1895 Central Viaduct Disaster

The Central Viaduct no longer exists in Cleveland after having been closed in 1941 and during World War II demolished. However, on Saturday, November 16, 1895 when Edward Hoffman headed off to work as conductor of Car 642 for Cleveland Electric Railway, the Central Viaduct was part of the normal route for Car 642. It was also a normal busy Saturday with many Clevelanders out shopping or visiting with relatives.

The viaduct was a drawbridge over the CuyahogaRiver, and it was not uncommon to have to wait for the bridge to open and close for river traffic. There was a safety switch located approximately 225 feet from the drawbridge that when working properly diverted traffic off the main track to rails leading to the side of the viaduct. On this day at approximately 7:00 PM the safety mechanisms that were installed to notify traffic to stop for the opening and closing of the draw failed. Car 642 and its 20 to 25 passengers tumbled off the bridge and into the Cuyahoga River to their death.

Edward Hoffman, the conductor of Car 642 was born in Germany and was 23 years old when he died as a result of this horrible accident that was recorded by the Cleveland Press as "Nothing like it has been recorded in the History of the Forest City." He was married with a 10 month old son, named Freddie at the time of his death.

Mr. Hoffman's monument at East Cleveland Township Cemetery reads as follows:

Edward Hoffman
Lost His Life In the Viaduct Disaster
November 16, 1895
Aged 23 Yrs & 4 Mos

Mr. Hoffman's wife not only lost her husband, but thereafter their only son Freddie on January 23, 1897, just days before his second birthday. Mr. Hoffman and his son are buried in Section 10, Lot 226.

Excerpt from To Dwell with Fellow Clay, the Story of East Cleveland Township Cemetery by Nancy Fogel West.

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