George W. Greenstreet made a life on the rails. And on the rails, he lost his life.
But thanks to a law enforcement memorial in Topeka, the former Santa Fe Railroad Special Officer who died in the Edgerton railyard in 1912 is not forgotten.
Greenstreet road the rails from his home in Osage County, Kan., to the Edgerton train depot on Monday, June 17, 1912. His went Edgerton to capture thieves that regularly absconded merchandise from box cars.
The night before, Johnson County officials arrested two members of what they believed was an organized gang of railway thieves. Mexican trackers identified the pair as robbers who had attempted to sell them stolen shoes.
“It was for the purpose of catching the rest of the gang that Mr. Greenstreet was in Edgerton Monday night,” the June 21, 1912 edition of The Edgertonian reported.
As Train No. 35 passed through the railyard on June 17, Greenstreet attempted to board a car four cars back from the engine.
Night agent Robert Endicott as well as Leedy Walker, Muriel Ewart, Otto Timmonds, Lloyd Starr, Alf Collins and Fred McIntosh watched the accident unfold.
Greenstreet chased the train north of the wooden platform between the tracks, “and either struck his foot on the end of the planks or else the skirt of his coat caught on the wheels and drew him beneath the train,” The Edgertonian reported. “Endicott saw the unfortunate man plunge beneath the train, and he signaled the engineer to stop.”
Traveling at approximately 15 miles per hour, the train halted in about two-car lengths. But it was too little too late for Greenstreet.
According to newspaper accounts, the officer’s legs were severed and “strewn along the rails for a distance of about 75 feet.”
The Edgertonian editorialized that jumping onto moving trains was a common practice, though a state law prohibited it.
“If (jumpers) are allowed to continue the practice of jumping on moving trains, one of these days some of our boys will be picked up from beneath the wheels just as the unfortunate victim of Monday night’s accident was.”
Greenstreet’s name was added to a fallen law officer’s memorial in Topeka on May 6 as part of National Police Week ceremonies.
Chuck Sexon served on a committee that selected new names to add to the Law Enforcement Monument located on the northeast quadrant of the Statehouse grounds.
Committee members were researching Santa Fe Railroad officers and dectectives who had been killed in the line of duty when Greenstreet’s name came up.
Greenstreet’s name appears Santa Fe Railroad’s list of officers killed in the line of duty, Greenstreet did and how he died were a mystery.
“We began researching it here,” Sexon said. “On their honor roll, it just says Edgerton. The railroad runs through Edgerton. Based on the records that they had, we did the historical research.”
Greenstreet was survived by a wife, Nellie Nixon, a daughter and two sons, as well as four sisters and three brothers. He is buried in the Osage City Cemetery.
Sexon and committee researchers searched for family members to invite to the memorial ceremonies last week, but weren’t able to locate any.
Two other Kansans, who died in the line of duty this year, were also added to the monument on May 6.
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Officer Luke D. Nihart was killed in June 26, 2010. He was working at Country Stampede in Manhattan when his ATV crashed. He died from injuries he sustained in the accident.
Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Sam Smith was responding to a domestic disturbance call when he lost control of his patrol car and struck a tree.
In 2010, the U.S. lost 152 law enforcement officers in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. That is up from 122 officers in 2009.