Train Disaster

Before the devastating tornado that struck Fargo Moorhead in June, 1957, perhaps the most talked about severe weather event may have been the Empire Builder tornado that hit this area on May 27, 1931. The Great Northern Railway’s transcontinental passenger train The Empire Builder was heading eastbound from Seattle to Chicago. Shortly after leaving the Fargo station, disaster would strike.

Around 4:30 PM, about 8 miles east of Moorhead near Sabin, a tornado, estimated to be a F3 stuck the train broadside leaving only the 136-ton locomotive and 94-ton tender on the track. One of the passenger cars estimated to weigh 70 tons was lifted and moved 80 feet away from the track. Fifty-seven of the 117 passengers on the train were injured by the impact and flying glass. Only one person was killed and witnesses thought his death was attributed to him jumping out a window rather than staying inside the coach.