Casey Jones (1863 - 1900) Illinois Central Railroad Locomotive No. 382 (4-6-0)
On April 30, 1900, at 3:52 AM a south bound passenger train crashed into four cars of a freight train.
Jonathan Luther "Casey" Jones was born in Missouri in 1863 and in 1876 moved to Cayce, Kentucky. At age 15, he left home for Columbus, Kentucky to work for the Mobile and Ohio Railroad as a telegrapher and later as a brakeman and fireman.
Jones moved to Jackson, Tennessee, still working for the Mobile and Ohio. When asked by a fellow railroad man where he was from, Jones said he was from Cayce, Kentucy and the nickname "Casey" was born.
In 1888, he was hired by the Illinois Central Railroad. On February 23, 1891, Casey was promoted to engineer and was later assigned to passenger runs between Memphis, Tennessee, and Canton, Mississippi, a run of about five hours. This was one link of a four train run between Chicago and New Orleans.
On the morning of April 29, 1900, Jones pulled into Menphis from Canton where he was to lay over until the next day. The regular engineer who was to make the night run was ill so Casey agreed to take his place. Engine No. 382, with Jones in the cab, departed about an hour and a half late.
Casey Jones was known for his insistence that he 'get there on the avertised' time and when he got to Vaughan, Mississippi he was only a couple minutes late. Two freight trains were on a siding but their combined length was longer than the siding. As they attempted to clear the main track an air hose on No. 72 broke, locking the brakes and leaving four cars of No. 83 extending onto the track at the north end.
When Sim Webb, Casey's fireman, saw the caboose on the track he jumped from the cab, but Casey did not. Some say Casey Jones stayed with his engine because of his sense of duty and the value he put on human life. Jones died in the accident, but no other person was killed or seriously injured.
Wallace Saunders, who worked in the Canton roundhiouse, wrote a tune remembering Casey that became a favorite of fellow workers. Bert and Frank Leighton, a couple of vaudeville performers, spread the 'Ballad of Casey Jones" across the country. The song was copyrighted in 1909. In the 1930's, a book, a motion picture and a radio series added to the legend. In 1962, Johnny Cash released his version of "Casey Jones".
The official accident report said the 'Engineer Jones was solely responsible having disregarded the signals given by Flagman Newberry'. Until his death in 1957, Sim Webb, Casey's fireman, maintained that 'we saw no flagman or flare, we heard no torpedoes'.
Note: A torpedo is a small device placed on a rail and makes a loud sound when the wheel of a train passes over it.
On May 10, 1869 two 4-4-0 steam locomotives meet at Promotory Summit, Utah, thus completeing the United States Transcontinential Railroad.
It was on Promonotory Summit some 66 miles northwest of Salt Lake City and north of the Great Salt Lake that the "Golden Spike" was driven into the special laurel railroad tie. Promontory Point is not associated with the railroad until 1902-1904 when the Lucin Cutoff over the Great Salt Lake was constrruced.
The actual engines that participaed in the 1869 ceremony were scrapped after the turn of the century. In 1975 the Natioinal Park Service hired O'Connor Engineering Laboratories of Costa Mesa, CA to build exact replicas of the famous engines. Beginning in 1979, these locomotives began participating in annual ceremonies at the National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, operated by the U. S. National Park Service.
And yes, the early locomotives were usually painted in bright colors. Probably starting in the 1880s or 1890s, most steam locomotives were being painted all black.
Walt Disney Company employees, led by Ward Kimball, were commissioned to paint and letter the lococmotives. Absent any documentation of the colors of the original engines, Kimball chose bright reds and vermillions for eye-catching appeal. As new research and funds become available, the locomotives will be repainted to reflect the most accurate paint schemes of the original engines of 1869.
During the ceremony in 1869, four special spikes were presented: 1. The Golden Spike known as the "Last Spike"; 2. Nevada's Silver Spike; 3. Arizona's Gold and Silver Spike; and 4. A second, lower-quality gold spike ordered by the San Fancisco News Letter.
Another Golden Spike, exactly like the "Last Spike" from the 1869 ceremony, was cast and engraved at the same time. It was held, unknown to the public, by the Hewes family, until 2005. It is now on display at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. The Golden Spike from the ceremony was donated to the Stanford Museum (now Cantor Arts Center) in 1898.
Click here to go to the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit.