On the evening of Oct. 2, 1926, motorman George Hogue threw on the brakes of Citizens’ Railway Co. streetcar No. 5 as it passed the crossing at Commerce and Tenth streets in Clarksville, Tennessee.
A Louisville & Nashville Railroad ticket agent and his wife stepped from the car. The streetcar continued to move along rails slippery because of a broken water main and toward the line’s crossing with the Louisville & Nashville.
Simultaneously, Louisville & Nashville train No. 102, a northbound running from Memphis to Louisville and pulled by a pair of locomotives.
Hogue applied the trolley’s four brakes and ordered conductor R.F. Parker to do the same. When it didn’t stop the moving car, he threw it in reverse in a last-ditch effort to avert a crash.
It became apparent the streetcar and the train would collide, prompting Hogue — and possibly others — to jump from the car. The Louisville & Nashville train struck the trolley at roughly 7:40 p.m., causing it to flip onto its side and was “practically demolished” according to a report in the Nashville Banner.
Several were injured in the collision, which claimed the life of Charles Yarbrough, a 64-year-old blacksmith and filling station operator.
According to at least one account, Yarbrough was standing on the rear platform of the trolley. Another indicates he may have been disembarking from the front of the car.
Widow Files Lawsuit
Days after the crash, Yarbrough’s widow, Atlanta, filed a $25,000 lawsuit against the trolley company, the Louisville & Nashville and the city of Clarksville.
In it, she alleged negligence on the part of all three parties, arguing the Louisville & Nashville engineer could have stopped the train, the city should have repaired the water main and the streetcar company should have used sand to avoid slippage.
In 1930, the city ultimately paid Atlanta Yarbrough $5,000 along with $315.68 in interest.