Survivor Account of 1938 Train Wreck
Survivor recalls 38 train crash DAVID GRUBBSGuette Staff Warren Jones shows two of the photographs he took early In the morning on June 19, 1938, hours after the deadliest train wreck In the history of Montana. The Pullman car Jones was riding In was one of several cars that escaped damage. Dozens died in wreck that was worst in history of Montana By ED KEMMICK Of The Gazette Staff Warren Jones and Maurice Odquist were among the passengers on the Milwaukee railroad's Olympian train just after midnight on June 19, 1938, when the train plunged into the rain-swollen waters of Custer Creek 26 miles cast of Miles City. Nearly 50 people were killed and scores more were injured, but Jones and Odquist were unhurt As it hap pened, they were both packing cameras, and as soon as it was light enough they began photographing the dramatic, devastating scene, the worst train wreck in the history of Montana. They ended up shooting remarkably similar pictures of twisted wreckage and partly submerged passenger cars. Jones sent his film to his father in Milwaukee for developing, while Odquist apparently sent his to Life magazine as quickly as he could. On July 4, 1938, Life splashed OdquLst's photos all over a spread that was headlined "A Survivor Photographs the Worst American Train Wreck Since 1887." "He was the smart one," said Jones, a rancher and banker who spent most of his life in Harlowton and now lives in Billings. Not that Jones was looking for glory, then or now. "I've always said, we were more spectators than survivors." Jones was born in Butte and his family moved to Milwaukee when he was 7 or 8, but he used to return to Montana every summer to spend time on his mother's family ranch near Two Dot In 1938, when Jones was 17, he and his cousin, John Baxter, who was 10 or 11, booked passage out to Montana aboard the Olympian. The Olympian, as every Milwaukee train that ran between Chicago and Tacoma was known, was a fast air-conditioned train, Please see Train wreck, 8A rrrsfan u Ape.'-"' .JM , ' mv. mi-LiavuUEXit J ft, Umn i U ' - ' . ' 1 r-pFsnri?1',-- I.tn ii m - .. billingsgazette.com td To view additional photos of the train wreck taken by Warren Jones, see the link in this story.