OGDEN -- Patsy Ellis lost her father in a train accident 62 years ago. It was on the same rail line, a similar rear-end collision and around a curve in a snowstorm just like the accident that happened Wednesday in Weber Canyon. The only major difference between the two is, Wednesday's train wreck didn't result in fatalities.
"When we read (about the story), I was like, 'That is kind of like deja vu,' " the West Weber woman said Thursday afternoon.
One lane of traffic was closed Wednesday in Weber Canyon after a locomotive rear-ended another. The crash derailed three locomotives and five rail cars, spilling animal feed grain and diesel fuel down the hillside above Interstate 84.
Four people were involved in the accident, but there were "no major injuries," said Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt.
He added that "an incident like this is highly irregular." Witnesses saw one person taken away in an ambulance. Three other people were treated at the scene, said Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther.
The outcome could have been far worse.
Ellis said she couldn't help but have memories from six decades ago come flooding back as she saw similarities. Both accidents involved a rear-end collision that derailed both trains near a curve in the tracks.
Now at 83 years old, Ellis vividly remembers how the day played out for her father, who was at just another day of work as a Union Pacific brakeman on the high-speed City of Los Angeles streamline passenger rail car.
She was 21 years old and a waitress at Finer Food diner, then at 24th Street and Grant Avenue in Ogden, when a man who worked at a rail station building across the street broke the news to her.
Her father, H.B. Preece, of Ogden, was among the 17 people killed, including several doctors onboard commuting from a convention. Preece left behind a wife and five children.
"It was just bad," Ellis said.
She knew her father was on that train because they dropped him off that morning.
"He was smashed," Ellis said of her father. "My husband (went to the mortuary to) identify him."
Her husband, Don, described the accident scene 3 miles southwest of the Utah-Wyoming border as "a total mess."
He knew he would be able to identify Ellis' father by his distinguishable long, heavy overcoat, which was the only thing holding Preece together. A Standard-Examiner news report from Nov. 13, 1951, describes the graphic scene of body parts strewn across the wreckage site.
At the time, both trains were running behind schedule. The City of Los Angeles train had stopped for a signal. The City of San Francisco was running 10 minutes behind the other train and came speeding through in the blizzard.
"The second train went through the last car like a plowshare and crushed four other cars," the report stated, adding that all cars on the second train flew off the track but stayed upright.
Just two hours after the wreck near Evanston on Nov. 12, 1951, an Associated Press reporter wrote that one freight train farther down the line outside of Laramie, Wyo., rammed into the back of another in the same fashion as the previous accident.
Authorities gave no details of injuries or cause of the accident.
To this day, Patty Ellis doesn't know the actual cause of the accident that killed her father, even though one crew member, the City of San Francisco train fireman, survived.
Union Pacific said at the time it could only presume the crash was because of the blizzard-like conditions. However, Ellis says, after the accident, Union Pacific installed new stop signals higher above the tracks at the station where the accident happened.
This wasn't the only similar accident to happen around that time. Seven years previously, a a rear-end collision killed 50 people 17 miles west of Ogden.
The cause of the train derailment that happened Wednesday is still under investigation by Union Pacific and the Federal Railroad Administration and could take weeks or months to finalize.
Both would not comment, citing policy related to an ongoing investigation.
Hunt did say the crash site cleanup is expected to last several more days, but it is hoped that the rail line can be opened for train traffic this evening.
Hunt added that Union Pacific knows the location of each of its trains at all times, as it monitors them from its headquarters in Omaha, Neb.
The trains are controlled by a two-man crew of an engineer and a conductor.
Because the trains are not automated by computers, the crew has the responsibility of operating the train.
Contact reporter Cimaron Neugebauer at 801-625-4231 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CimCity.