The Bullitt County History Museum

The 1917 Train Wreck

This historical marker describes the 1917 train wreck in Shepherdsville. The marker is shown below. It is located outside the southeast corner of the Ridgway Library.

The main text on the marker is transcribed below. Additional information about the train wreck is given on a separate page.

On December 20, 1917, these tracks witnessed a terrible tragedy that killed or injured nearly a hundred people, changing the lives of their families and communities forever.

The local train, known as the Accommodation, pulled into Shepherdsville just before sunset, its passengers crowded into two rickety wooden passenger cars. There were mothers and children, farmers, businessmen and clergymen among them.

The Flyer, an express train with nine cars of steel construction pulled by a huge locomotive, left Louisville behind schedule and sped on its way south toward Nashville on these same tracks. Its engineer expected to make up lost time along the way.

The Accommodation's conductor had instructions to take the siding at Shepherdsville if he thought he couldn't reach Bardstown Junction ahead of the Flyer. Unsure where the Flyer was, he chose to stop on the main track next to the depot to unload passengers while checking on the Flyer's location.

The Flyer passed Brooks Station at 5:24 and Gap-In-Knob three minutes later just as the Accommodation began pulling down the track in anticipation of backing into the siding to make way for the Flyer.

The Flyer's engineer expected to be able to pass Shepherdsville without slowing, and in the haze mistook signals that should have slowed him down.

The warning came too late. Although the Flyer tried to stop, it only slowed a bit. Its forward momentum and great weight imploded the back of the end car, sending fragments of wood and glass into the car and its passengers. Those nearest the back were killed instantly; others were tossed about and battered by the falling roof, the broken benches, and the Flyer itself.

The engine continued forward the length of the car, shattering it completely, scattering splinters and broken glass debris and bodies to both sides of the track. Other victims were trapped by the massive engine when it next smashed into the smoker car. Parts of this car were tossed down the side of track into the underpass you see here.

Cries of anguish came from the wreckage, and those who had witnessed the horror moved quickly to their aid. The town's doctors arrived quickly on the scene, and every house, church and store was thrown open to care for the injured and dying.

Forty-nine people died that evening, or soon after. A nearly equal number suffered serious injuries, some that changed their lives forever. The names of those killed and injured are listed at right.

More details can be found at the Bullitt County History Museum or in the Ridgway Memorial Library.

Below is an image insert from Google showing the location of this Bullitt County historical marker. You can use the arrows in the upper left corner to move the image, or use the plus and minus signs to zoom in or out. You may also put the cursor on the map and drag the image to where you want it.

Below is a view of the marker with the railroad underpass and a passing train in the background.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 28 Jan 2021 . Page URL: