Willie G. Crush had talked his bosses at the Katy Railroad into a wild promotion. It was the middle of a recession and desperate times spawn such things. In order to promote the company's Texas routes they would crash two locomotives into each other at high speed.
A specially prepared stretch of track was built parallel to the Katy's main line, fifteen miles North of Waco. Admission would be free, but you had to ride a Katy train to get there.
A town was set up, complete with water wells, a grandstand, and circus tents borrowed from the Ringling Brothers. If this went well it might become a permanent settlement. Of course every town needs a name, and because this was Willie's show, and the name was so fitting, they called it Crush.
By the afternoon of September 15, 1896, there were nearly 50,000 people in Crush awaiting the spectacle, making it the second largest 'city' in Texas.
Old No. 999 was painted bright red and old No. 1001 was painted in just as bright a shade of green. They started nose to nose before the grandstand, each with seven cars in tow, then slowly backed away and out of sight.
The signal was given and they began moving forward, slowly at first, but faster by the second until they were both traveling at about sixty miles an hour, whistles shreiking like banshees.
They flew down the track setting off fireworks as they passed. 100 yards. 100 feet. 1 foot...
There was a deafening crash and both locomotives rose up, the towed cars crumpled and the air was filled with dust and dirt.
It was just as impressive as Willie told them it would be. The promotion had been a huge success. A smile started to form on his lips. And then both boilers exploded.
Shrapnel flew. Spectators panicked and ran. Three people were killed and scores were badly hurt. The photographer hired to record the event lost an eye to a flying bolt. Willie lost his job. But only for a few hours. He was rehired the next day and would retire from the Katy after fifty-seven years of service.
There is nothing left at Crush today but an historical marker and some cows. The town and the crash have a musical legacy though.
Nobody knows if he was in the audience, but within a month or so, ragtime composer Scott Joplin had published a new song and the kids where dancing to it. The song was titled, The Great Crush Collision.