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Eye witness account to Casey Jones Wreck.....

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Eye witness account to Casey Jones Wreck.....
Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, October 18, 2021 12:00 AM

I can't remember if I posted this before or not but it's a pretty good historical review.   Sad about the lack of a history marker at the site, maybe TRAINS can fix that with their preservation award?

Eye witness video account:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cukvTfTYBA4

Look at the historical side ........10 years or so ago?:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvfCGlXRYAA

 

 

 

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Posted by NKP guy on Monday, October 18, 2021 7:00 PM

   Thanks to CMStPnP for posting not one, but two very interesting and deeply touching videos which instantly took me back to my boyhood living next door to a mainline railroad and reading the Erie Magazine article from 1928 about Casey Jones and his ride into glory and American folklore.  

   As a boy in the 1950's, Casey Jones' story thrilled me with its danger, saddened me with its loss, and inspired me because Casey Jones saved Sim Webb's life and warned others with his whistle, even as he brought his train speed down from 75 mph to 35 mph, thus saving the lives of many of his passengers.  

   "He was found in the wreck, with his had on the throttle*, scalded to death by the steam."   (The wreck of old '97)

   * poetic license, I'm sure; probably it was the brake!  Nonetheless, what a Viking Death for an engineer!

   At a time when I was learning about famous folklore figures like Paul Bunyan, Joe Magaric, John Henry, Mike Fink, Pecos Bill, Uncle Remus and others, two names stood out because they not only had been real men, but they became famous by serving their fellow man:  Johnny Appleseed and Casey Jones.  

   Casey Jones saved Sim Webb's life and Wallace Saunders gave life to the story of Casey Jones with the best possible help: a fine, tuneful song, still known in all parts of the United States 120 years later.  To enter American folklore is to enter our national Valhalla.

   Thanks, CMStPnP, for reminding us of this iconic American hero.

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

   

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Posted by 243129 on Monday, October 18, 2021 7:11 PM

To lionize Casey Jones is ludicrous. He was speeding which was a major cause of the wreck.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, October 18, 2021 10:27 PM

Thanks CMStPnP. 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 11:42 AM

243129
To lionize Casey Jones is ludicrous. He was speeding which was a major cause of the wreck.

This is very true... but I suspect it is also true that the railroad encouraged him to speed 'when it suited their purposes', and Casey was relying on his train's superior class and the railroad's 'other' rules to give him a clear track.  To my knowledge even though he had a reputation as a hotrod runner he was not a reckless or wildly unsafe engineer (like some of the 'cowboys' I hear tales about, some of whom I suspect you knew or knew about...)

The major point of the popular response to the Casey story wasn't 'lionization' directly; it was to enforce the sentimentality of 'how are the mighty fallen' that would go with the Titanic songs onlt a few years later, coupled with "be kind to your true live or husband because he may never return".  To make that stuff effective, the more god-like the engineer's supposed powers and progress, the more ironic his 'comeuppance' at the hands of [insert chosen version of karma/fate/chance/divine retribution, etc.]

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 12:45 PM

The lesson I take from the Casey Jones story is be nice to people, whoever they are, because you never know do you?

If Casey hadn't be kind and friendly to Wallace Saunders, a Black roundhouse wiper and "the lowest of the low" for lack of a better term, there'd have been no song.  Casey would have been just another dead engineer. 

Wallace Saunders turned his friend Casey into an American folk hero like Dan'l Boone, Davey Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, and so many others. 

Admit it, do any of you ever look at a steam locomotive and NOT think of Casey Jones? 

By the way, Casey was a hero of mine when I was a little boy.  Nothing that I've learned about the man since that time has changed my opinion of him.  Says a lot.  

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Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 1:44 PM

Regardless of whether or not he was speeding and the company's attitude toward this, under the train order rules Jones' train had every right to occupy the main track when and where it did on this day.    

There is some controversy around where the freight train's flagman and torpedoes were located, and the story changes depending on who you ask and when you asked them.  At any rate the official investigation blamed Jones and Jones alone, this conclusion of course also meant that no living employees would be disciplined.  

I do not know if yard limits existed at this location, or if the timetable contained instructions requiring all trains to approach the yard, station or water tank prepared to find another train already on the main track.  

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 2:23 PM

Overmod
but I suspect it is also true that the railroad encouraged him to speed 'when it suited their purposes', and Casey was relying on his train's superior class and the railroad's 'other' rules to give him a clear track.

They mentioned in the video the 6 foot drivers and implied the locomotive was built for speed.    Also how the other engineers were concerned about the lighter than normal rail and would not take the route via Grenada, Miss.    So I think railroad management complicity in any speeding to make up schedules is a given.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 4:06 PM

CMStPnP
So I think railroad management complicity in any speeding to make up schedules is a given.

Casey had the reputation of being an engineer who could "Get 'em over the road," so it's no wonder he was the one they'd pick to make up the time on Number 1.

Passenger schedules used to be sacred things in those days and Number 1 was the prestige train.  It became "The Cannonball" later and eventually became "The City of New Orleans."

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 4:09 PM

All this talk about Casey Jones- now I can't get that damned Grateful Dead song out of my head. 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 6:37 PM

54light15

All this talk about Casey Jones- now I can't get that damned Grateful Dead song out of my head.

As good as that song is, I think we can all agree that no Rule G violations occurred in the actual incident.

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 9:00 PM

Funny how at the time of that song's release how many rock and roll songs were about cocaine instead of teenage love, cars and how wonderful California was. I guess all the rockers moved to the Topanga canyon and got into some bad habits. Not to change the subject, of course. 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 9:16 PM

54light15

All this talk about Casey Jones- now I can't get that damned Grateful Dead song out of my head. 

 

Oh great.  NOW I've got a craving for "Cherry Garcia."  Wink

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 9:50 PM

243129

To lionize Casey Jones is ludicrous. He was speeding which was a major cause of the wreck.

 

Hey, Joe,  good to see you back. Were there actual speed limits back then?

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 2:08 AM

A better question would be, "Were there accurate, or even working, speedometers back then?"

There were 4 trains at Vaughn that early morning when it happened.  Two freight trains, one north and one south on the siding.  The siding didn't hold both trains, about 6 cars would hang out on the main.  There were two sections of a northbound passenger train on the house track, which from diagrams and descriptions was single ended, the switch on the north end.

The freight trains had to saw-by trains on the main track.  The train that Casey and Simm met north of Vaughn had been sawed through Vaughn.  When that train left, the freight trains were in the south saw position.  At that time, there were only 3 trains there.  The second northbound passenger hadn't arrived.  What I've read speculates that the torpedoes were placed to flag Casey's train for the south switch.

The fourth train arrived and needed to clear on the house track.  This required the freight trains to saw north to let the northbound to reach the house track.  While in this north saw position an air hose burst, putting the train in emegency.  Before it could be fixed, Casey's train showed up.

The flagman on the freight train had gone back, beyond his torpedoes.  He did not set down anymore torpedoes.  He claims to have signalled the train and I don't doubt this.  The weather had been rainy/misty, the track on a curve to the left.  Torpedoes are/were used to get the attention of rngine crews to look out for something ahead.  With the flagman out beyond his "guns," it's quite plausible to miss signals. You can't read train orders, check you're gauges, or even yell across the cab of a steam engine and maintain continuous view on the tracks ahead.

I've read that he had a message, if not an actual train order, to be prepared to saw through Vaughn.  He may have expected to be properly flagged in such case.  Had the train remained in the south saw position, I think he would've been properly flagged.  As it was, it was (IMO) a case of "short flagging" for the north switch where the freight train hung out on the main.

As to running too fast.  In that era on an important train, every delay had to be accounted for.  On time was on time, not 15, 30 or more minutes late.  It was a case of everything is good until it's not good.  He was running with "run late" orders that were gradually allowing him to have been back on time into his run's end terminal.  I have to check my references, but I think on the section covering Vaughn, he was using an order showing him running 20 minutes late.  If he was running fast, the dispatchers certainly knew it. 

Jeff

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Posted by 243129 on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 8:34 AM

charlie hebdo

Thank you Charlie, I'm still on 'probation'. My posts have to be screened by a moderator so it is difficult to engage in discussion due to the delay. Good point though, but to make up 75 (or so) minutes I would assume that he went too fast for the conditions no matter if there was a speed limit or not.

 

 
243129

To lionize Casey Jones is ludicrous. He was speeding which was a major cause of the wreck.

 

 

 

Hey, Joe,  good to see you back. Were there actual speed limits back then?

 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 9:29 AM

jeffhergert

A better question would be, "Were there accurate, or even working, speedometers back then?"

There were 4 trains at Vaughn that early morning when it happened.  Two freight trains, one north and one south on the siding.  The siding didn't hold both trains, about 6 cars would hang out on the main.  There were two sections of a northbound passenger train on the house track, which from diagrams and descriptions was single ended, the switch on the north end.

The freight trains had to saw-by trains on the main track.  The train that Casey and Simm met north of Vaughn had been sawed through Vaughn.  When that train left, the freight trains were in the south saw position.  At that time, there were only 3 trains there.  The second northbound passenger hadn't arrived.  What I've read speculates that the torpedoes were placed to flag Casey's train for the south switch.

The fourth train arrived and needed to clear on the house track.  This required the freight trains to saw north to let the northbound to reach the house track.  While in this north saw position an air hose burst, putting the train in emegency.  Before it could be fixed, Casey's train showed up.

The flagman on the freight train had gone back, beyond his torpedoes.  He did not set down anymore torpedoes.  He claims to have signalled the train and I don't doubt this.  The weather had been rainy/misty, the track on a curve to the left.  Torpedoes are/were used to get the attention of rngine crews to look out for something ahead.  With the flagman out beyond his "guns," it's quite plausible to miss signals. You can't read train orders, check you're gauges, or even yell across the cab of a steam engine and maintain continuous view on the tracks ahead.

I've read that he had a message, if not an actual train order, to be prepared to saw through Vaughn.  He may have expected to be properly flagged in such case.  Had the train remained in the south saw position, I think he would've been properly flagged.  As it was, it was (IMO) a case of "short flagging" for the north switch where the freight train hung out on the main.

As to running too fast.  In that era on an important train, every delay had to be accounted for.  On time was on time, not 15, 30 or more minutes late.  It was a case of everything is good until it's not good.  He was running with "run late" orders that were gradually allowing him to have been back on time into his run's end terminal.  I have to check my references, but I think on the section covering Vaughn, he was using an order showing him running 20 minutes late.  If he was running fast, the dispatchers certainly knew it. 

Jeff

 

Thanks for the extra detail, I was wondering about why the train was left to hang out in the open on the track.   It initially looked reckless to me but now makes a whole lot more sense.   

Practices like that were more common in the early 1900s, I would guess but are outlawed today.   I still remember the old gaunlet tracks for bridges (single track on a bridge for double track main approach) that came into play with a head-on crash about 20-30 years ago.     I'm guessing that was also more common back then too.    Geez, I still remember the Journal Boxes vs Rolling Bearing issue.    When I was a kid it was still legal to move cars with Journal Boxes.    Back about 20-25 years ago there was a TRAINS editorial staff member that reminesced about the old Rogers Wood Burner Locomotives the Milwaukee Road had stored in Milwaukee on a dead line with the mushroom stacks and how he and his friends used to play "cowboys and indians" on them (that guy had to be fairly old).

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 2:44 PM

jeffhergert
A better question would be, "Were there accurate, or even working, speedometers back then?"

There were 4 trains at Vaughn that early morning when it happened.  Two freight trains, one north and one south on the siding.  The siding didn't hold both trains, about 6 cars would hang out on the main.  There were two sections of a northbound passenger train on the house track, which from diagrams and descriptions was single ended, the switch on the north end.

The freight trains had to saw-by trains on the main track.  The train that Casey and Simm met north of Vaughn had been sawed through Vaughn.  When that train left, the freight trains were in the south saw position.  At that time, there were only 3 trains there.  The second northbound passenger hadn't arrived.  What I've read speculates that the torpedoes were placed to flag Casey's train for the south switch.

The fourth train arrived and needed to clear on the house track.  This required the freight trains to saw north to let the northbound to reach the house track.  While in this north saw position an air hose burst, putting the train in emegency.  Before it could be fixed, Casey's train showed up.

The flagman on the freight train had gone back, beyond his torpedoes.  He did not set down anymore torpedoes.  He claims to have signalled the train and I don't doubt this.  The weather had been rainy/misty, the track on a curve to the left.  Torpedoes are/were used to get the attention of rngine crews to look out for something ahead.  With the flagman out beyond his "guns," it's quite plausible to miss signals. You can't read train orders, check you're gauges, or even yell across the cab of a steam engine and maintain continuous view on the tracks ahead.

I've read that he had a message, if not an actual train order, to be prepared to saw through Vaughn.  He may have expected to be properly flagged in such case.  Had the train remained in the south saw position, I think he would've been properly flagged.  As it was, it was (IMO) a case of "short flagging" for the north switch where the freight train hung out on the main.

As to running too fast.  In that era on an important train, every delay had to be accounted for.  On time was on time, not 15, 30 or more minutes late.  It was a case of everything is good until it's not good.  He was running with "run late" orders that were gradually allowing him to have been back on time into his run's end terminal.  I have to check my references, but I think on the section covering Vaughn, he was using an order showing him running 20 minutes late.  If he was running fast, the dispatchers certainly knew it. 

Jeff

As a former Dispatcher - all I can say - WHAT A SCREWED UP RAILROAD!

With any train, when the point of obstruction (that IS NOT identified on any Train Orders) is several thousand feet closer to the train than the Train Orders specify - no matter the speed - the train most likely won't get stopped - especially with turn of the century braking systems.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 4:01 PM

jeffhergert
A better question would be, "Were there accurate, or even working, speedometers back then?"

On 19th Century locomotives I don't believe there were, speedometers were a 20th Century thing.

In the 19th Century speed was estimated by the time in seconds between mileposts.  Aside from that it was "seat of the pants" estimation.  

The New York Central's 999's speed was estimated by the milepost and seconds procedure. 

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Posted by NKP guy on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 8:18 PM

   Maybe the locomotives in 1900 didn't have speedometers, but the trains could.  Huh?

   The following was written in the 1980's by the late Loris Troyer, sometime editor of the Kent - Ravenna (Ohio) Record Courier.  

   "The Railway Speed Recorder Company was chartered on December 2, 1875 and operated for some 29 years in Kent (Ohio).  The Reverend W.W. Wythe of Meadville,Pennsylvania secured a patent for the speed recorder but it was the skill of James B. Miller, inventor of the Miller Keyless Lock, who perfected the speed regulator.  The company was capitalized for $250,000 employing as many as 80 skilled machinists."

   "The device recorded every movement of a train, the duration of each stop, and speed at any point along the rail line.  The recorder was designed to be attached to the sill under a particular rail car.  The instrument operated thusly, a worm gearwas attached to the car's wheel which in turn engaged a 50 toothed gear.  It took ten thousand revolutions to cause the speed recorder's drum to revolve one complete turn.  According to the advertisement the recorder would provide freedom from wrecks and damaged roadbeds.  Its inclusion on a train did away with stealing time at stops at stations and then making up for the lost time by fast runs between stations."

   "It was the only firm in the world that manufactured a device to record the speed of trains and at one time the devices were used on scores of rail companies throughout the United States and foreign countries.  Eventually the Company filled all the orders placed by the various rail companies and turned its attention to the manufacture of other railroad hardware  --  track jacks, caboose and car shop stoves, milk testers and an electric saw.  The company quit the Kent facility and moved to Meadville in 1904 thus ending a bit of historic rail ingenuity."

   Kent, Ohio was a major Erie Railroad town and division point from 1863 until about 1970, with major car shops, yards and a landmark 1875 depot. 

(The information is from the Page County Railroad Club, via Google)

   

 

 

 

   

   

 

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 11:31 PM

NKP guy
The Reverend W.W. Wythe of Meadville,Pennsylvania secured a patent for the speed recorder

Patent 153470, July 28 1874, if you want the details.  Improved Feb 24, 1875 (173251) and Sept 20 1881 (247459).

https://patents.google.com/patent/US247459A/en

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Posted by 243129 on Thursday, October 21, 2021 7:55 AM

Flintlock76

 

 I'll take Sim Webb's word for what happened.  He was there.  

Do you really think Sim Webb would admit that Jones was going too fast to stop on a flagman's signal? If he did attest to the aforementioned scenario who would believe a black man in the late 19th century?

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, October 21, 2021 9:12 AM

243129

 

 
Flintlock76

 

 I'll take Sim Webb's word for what happened.  He was there.  

 

 

Do you really think Sim Webb would admit that Jones was going too fast to stop on a flagman's signal? If he did attest to the aforementioned scenario who would believe a black man in the late 19th century?

 

You're almost there.

As a Black man in the Deep South in 1900 Sim was probably told to keep his mouth shut "Or else, boy!"  

And they probably didn't need to tell him anything else.  

Not being without sin I don't like casting any "First Stones," but given the choice of losing their jobs or using the old "Blame it on the dead guy" fallback what do you think those freight crews were going to do?  

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, October 21, 2021 10:18 AM

243129
 
Flintlock76

I'll take Sim Webb's word for what happened.  He was there.

Do you really think Sim Webb would admit that Jones was going too fast to stop on a flagman's signal?

1) What was the wording of the relevant 'catchall' safety rule in force on that line at the time?  (Some variant on 'the safe course must always be followed'...)

2) Exactly how do we know Jones said "the old girl's really got her high-heeled slippers on tonight!"?

3) Do you think Sim responded with (1) when he heard (2)?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, October 21, 2021 10:19 AM

OK, I want to clear up some confusion going on here I think.    The testimony in the video was not testimony at the accident investigation, it was testimony long after Mr Webb was on a pension and retired from the IC RR.    The original IC RR investigation blamed Casey Jones entirely for the crash and paid no damages to his family his insurance policy with the union paid out $3000 to his family at the time but the RR paid nothing after blaming him for the crash.   Mr. Webb came out years and years later and made the statements above.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, October 21, 2021 5:00 PM

CMStPnP

OK, I want to clear up some confusion going on here I think.    The testimony in the video was not testimony at the accident investigation, it was testimony long after Mr Webb was on a pension and retired from the IC RR.    The original IC RR investigation blamed Casey Jones entirely for the crash and paid no damages to his family his insurance policy with the union paid out $3000 to his family at the time but the RR paid nothing after blaming him for the crash.   Mr. Webb came out years and years later and made the statements above.

 

Do you know how many years after the accident that interview occurred?  Memories from far back in time may seem accurate, even vivid to the subject, but often are not.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, October 21, 2021 8:40 PM

charlie hebdo

 

 
CMStPnP

OK, I want to clear up some confusion going on here I think.    The testimony in the video was not testimony at the accident investigation, it was testimony long after Mr Webb was on a pension and retired from the IC RR.    The original IC RR investigation blamed Casey Jones entirely for the crash and paid no damages to his family his insurance policy with the union paid out $3000 to his family at the time but the RR paid nothing after blaming him for the crash.   Mr. Webb came out years and years later and made the statements above.

 

 

 

Do you know how many years after the accident that interview occurred?  Memories from far back in time may seem accurate, even vivid to the subject, but often are not.

 

The bulk of my information comes from two stories contained in, "A Treasurey of Railroad Folklore."  The more detailed accounts appeared, I believe, in the book written for the IC's 100th anniversary.  The other story was an interview of Simm Webb that appeared in "Railroad Stories magazine" in 1936.  I think the audio interview would date to about that time.  There are many similarities between the story in the book about Simm and the audio interview.  Enough to the point that the audio interview may have been used in writing the story.

In the story about Simm Webb, he was 61 at the time of the interview.  He took a leave of absence from the IC in 1919 and never went back.  Something he said in retrospect was a mistake.

There are discrepencies between the detailed article and the article about Simm Webb.  The audio (and written story) omits or says there were no torpedoes placed.  There were others who heard them go off.  Even Simm in the first article admitted hearing a torpedo.  In the detailed account, they hit the torpedoes, Casey begins braking, Simm looks ahead and sees the marker lights.  Estimated speed, both articles agree, was about 70 mph when they hit the torpedoes.  Simm jumped at an estimated 50 mph, and the collision happened at a lesser speed.  I recall reading somewhere else (Trains has had two articles, one in the 1950s, one in the 2000s) that it was estimated the speed was 35 mph.

The siding at Vaughn was 3148 feet long.  The torpedo was placed about 2700 feet north of the north switch.  Newberry, the flagman, was out about 500 feet beyond that torpedo.  The distance from the north switch, and there were four cars still hanging out, is awfully short for a placement of a torpedo.  But the distance from the torpedo to the south switch, where the trains needed to be to let the Casey's southbound train use the main to the depot is 5800+ feet.  That's why I think the torpedo was for the south switch.

In an earlier post I said he was on an order running 20 minutes late.  I was mistaken.  That order had been fulfilled at  Durant, north of Vaughn.  Between Vaughn and Canton trains were to consider Casey's train to be on time.  They left Memphis 95 minutes late. 

Their orders were to run 35 minutes late into Grenada, 20 minutes late to Durant, and then on time into Canton.  What that means is inferior trains would add 35 minutes to the time table schedule for No. 1 between Memphis and Grenada.  (If No. 1 was due at a station B (I don't know the time table for the line) between those two points at say 1am, the order temporarily makes the train due at 1:35am.  No. 1 can't pass B before 1:35am, so inferior trains have more time to clear No. 1.  From Grenada to Durant, No. 1 was to run 20 minutes late.  Once out of Durant the train was to be considered to be running on time, and inferior trains would clear, the printed time table schedule.

Speed was a factor.  But viewing it from the norms of the day, and not the norms of the present day, the operation as a whole was what was considered, and expected, normal day to day railroading. 

Jeff  

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, October 22, 2021 5:56 AM

charlie hebdo
Do you know how many years after the accident that interview occurred?  Memories from far back in time may seem accurate, even vivid to the subject, but often are not.

No clue, all I know was it ......was after he retired from IC RR before he spoke out.    Source I read said retired but leave of absence is technically the same, if you never return, the HR of the company marks it as a termination, resignation, or retirement depending on final disposition.

Not to dump on IC too much but I used to have a Brother in Law that worked for Osmose (Trestle and Tie wood preservation) and he always used to say IC was the worst of the railroads as far as track maintence in the deep South.     

He stated they were a heavy Osmose contractor and he would be pumping preservative into wood that was highly deteriorated from rot or would see gaps in the rail which he would wonder how the train didn't go off the tracks.    Even had stories of several unsafe incidents where trains were not properly flagged to slow down around them when they were working.    He limited it to the deep South and said in the Midwest he never had those experiences.    Attributed it to the railroad but to me sounded like a local management issue in the South.   He worked at Osmose in the mid 1970's approx.

Osmose would use a perservative that injected into wood would both fill gaps and then harden into a resin like state he said.   He said it would burn if it came in contact with exposed skin while in it's fluid state.    We got on the discussion topic after I showed him the series of articles on MidSouth railroad Company in TRAINS Magazine right after they were published and as soon as he saw them he said "Oh Geez, I worked on some of those trestles there" and then went on to elaborate.

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Posted by 243129 on Friday, October 22, 2021 7:59 AM

jeffhergert
Simm jumped at an estimated 50 mph,

Really??? After jumping at 50mph the only injury was being knocked out?

 

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    July 2006
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Posted by NKP guy on Friday, October 22, 2021 10:10 AM

   On one of the two video clips Mr. Webb says Jones brought the train speed down from 75mph to 35mph...when he was told, "Jump, Sim!"

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