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Location: Saginaw River (SBC Ry.) Bridge - Bay City, MI

There were two interurban lines operating between Saginaw and Bay City around the turn of the 20th century. The Michigan Railway east side interurban line ran between East Saginaw and Bay City, and the Saginaw-Bay City Railway ran on the west side of the river.

The S-BC line went north from the Mershon area, past Carrollton and Zilwaukee and then crossed the Saginaw River on a swing bridge 4.4 miles north of Zilwaukee near what is now James Clements Airport.


July 8, 1897. An electric Car Plunged Through an Open Drawbridge near Saginaw and Seven Precious Were List.

Car No. 2 of the Interurban electric railway, bound south from Bay City to Saginaw with eight passengers and three employees of the railroad on board, ran off into an open draw span of the Interurban bridge, bout six miles north of Saginaw, and six lives were lost and five persons badly injured - two fatally.

The car was in charge of Motorman Herbert Riley and Conductor John O'Brien, of Saginaw, and was going at a good rate of speed. The swing was open, but the motorman evidently thought he could stop in time. There was something the matter with the machinery, however, and the car plunged into the river, 20 feet from the abutment.

Among the deaths was Edward Girkins of Bay City, assistant general freight agent of the Michigan Central, who was badly cut and bruised, The motorman and conductor were also injured.

Another account of the disaster says that the electric car was racing with an F&PM train, which road is a competitor of the Interurban for the traffic between Bay City and Saginaw, and in the excitement the motorman did not notice the signals and could not stop the car after the swing had started to turn.

The conductor and motorman have refused to talk of the disaster, on the advice of their employers. It is said the Interurban cars attain a speed of 50 miles an hour between the two cities. It is fortunate that the affair occurred at an hour when the passenger traffic is the lightest, had it happened two hours later the death list might have contained between 20 and 30 names.

The road is owned by Saginaw parties, and the bridge was built last year at a cost of $65,000. The conductor and brakeman were arrested, but have been released on $5,000 bail each, signed by Isaac Bearinger, of Saginaw, president of the Interurban railway.

Deputy Sheriff Kinney has been on watch at the bridge all day making such notes as he deems will be of importance to the case. He finds that there is a straight course of nearly 1,500 feet to the span of the bridge off which the car plunged. The car settled in the water with the front end seventy-five feet from the rails, showing that it jumped fully thirty feet, indicating that it was running at a high rate of speed. The swing was turned today to admit the passage of a tug, and it required two minutes in which to do so. This leads to the belief that when the bridge started to turn yesterday to admit the passage of the sailboat Rose Eddy, the car must have been from one-half to three-quarters of a mile away. The bridge is plainly visible for half a mile or more.

The sign on the post 250 feet from the bridge reads: "Stop here until draw is closed." The train was five minutes behind time when it reached the Bullock road, two miles north of the bridge.

July 9, 1897. Ill-fated car Raised So Floor Is Above Water.

Prosecuting Attorney Gilbert, Coroner Pearsall, a number of lawyers, a photographer and upwards of fifty spectators, assembled at the Inter-Urban bridge this morning to watch Contractor Galarno raise the ill-fated trolley car, No. 2.  The photographer was there for the purpose of taking views of the car as it was raised to the surface at the instance of the prosecuting attorney.

The jurors impaneled by the coroner were also present to get such information as was obtainable by personal observation. by 6 o'clock the car was raised which enabled it to be taken to the company's Carrollton power station. The trucks of the car had been removed so that the lift could be made. In the car was a diamond masonic ring and a straw hat, both of which were worn by passengers.

July 15, 1897. The trolley car inquest resumed in the supervisor's room of the court house. W. E. Davis, superintendent of the Inter-Urban Railway, was the first witness. He reported that the car had automatic braes and an air pump. The horsepower of the motors of the car was over 100, and it could attain a speed of thirty-five miles an hour. The air brakes will stop a car going at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour in 300 feet. Car No. 2 also had handbrakes and they would stop the car in twice the distance under the same conditions. He noted that the posted orders of the railroad stated that "cars need not come to a full stop on approaching drawbridge on the Saginaw river, but they must be slackened and be under control before going onto the bridge". 

A witness, George Philips, was on board a sailboat and saw the car coming from the Bullock road after the bridge had begun turning. He saw both flashes of electricity in the car and saw the trolley pole come off the wire as the car entered the bridge.

The coroners jury visited the bedside o Joseph Mayhew in Essexville. He was a passenger on Car No. 2. It ran very fast all the way from the Bullock road and he id not notice that its speed was slackened until it jumped off the bridge. The first he knew of the danger was when two men in the baggage room jumped off. Then he saw a woman running ahead, and the car went off. The witness testified that he saw the Flint & Pere Marquette train, and supposed the trolley car was racing with it. He saw the motorman looking at the train, and watched to see which of the two would win. The F&PM train was about one length ahead when the bridge was reached. The witness said he could see both ends of the swing at that time. [DFP-7/16/1897]