9 Sep:
Let’s Crash Some Trains

High-speed collisions between locomotives became mainstream entertainment on 9th September, 1896, when Joe Connolly – AKA “Head-On Joe” – staged the first of the 70 deliberate trainwrecks with which he entered the record books.

The trend lasted until the 1930s and attracted tens of thousands of spectators to state fairs across the United States. The events were responsible for maiming and even killing some witnesses – but this did nothing to affect their popularity.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly pore over the wreck of Texas’s notorious ‘Crash at Crush’; explain how the Depression ultimately killed off the spectacle forever; and tot up Head-On Joe’s Iowan Box Office receipts… 

Further Reading:

• ‘For 40 Years, Crashing Trains Was One of America’s Favorite Pastimes’ (Atlas Obscura, 2019): https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/staged-train-wrecks

• ‘Iowa State Fair attractions: Spectacles like train crashes, elephants used to entertain’ (Des Moines Register, 2019):


• ‘1932 Iowa State Fair: Roosevelt/Hoover Train Collision’ (Kinolibrary, 1932):