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5/17/2005  

Railroad folklore

I think the most famous railroad story of all is that of Casey Jones.
"Casey Jones, that heroic railroad engineer of the Cannonball, was known as the
man who always brought the train in on time." This daredevil
engineer led a charmed life until the day he a corner near Vaughin, Mississippi
and saw a stalled freight train on the track. The Ballad of Casey Jones is
still sung today.


Perhaps my favorite railroad song is the Wabash Cannonball. My dad had an old record that I would play over and over again:
"Listen to the jingle,
The rumble and the roar,
As she glides along the woodlands,
Through hills and by the shore
Hear the mighty rush of the engine,
Hear those lonesome hoboes squawl,
While traveling through the jungle
On the Wabash Cannonball"



My grandfather loved the Wreck of the old 97:
"Well, they gave him his orders in Monroe, Virginia,
Sayin', 'Steve, you're way behind time.
This is not 38, it is Old 97
You must put her into Spencer on time.'"

A wonderful railroad story is Kate Shelley Saves the Train.
"Kate realized that a midnight express train was due to pass over the Honey
Creek Bridge, possibly sending more people to their death if she did not warn
the nearby Moingona station of the washout. Kate Shelly knew there
was a nearby trestle bridge with a tiny catwalk over the flooded Des Moines
River. So, amid the darkness and the storm, Kate crawled on hands and knees
across the catwalk ... (to) warn the station agent of the wash-out."

A spooky railroad tale is the story of the Phantom Train of Marshall Pass. On a stormy night, a wild rain, running without schedule or time card, chased a passanger train down a steep, snow-covered switch back, nearly crashing into her before plunging down and down into the canyon. When the passanger train reached safety, they were told they had been chased by a phantom train reenacting its fatal last moments before it crashed into the canyon depths, killing everyone aboard. (Story retold in Spooky Southwest.)

A more pleasant tale is that of the Ghost on the Tracks (Spooky Southwest), in which a flirtacious female ghost sometimes visits the men on board the train when it passes her on dark nights!


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