The collision was intended as publicity for the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad, commonly referred to as the "Katy" line, as they had started to replace their old steam engines with larger and better units. The idea was to take two of the obsolete locomotives, put them on a track facing each other and fire the engines up until they met in a fiery and spectacular crash.
However, at the instant of impact, both boilers unexpectedly exploded and "the air was filled with flying missiles of iron and steel". The flying metal had a deadly effect and two young people were killed. Six other people were seriously injured and people ran in terror. One of the official photographers lost an eye and the trains themselves were completely destroyed.
William G. Crush (the promoter) was fired that very evening by railroad management. However, a few hours later, when the company saw that the tragedy had been a great success of publicity, they rehired Crush and proved for the very first time that bad publicity is not such a bad bussiness after all.
* Thank you, Charles.
More info and sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
* Updated May 26th 2007: Take a look at this video of a train crash filmed in 1925. Wow!
17 mayo 2007
On September 15, 1896, a railway agent, named William George Crush, staged a show that nobody had seen before: he got two train engines and sent them toward each other at 45 mph. On the day of the event, the crowd swelled to between 30,000 and 40,000 people, all prepared to see the spectacle from a safe place. But something went terribly wrong.