Disaster Management at the 1904 New Market, Tennessee Train Wreck: Role of a Surgeon

This article describes the 1904 train wreck at New Market, Tennessee, focusing on the role of surgeons in disaster management. The author stresses that modern readers can learn from such historical reports, as knowing the lessons of past disasters paves the way for creating a plan that anticipates the patterns, as well as the impediments, of behavior and injuries encountered in most events. On September 4, 1904, a head-on "butting" collision of two Southern Railway passenger trains traveling at high speeds occurred near New Market, Tennessee, killing 56 passengers and crew and injuring 106. It was the worst civilian disaster of its kind in eastern Tennessee, according to one Knoxville newspaper. The author describes how the doctors responsible for the efforts at New Market employed proper triaging to minimize the loss of life, while also exhibiting leadership skills to help with recovery efforts. The 1904 incident was complicated by a lack of communication (only telegraph messages were available to send help), dirt roads that impeded rescuers’ ability to reach the scene, and thieves or “toughs” who chose to loot the trains and take advantage of the focus on helping the victims. The author concludes by reiterating the importance of learning from the past, particularly because in present times, civilian mass casualty incidents or terrorist attacks may present circumstances where the trauma surgeon needs to work in an austere or hostile environment using limited resources.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: Photos; References;
  • Pagination: pp 645-648
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01150374
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jan 30 2010 11:12AM