On March 27, 1884, a storm blew a runaway train from Akron, Colorado to Max, Nebraska. Was it a tornado?

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Dear Tom,

On March 27, 1884, a storm blew a runaway train from Akron, Colorado to Max, Nebraska. Was it a tornado? Do you have any details?

Thanks,
Roger Sesterhenn

Dear Roger,

While specific details are lacking, we were able to find a plausible explanation for what happened. It definitely was not a tornado but was caused by an intensifying low-pressure system. The storm was located in southeast Colorado on the morning of March 27, 1884, and by evening had undergone significant intensification as it moved to south central Nebraska.  As it strengthened, it began producing a strong westerly wind field across eastern Colorado with speeds and gusts estimated in excess of 60 mph.  It’s probable that the eight, loaded and unattended box cars, traveled more than 100 miles pushed by the strong winds and aided by the natural downslope from Akron’s 4,662 foot elevation to Max’s elevation of 2,980 feet.

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