The train known as the Pacific Express (No. 5, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway) pulled out of Erie, Pennsylvania on the afternoon of December 29, 1876, headed toward Chicago. Two locomotives, christened “Socrates” and “Columbia,” towed its two passenger cars, three sleeper cars, two baggage cars, two express wagons, a smoker, and the caboose. The Pacific Express reached Ashtabula, Ohio, early on that snowy evening. When it pulled out of the Ashtabula station, 159 passengers and crew members were aboard.