Cleared By Own Story
James C. Graham, Engineer of No. 10, Free of Blame
Coroner’s Jury Return a Verdict That the Death Was Accidental
Saw Object on Track And Thought They Were Only Dogs
Was 100 Feet Distant When He Knew They Were Children
The coroner’s jury attached no blame to Engineer James C. Graham, of Newton, who was at the throttle of the engine that killed the babies, Elvin and Emma Siegrist, Saturday morning.
The jury this morning rendered the following verdict: “we the coroner’s jury find that the deceased, Elvin and Emma Siegrist came to their death by being run over by Santa Fe train no. 10, by an accident.”
The story of the engineer himself is what absolved him from all the blame in the minds of the jury. Mr. Graham of Newton, is a man probably 57 years of age and walks with a cane, being lame. He has been a locomotive engineer for the Santa Fe since 1887. In telling his story to the jury the engineer said: “We came through Whiteside two minutes late and then came on down the hill. When we got within twenty five or thirty car lengths of where the accident took place, I saw two objects on the track. I first took them to be dogs. One was dark and was standing beside the rail north on the ?, the other, white, was to the center of the track. I thought it was dogs and we got closer I intended to blow the whistle and scare them off. I was within a hundred feet of them when I saw that it was a baby in the middle of the track. I just saw the bundle of clothes, I could not see the face. I could not tell whether the baby was standing or sitting but I think it was standing when we hit it. When I saw that it was a child on the track I shut off steam put on the emergency brake and the sand and did everything in my power to stop the train but it did not seem to slow down very fast. I did not blow the whistle."
"After we stopped the engineer came part way up to the engine and asked: “what’s the matter?” “I said I believe we have run over a baby, I don’t know. You go back and we’ll back up slow. I backed up my train until I was given the signal to stop. I am crippled some and didn’t go back to where they picked up the bodies. I sat in my cab and after a while a man came up to the engine and asked” “what’s the matter?” “I said, I believe I hit a baby." And he walked back toward the rear of the train. Pretty soon he came back and said: “you got two.” “That is the first I knew that the train had struck more than one child. The man told me not to brood over it that I had done everything in my power to prevent the accident. I usually run between 45 and 50 miles an hour down that hill till we slow for the curve. I don’t think the whole thing from the time I first caught sight of the objects on the track until the train was stopped took more than three-quarters of a minute. I didn’t know just what the objects were on the track when I first saw them. I took them at first to be dogs but that didn’t seem right and when I got up close enough to see that it was a child on the track it was too late and I was kind of dumbfounded.”
K. G. Weibe, fireman on No. 10 the morning of the accident, told what he knew of the accident: “ As is my custom, I built a good fire after we passed Whiteside and had just finished sweeping the deck and was getting up on my seat box when I felt the emergency brake go on and something flash out like we had hit some object. I called to Mr. Graham as we were slowing down asking, “What is the matter?” He didn’t answer me at first and then he said: I believe we hit a baby. I stayed on the box until we came to a stop. I think the engine had just passed the road crossing.”
R. H. Guyle, of Newton, conductor of the train, and Bert Graham, a son of the engineer, rear flagman, B. E. Elliott, head brakeman, and C. W. H. Niccum, a claim adjustor from Dodge City, all testified about the position of the train and the rules of running a train approaching a yard limit.
The Hutchinson News 10/24/1911