The Locomotive O’Sullivan was built in 1855 and held great importance to Missouri’s early railroad history. This locomotive was built to run on the Pacific Railroad, one of the first railroad lines to cross the state of Missouri and with the ultimate goal to be the first line to span the American continent. The O’Sullivan is connected to the first fatal railroad bridge collapse in United States railroad history. Workers completed the new rail line connecting St. Louis to Jefferson City in 1855. As a result, the people of Missouri wanted to celebrate this great achievement. The railroad company invited 600 special guests, including prominent St. Louis citizens, to take the inaugural passenger train trip from St. Louis to the capital of Missouri. On November 1, 1855, the unexpected weight of the locomotive engine and the loaded cars was too great for the temporary bridge over the Gasconade River between St. Louis and Jefferson City to withstand. The railroad bridge collapsed, and the train engine and passenger cars tumbled down the river embankment leaving over 41 invited guests dead and hundreds injured. Among the dead were the train engineer, Thomas O’Sullivan, and Henry Chouteau, descendent of the founding family of St. Louis. The tragedy shocked the community and the nation. The famed St. Louis photographer Thomas M. Easterly created the daguerreotype image to commemorate the event.
Categories: Health, Science & Technology
Subject: Railroad accidents
Contributing Institution: Missouri Historical Society