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Two passengers die in an interurban streetcar accident in Rainier Valley on April 30, 1910.

HistoryLink.org Essay 3087 : Printer-Friendly Format

On April 30, 1910, at approximately 10:00 p.m., two passengers die aboard a Seattle, Renton & Southern Railway streetcar when it is struck by a runaway coal car in the Rainier Valley, south of Seattle. The accident takes place on Rainier Avenue S just south of S Graham Street. The last coal car on a freight train breaks free and rolls down a grade, striking the front of the car at an estimated speed of 40 mph. Judge W. C. Bell, visiting Seattle from Kentucky, and 13-year-old Julia Lee Rochester are killed.

The Seattle, Renton & Southern operated an electric interurban line from downtown Seattle to Renton down the middle of Rainier Avenue S. Most of the line's revenue came from freight, particularly coal from mines in Renton. An aging passenger coach was being used to pull a string of coal cars when the last unit became uncoupled.

The Seattle, Renton & Southern did not provide crewmen to watch the end of freight trains. The SR&S had just taken possession of the heavy, steel streetcar manufactured by Moran Brothers Company in Seattle. Motorman Bert Grayson saw the danger and jumped free, but he suffered injuries. Seventeen other persons were injured, some very seriously.

A coroner's jury found the company to be at fault in the accident, but did not determine the specific cause. Witnesses testified that the couplings were not defective and that the coupling could not have become unfastened through the normal operation of the train. Prosecuting Attorney J. L. Finch and Coroner James C. Snyder stated that there was insufficient evidence to charge freight train Conductor George Bobb with criminal negligence.

Car 102 was rebuilt and it ran on the Rainier Valley line until 1936.

The dead were:

  • Judge W. C. Bell, visiting Seattle from Harrodsburg, Kentucky;
  • Julia Lee Rochester, 13, daughter of Judge G. A. C. Rochester, Seattle, skull fractured, injured internally, both legs broken.

The injured included:

  • J.C. Smith, laborer, Seattle, injured internally and skull probably fractured;
  • E. J. Grayson, motorman, shock;
  • S. J. Wallace, conductor, shock and injuries to chest;
  • Mrs. W. C. Bell, internally injured and face cut;
  • John Bochetti, cut about head, leg and arms;
  • Mike Callery, head and arm cut;
  • William Frahm, Renton, right shoulder and head bruised;
  • Frank Grady, railroad employee, left leg fractured;
  • Ralph Goddard, real estate manager, left leg injured and suffering from shock;
  • Mrs. Ralph Goddard, crushed about the hips and injured about the head;
  • Glave Goddard, 3-year-old son of Ralph Goddard, leg bruised;
  • Gust Linne, logger, hurt about right shoulder and head;
  • F. D. Shultz, shingle weaver, cuts on knees and arms and head gashed;
  • Sam Paul, injured about head and leg;
  • Ambrose Pordessa, injured about head.

"Accident Kills Visiting Judge," The Seattle Sunday Times, May 1, 1910, p. 1; "Company Blamed By Coroner's Jury," Ibid., May 4, 1910, p. 4; Leslie Blanchard, "Trolley Days in Seattle: The Story of The Seattle & Rainier Valley Railroad," Railway Historical Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 2 (April 1965).

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Wreck of car 102, Rainier Avenue S and S Graham Street, 1910
Courtesy Rainier Valley Times

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