooper, telling him to get in his car and “go see what you can find." Cooper and fellow agent Thomas raced 90 mph on an ungraded road to alert the engineers—but did not reach them in time.

At the sight of an oncoming headlight, the northbound train engineer slammed on emergency breaks as he yelled to his assistants to brace themselves for the crash.

An Ironic End
Four engines and 16 cars derailed. Four crewmen died, with fire engulfing the scene.
Firefighters and hearses came from as far away as Tampa to offer assistance.

Ironically, this tragedy might have been averted if recently installed radios had been put to use. However, engineers had agreed to not use them until they received additional pay as radio operators. One of the casualties, Engineer B.J. Martin of No. 237, had been a leader in the holdout.

In Their Honor
We honor those who lost their lives in this tragic event:
Brakeman W.E. Snyder, No. 118, Section 2
Engineer B.J. Martin, No. 237
Fireman E.W. Vaughan, No. 237
Brakeman J.L. Phillips, No. 237

Engineer Otis Bridges and
Fireman William Hardee, Jr.
were injured.

Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee