June 21, 2022 at 3:31 p.m.

The legend at Schwinghammer Lake

The legend at Schwinghammer Lake
The legend at Schwinghammer Lake

By Ellarry Prentice- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Family installs historical marker at site of train derailment

On the shores of Schwinghammer Lake, about two miles east of Albany, a bench and bell commemorate a 126-year-old underwater wonder.

Installed in a peaceful rest area last fall, the historical marker also tells a story of a legend that a local family has passed down through multiple generations.

In circa 1896, a train derailment is said to have occurred at the site. As a train was crossing Schwinghammer Lake, the rails separated on the bridge. A Great Northern Flyer Engine, along with two rail cars, derailed to the southern side of the tracks and fell into a deep, muddy section of the lake.

Over several days, the engine and rail cars sunk into the mud of Schwinghammer Lake. While the engine was sinking, Isadore Schwinghammer, 15, the youngest son of Johann Schwinghammer, grabbed a ladder, climbed onto the engine and removed the engine bell.

The saved bell was later used at the Isadore Schwinghammer farm as a dinner bell for many years.

“As the legend goes, part of the train is still down there,” said Don Schiffler, an Albany native and Johann Schwinghammer’s great-grandson. “It’s still sleeping under the mud.”

Last fall, Don and siblings installed a granite bench and replica bell at the site the train derailment is said to have occurred.

“We wanted to put a historical marker on the trail in a little spot where people can take a break and wonder,” said Don’s brother Bryan Schiffler, an Albany resident and business owner. “The bell is part of our story. … Been a mystery in the family bloodline that we’ve never been able to prove.”

Now, Don said, visitors can “ring the bell to resurrect the train.”

Don and Bryan are two of eight siblings born to Isadore Schwinghammer’s niece, the late Martha (Schwinghammer) Schiffler, who passed away in August 2011 at age 94.

Martha was one of 11 children born and raised on the Schwinghammer homestead two miles east of Albany. She was the granddaughter of Johann Schwinghammer, one of the original elders of Seven Dolors Parish in Albany.

The original, century-old Johann Schwinghammer family farm is located just north of the bench and bell, along the creek.

The original bell rescued from the deep, muddy waters of the lake was unable to be located, so the Schifflers found an identical bell to place at the rest area.

Engraved on the bench is a train and the story of the derailment and bell rescue.

“It will be there for a long time,” Don said.


You must login to comment.


Top Stories

Today's Edition