On the day after Christmas - Saturday, December 26th, 1903 – in a suburb of Grand Rapids that is now known as Kentwood, one of the worst railroad accidents in Grand Rapids history occurred.

Two passenger trains were on their way, taking home Christmas travelers...trouble was, they were on the same track heading toward each other. Heading west, one train was carrying 75 passengers, while the eastbound had 125. The westbound was going downhill at 60 miles per hour while the eastbound was going up the hill at 40 MPH. At the curve they smashed head-on, killing a total of 21 people and injuring 38 others.

According to the Muskegon Chronicle on December 28, 1903, “No. 6’s engine flipped completely over and came to rest upside down facing west. The boiler from No. 5’s engine was still standing like a silo.....the first car of the eastbound train smashed completely through the second and into the third.”

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Farmers and other volunteers came to help pull passengers from the wreckage, amidst all the strewn Christmas presents, twisted steel, clothes, baggage, and personal items.

54-year-old Frank Waterman was the engineer of the westbound train, who survived the crash...and soon afterward disappeared. He did receive multiple injuries and was cleared of any negligence or wrongdoing, but he apparently split and abandoned his family. Possibly out of guilt feelings?

No one knew when he left, what happened to him, where he went, if he left of his own accord, if he committed suicide, or killed by a survivor of the wreck...no one had answers, and no investigation took place. Frank’s son Glenn passed away two years after the accident, and his wife passed in 1907, a patient in the Traverse City Asylum. On both death certificates were references to Frank...so was he still in the area but just hiding?

No definite clue on what happened to Frank’s other two children...or to Frank himself. On findagrave.com, Frank’s wife is listed along with her children, but no mention of Frank.

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