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Former resident and contributor to Naper Nostalgia reintroduces ‘The Tragedy at the Loomis Street Crossing’


Above / Photo courtesy of the book jacket.

Update, April 25, 2021 / At 1PM Sun., April 25, City Councilman Paul Hinterlong hosted a gathering of the Century Walk Committee that volunteered more than seven years ago to create a fitting remembrance of the horrific train wreck that occurred at that site 75 years ago.

Artist/sculptor Paul Kuhn and Councilman Paul Hinterlong are pictured with the sculpture of three adult figures that represent 45 passengers killed at 1:05PM April 25, 1946. The piece of public art is among 51 locations on the Century Walk tour that aims to “capture culture,” noted Brand Bobosky, founder of Century Walk nearly 26 years ago.

Since 2015, “Tragedy to Triumph,” a sculpture designed by Naperville artist Paul Kuhn, has stood to help tell the story along the train tracks across from the historic Kroehler Manufacturing building.

April 25, 2021, marked the 75th anniversary of the tragic train wreck that killed 45 passengers during a collision at the Naperville Train Station. The recent gathering reunited the selection committee that worked to raise funds and choose the artist who designed the sculpture.

Update, Oct. 19, 2020 / Chuck Spinner sent news from Columbus, Ohio, that April 25, 2021, will mark the 75th anniversary of the most tragic disaster in the history of the Burlington Railroad. The Naperville, Illinois, rail crash took the lives of 45 people.

Spinner wrote, “For more than six decades this stirring piece of Naperville history had been largely forgotten. The publication The Tragedy at the Loomis Street Crossing (2012 AuthorHouse) filled in this missing piece of Naperville history.  Because of the influence of the publication, an awesome memorial sculpture, “Tragedy to Triumph,” by Paul Kuhn now stands at the Naperville Train Station (The Century Walk sculpture was created from 5,000 railroad spikes and ten miles of welding wire!).”

During fives years of intensive research, Spinner uncovered the histories of all of the 45 victims of the tragedy, interviewed two surviving eye witnesses of the event, and talked with survivors and rescues workers.

Spinner’s family lived just a block from the crossing where the accident occurred. He was born at St. Charles Hospital in Aurora, Illinois, on October 22, 1946, and recalls that Thomas Chaney, severely injured in the crash, was released from this same hospital on December 18, 1946.

Spinner imagined that it was possible that Thomas Chaney could have seen him as a newborn in the nursery of the hospital.

The Tragedy at the Loomis Street Crossing is Spinner’s second book. His first book, A  Book of Prayer: To the Heavens from the Stars, was published in 2008.  Both of Spinner’s books can be ordered through AuthorHouse Publishing.  Call (833) 262-8899 (ask about AuthorHouse volume discounts).
Chuck Spinner is also available for talks and book signings.  Email The author at spinlake@yahoo.com.

Original Post, June 1, 2012 / Positively Naperville  enjoys making connections. A recent news release from Anderson’s Bookshop that included a preview of June booksignings led us to a Naper Nostalgia post on February 1, 2009, an inquiry from writer Chuck Spinner, a familiar name because prior to that date he had submitted other faithful inquiries and memories to  this Web site.

Five years ago, the former resident was seeking information about the 1946 train accident near Loomis Street, near Kroehler Manufacturing where his father had worked. Spinner wondered if there were a memorial marker.

Our response was to direct him to several historians, including Bryan Ogg at Naper Settlement. Within a day, Ogg replied with information, including that no one from Naperville had been listed among the dead or  injured in the accident. And Ogg suggested  other local research associates who might help.

At 2PM on Sat., June 2, 2012, Spinner will return to Naperville to appear at Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson, with his chronicle of the little-remembered event, “The Tragedy at Loomis Street Crossing, ” a horrible day when 45 people were killed.

Naper Nostalgia Post

His query was posted on Naper Nostalgia along with hundreds and hundreds of memories.  His post is copied below as well.

I was born on October 22, 1946, the same year as the tragic train wreck in Naperville that took place on April 25, 1946. We lived just a block or block and a half from the tragic collision. My father, John Spinner, who worked at Kroehler’s at the time, was one of the many people who was at the site helping out. Our family kept my mother Louise, who was pregnant with me, away from the site because they thought the trama might affect the pregnancy.

I was clearing out some files today and came across an article on the tragedy that took place 63 years ago this April. I was wondering why there was never a memorial set up at the site in commemoration of the people who lost their lives on this day. I have never seen a list of the casualties from the wreck.

Were there any people from Naperville, or were they all from some other single destination or a variety of destinations? I know your site is Positively Naperville and this is a tragic occurrence, but why can’t we make a positive out of a negative? Why can’t the city still put up a sign or memorial at or near the site? Why can’t we investigate the list of casualties and if there is a town from which most of these people came from, why can’t we inform them of a memorial service that would take place in conjunction with the erection of this memorial. Couldn’t the schools work on oral histories from people still alive who witnessed this event? I can see all sorts of research projects and contests that schools could work on. I’m sure that if all the deceased had been from Naperville, there would have been many memorials. However, these deceased certainly deserve our prayers and remembrances in a form similar to which we would have given our own.

Couldn’t the Burlington railroad or the other railroad involved in this collision step up and defray some of the costs and be involved in the development of a proper memorial.

I can’t understand why nothing has been done before in this regard. But, it is never too late.

Whatta say? I’d love to be present at such a commemoration. Yes, it can be done and if any town can do it, Naperville can – I’m positive!

Anxious to hear your response.

—Chuck Spinner, spinlake@windstream.net

Find more from the children of Louise & John Spinner— John, Bob, Chuck (a.k.a. Spinlake) and Mary Lou Lydecker—in the archives of Naper Nostalgia. Small world!  Thanks for reading.

Photo courtesy of the book jacket.


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