William Jacobs of Cuyahoga Falls, it was learned Tuesday, was the man stationed on the “brake stand” near the foot of the ascent on which the accident took place. His job entailed two distinct duties, and both involved guarding human lives. The first was to throw a lever as trains after whirling over the course approached his station, thereby causing a brake consisting of two lengthy iron-capped timbers to be bent upward in the arc of a circle from the bed of the track so as to come in contact with the base of the cars and reduce their speed to a minimum by friction.
Jacob’s other duty of primary importance was to keep an eye on the ascent and see that nothing went wrong with the trains being hauled up for the first dip that sent them spinning over the rest of the course under their own momentum. If anything went wrong with the hoist or cars, all he had to do in order to stop the motor and hoist, was to pull a handle attached to a bit of wire cable.
One upward pull on that handle which stood within easy reach, according to Ray Crisp who has built many of the other structures of the park, and Jacobs could have stopped the ascent of the cars that went over the side later. Crisp, who has thoroughly examined the motor and hoist and is an expert in such construction as “Over the Top” comprises, declares that had the man on the brake-stand acted, he could have shut off the hoist immediately and that the momentum of the cars gained from the push of the hoist, would only have carried them six feet further before they would have stopped and been held fast by the safety clutches that prevent them racing backward down the incline.
Jacob’s first duty, that of applying the brake, so that homecoming cars would not go smashing into others at the landing and loading platforms, appears to have required all his attention. In the performance of this duty, he is required to watch for the approach of the train and get busy without losing any time. He knows that should he permit a train to get by his post without the huge brakes being applied, it would tilt on at lightning speed and bring about an appalling disaster. It is therefore no wonder that he did not witness the “skidding” of the first car on the train of death, described by some of the survivors, as it ascended the steep runway. In order to note the progress of this train, he would have to face at right angles from watching for trains requiring the braking operation.
Jacobs, himself, has been queried by the management and detectives as to what took place. He says that he saw no “skidding” of the first car nor heard shouts that the hoist be stopped, since the tremendous rattle of the steel linked chain of the hoist as is is being operated and the thrumming of the motor, completely obliterated all other sounds.
Watching Another Train
Besides, he says, his attention was all centered upon an approaching train on the lower level, coming at great speed, and he was engaged at setting and keeping the brake set, so as to lessen the train’s speed. When Jacobs saw there was something amiss it had been off the left hand track along a distance of more than 70 feet. Jacobs jerked the lever controlling the host and motor, but he was too late. The first car went over carrying the other three with it and taking passengers and a great stretch of guard railing along as well.
“Fifth Victim of Park Crash May Die Today,” Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio), 10 July 1918, p. 1, col. 1.
A very special “thank you” is in order for the Special Collections Department of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. I emailed my request for more information regarding the roller coaster accident on Saturday and received the results in less than 24 hours. Since I received several days worth of information, I will be breaking the story down into smaller chunks for the rest of this week.