Author Mike Cox to discuss historic train crash at next Liberty County Historical Commission meeting

Mike Cox

Author Mike Cox will be the guest speaker on Oct. 11 meeting of the Liberty County Historical Commission.  The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Hartel Community Center meeting room, 318 San Jacinto Street in Liberty.  The meeting is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend.

Cox’s latest book tells the story of the catastrophic “Crash at Crush.”  On September 15, 1896, railroad officials staged the now legendary “Crash at Crush” north of Waco, Texas, setting two locomotives on a collision course as tens of thousands of spectators watched.  Unfortunately, the officials underestimated the risk.  At least two spectators died, and others were injured as the boilers in both engines exploded.

The ill-conceived publicity stunt, which happened 125 years ago, is the subject of Cox’s book. “Train Crash at Crush, Texas: America’s Deadliest Publicity Stunt” is the first-ever researched history of the event that has been published.  Up to 50,000 onlookers gathered that day to witness the “crash” where not long before there had been no town at all. The instant town, named after MKT General Passenger Agent George Crush, whose brainchild the stunt was, sprang up almost overnight in a field about three miles outside of West near Waco.  

Workers constructed a depot with a 2,300-foot platform, a dining hall, a refreshment stand, a bandstand, speaker’s stands, two telegraph offices, a viewing stand for reporters, a camera stand, and spaces for vendors.  Just after 5 p.m. on Sept. 15, 1896, after a ceremonial “nose-to-nose salute” the locomotives, each pulling six boxcars, backed up, one up a hill to the south, the other up a hill to the north.  Then the engineers opened their throttles and jumped to safety.  It took two minutes for the two locomotives to cover the ground to the point of the collision and what resulted was a horror scene as the dust settled and boilers in both engines exploded sending massive chunks of hot metal and shrapnel into the air and into the crowd! 

Cox was elected to the Texas Institute of Letters in 1993, along with James Michener and Bill Moyers.  He has received many awards and recognitions for his popular books included his bestselling Texas Ranger series.  A former prize-winning newspaper reporter, Cox served as chief of media relations for the Texas Department of Public Safety and later communications manager for the Texas Department of Transportation before retiring in 2007.  He went back to work in 2010 as a spokesperson for Texas Parks and Wildlife.  In 2015 he left to write full time. 

A native of Amarillo, Cox grew up in Austin.  Now based in Wimberley in the Hill Country, Cox’s goal is to keep writing at least one book a year until he runs out of ideas or time.

Cox also is the author of Texas Tales, a series of columns published weekly in Bluebonnet News.

Please attend our meeting and enjoy Cox’s “Crash at Crush” story and how it ends!  For more information, please contact LCHC County Chair, Linda Jamison at lchc318@gmail.com or text: 936-334-5813.

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