April 30th, 1900 – Casey Jones Saves Passenger Train!

Today-In-History

CaseyJones

“Casey” Jones (March 14th, 1863 – April 30th, 1900)

Jonathan Luther “John” “Casey” Jones from Jackson, Tennessee, was an American railroader who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad (IC). As a boy, he lived near Cayce, Kentucky, where he acquired the nickname of “Cayce,” which he chose to spell as “Casey.” On April 30th, 1900, he was killed when his passenger train, the Cannonball Express, collided with a stalled freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi, on a foggy and rainy night.

Jones reversed the throttle and slammed the airbrakes into emergency stop, but “Ole 382” quickly plowed through a wooden caboose, a car load of hay, another of corn, and half way through a car of timber before leaving the track. He had reduced his speed from about 75 miles per hour to about 35 miles per hour when he hit. Because Jones stayed on board to slow the train, he was believed to have saved the passengers from serious injury and death. (Jones was the only fatality of the collision). His watch stopped at the time of impact: 3:52 am on April 30th, 1900. Popular legend holds that when his body was pulled from the wreckage, his hands still clutched the whistle cord and brake. A stretcher was brought from the baggage car on No. 1, and crewmen of the other trains carried his body to the depot, a half-mile away.

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His dramatic death while trying to stop his train and save lives made him a hero; he was immortalized in a popular ballad sung by his friend Wallace Saunders, an African-American engine wiper for the IC.

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