Catastrophe at Custer Creek: Montana's Deadliest Train Wreck
Just after midnight on June 19, 1938, the Olympian No. 15, an elite passenger train operated by the famed Milwaukee Road, crashed into Custer Creek, which flows into the Yellowstone River southwest of Terry, Montana. In the moments before the train reached the small bridge spanning the typically dry creek, the waters had swelled dramatically, the result of a violent storm system that moved across Montana that day. The wreck killed forty-nine passengers and crew members and injured another seventy-five, making it the most devastating train accident in Montana history. The wreck killed forty-nine passengers and crew members and injured another seventy-five, making it the most devastating train accident in Montana history.
Catastrophe at Custer Creek documents the final ride of the Olympian. The sudden and violent wreck garnered national attention. It forever altered the lives of survivors and victims' families and dealt a significant blow to the Milwaukee Road's fortunes. In this vivid narrative history, author Ian Campbell Wilson reconstructs the lives of several passengers and crew members, probes what caused this unprecedented disaster, and surveys the intertwined histories of the Milwaukee Road and the eastern Montana communities that the Olympian passed through on its usual route from Chicago to Tacoma and back again.