Results of the Tragedy

Bridge Design:  The special committee appointed by the Ohio Legislature to investigate this disaster concluded that "the bridge was liable to have gone down at any time in the last eleven years, and it is remarkable that it did not."  Further, bridge engineers found that failure began in a support block in the bridges upper cord, but the fall was the result of the bridge being improperly constructed to its own plans and went against certain well established principals of civil engineering.  In the years to follow the disaster, no bridges of steel or iron were ever built of a design in which the components of said bridge acted in an independent manner to maintain structural integrity.  All components were designed and built to act as one by providing a positive connection between the braces, counter braces, and other bridge components to provide the intended strength and durability necessary in a railroad environment. (NOTE: The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern by the early 1900's eliminated a majority of the long bridges on its main line similar to the one in Ashtabula with fill & large culverts {some 30 to 40 ft. in height}as part of its 4 track main line project.)  

Death of a Rail Baron:  "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt already in poor health dies in January 1877.  His death was likely hastened by the horror and suddenness of the tragedy in Ashtabula.

Government Regulation:  In the years that followed, the federal government created the Interstate Commerce Commission whose original purpose was to regulate safety and investigate accidents of the American railroad companies.  The ICC in time gave way to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration as the governing body of railroad safety.

Growth Stunted:  At the time of the disaster, Ashtabula, Cleveland, and Lorain were the prominent cities in northeast Ohio and were approximately equivalent in population and physical size.  As a result of the disaster, growth in the city of Ashtabula was almost brought to a halt and delayed significant growth until the early 20th century.  Cleveland and Lorain in the late nineteenth century grew into large cities, while Ashtabula remained in a semi state of stagnation.  The lack of growth is likely the result of the city of Ashtabula becoming synonymous with one of the most infamous railroad disasters in history and possibly a general feeling of evil felt at that time when the word Ashtabula was invoked.  Note: Growth in Ashtabula Harbor continued throughout the late nineteenth century under the development of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and Ashtabula, Youngstown, and Pittsburgh Railroads.

Memorial Monument:  To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the accident, the citizens of Ashtabula and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad erected a granite obelisk monument in Chestnut Grove Cemetery in memory of the unrecognized dead, marking the location where nineteen coffins were buried with their remains.

New Hospital:  As a direct result of this accident, Ashtabula General Hospital was founded and built at a site a quarter of a mile north of  the bridge disaster site.  This site was chosen as it was a central location to the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern's Ashtabula Railroad Yards and station, the Ashtabula, Youngstown, & Pittsburgh's Ashtabula Railroad Yards, and the docks served by both railroads in Ashtabula Harbor.

Passenger Car Heating:  Approximately 10 years after the disaster, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern finally adopted the use of steam heat in all passenger equipment to replace the dangerous wood/coal fueled stoves, which started the fires at Ashtabula and other notable nineteenth century railroad accidents.

Public Opinion:  The magnitude of this disaster shocked the entire nation.  Opinions of conspiracy surrounded this accident in the years that followed regarding blame of the bridge failure and that the fearsome fire that followed was widely believed to have been allowed to burn to hide the true number of victims in this tragic accident.  A Public opinion led to the suicides of Lake Shore & Michigan Southern chief engineer Charles Collins, who shot himself after giving testimony regarding the bridge, and of Amasa Stone the principle designer & erector of the fatal bridge, who shot himself a few years after the disaster.  

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