Early Morning Blast Rocks Town
Manning Monitor June 12, 1969
An explosion which ripped up railroad tracks near Manning Sunday, June 9, shortly before a passenger train crossed them still has the FBI and other law enforcement agencies puzzled.
FBI Agent John Anderson of the Omaha, Nebraska, office said the agency was investigating the explosion under the federal sabotage statutes, but could "make no comment".
Carroll County sheriff's officers, who are involved in a manhunt for a missing girl, turned the local investigation over to Manning Chief of Police Marvin Gaer. Gaer also said he could make no comment on the explosion.
A safety warning device set off when the rails were split by the explosion saved the train, engineer Dick Kelly, 53, of Perry said.
Kelly said the system gave him a half-mile advance warning and the train ground to a halt after both engine units passed over the broken rail. None of the 185 passengers or crew members were injured.
The FBI said earlier that the explosion was caused by a "fuse type detonation." Evidence indicated the roadbed had been dynamited about 700 feet from a bridge across the Nishnabotna River.
"If the explosion hadn't broken the rail, we could've come in there at 80 miles an hour", Kelly said.
The warning device is only set into action when the rail is broken clean.
According to reports, the train was running late, but had it been on time, the explosion could have gone off about the time the train passed over.
Two large windows were reported broken out at the Manning Agricultural Center Warehouse, explosion was felt by most of the town's citizens.
Investigation of the blast and derailment is being conducted by Leo Ross of the Sioux City FBI Office and Capt. Emerson of the Milwaukee Railroad Police as well as other FBI officers and train police.
The Iowa Highway Patrol and the Crawford County Sheriff's office have also assisted in the investigation.
NEWS TRAVELS FAST
Mr. and Mrs. Grover Bartels received two long distance telephone calls on Sunday relative to the train derailment here. Their son, Duane, called from Anchorage, Alaska, after hearing the news broadcast, and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bartels of Denison, who are vacationing, called from Boise, Idaho.
From my understanding the saboteurs wanted the high-speed passenger train to derail on the north side of the tracks and down into the Nishnabotna,
so they dynamited the tracks where the slight curve turned straight into the bridge...this is noted in the article above that the explosion was
about 700 feet from the bridge.
You can see this curve in the 5th picture below.
North side of the trestle/bridge on the east end
View of the Manning Ag Center to the south of the bridge.
It is amazing how the memories of citizens who were outside that early morning differ.
Here are several short accounts...I'm leaving off the names to "protect the innocent" : -))
One person who lived just north of Manning heard creaking noises during the night. The wind was out of the south and he had his bedroom window open. He described the sound like a nut creaking on a rusty bolt when it is being loosened.
He also remembers seeing headlights on that part of the track that night.
The next morning after the explosion an FBI official stopped to ask what he saw and heard.
There were paper boys, brothers of two different families delivering that morning.
One set of brothers only recall a thud type noise but nothing really loud. His dad worked for the Milwaukee RR so they went along to the site and saw first-hand the damage.
There was a big hole under in the track. The engines did not derail but once they crossed over the hole, the rails apparently broke which caused several box cars to derail and crack open.
One was filled with melons and fruit which were laying everywhere. Once the RR crew was finished helping the passengers unload, the crew started grabbing and stashing the crates of fruit out in the corn field. As soon as the FBI and state troopers arrived this stopped.
Another family, whose house was next to the tracks on the east end of the trestle, were outside sitting on their porch. They were visited by officers but couldn't provide them with any clues, other than they heard the explosion.
Another Manning citizen living in south Manning was still in bed and when they heard the explosion, they jumped right out of bed. Their windows rattled.
According to Orland Fara, the shockwave of the explosion cracked the brick wall that was part of the Manning Mill. That is why he later plastered that wall with stucco.
MJM which was closer to the explosion to the west had several windows shatter.
One family that lived about 5 miles northwest of Manning heard the explosion.
Of all things, we heard nothing at our farm house which is less than a mile from the trestle. I always figured the big hill that is between our house and the trestle, deflected
the sound and shockwave over us.
An FBI agent came out that morning and asked us what we knew about the explosion and we said "what explosion."
So while some people didn't think the explosion was all that loud, others heard it miles away, jumped out of bed, with walls and windows cracked at some businesses.
As far as I know, there was never a follow-up locally as to what the FBI found out, if anything. I always heard that Marvin Gaer was later told by officials what the findings were but he would never tell anyone.
Since Marvin had access to dynamite that he used to blow up winter ice jams next to the bridges of the Northwestern tracks over the Nishnabotna and the city bridges, he had to step down temporarily during the investigation. Ken Spies then filled in for a short time as chief. I asked Ken once if he ever heard anything about the findings but he was never told anything officially.
So the mystery of "who dun it" will probably go on forever.
Years ago, one person suggested to me that the Freedom of Information Act be used to get the information out in the public.
Anyone interested in doing this???