Vaughan, Mississippii (1900)
SummaryVaughan, Missippi, Illinois Central Railroad (1900). It was just before 4.00am when the passenger train driven by engineer "Casey" Jones approached Vaughan at high speed. Two freight trains were being sidetracked to allow the express to pass. One of them developed a fault which prevented it from moving further and clearing the main line of its long train of freight cars. Unaware of this, and seemingly oblivious to the warning of signals of a flagman, the engineer drove his train into the freight.
Shortly after 11.00pm on a wet and foggy night Jones opened the regulator of 4-6-0 No. 382 and slowly drew his train out of the station onto the mainline. The fog made for bad visibility and sighting lineside signals was difficult.
Train No.1 arrived at on time Goodman Station where it was due to pass train No.2. The late arrival of this train meant that train No.1 was five minutes late starting off again. Despite the poor conditions Jones was clearly determined to make up time and by the time of the accident was only two minutes behind time.
That night, at Vaughan station, no fewer than four trains, all freights had arrived and were being held to await the passing of Train No 1. These trains were the first part of Train 72, Train 83 and the first and second parts of Train 26. Trains 72 and 83 were not booked to pass No.1 here. They were in fact running late following an incident when shunting to allow train No. 25 to pass. As the shunting operation was in progress, two drawbars broke on train No. 83 preventing its movement until repairs had been effected.
Some complicated shunting maneuvres had to be performed in order to clear the main running line to ensure that there was a clear passage for the express. Both parts of train 26 were put onto the "house track" and 1st 72 and 83 were shunted onto a passing loop. Train No. 72 headed onto the passing track with No.83 following. While this procedure was in progress, an air hose between two of the cars of train No. 72 broke bringing the train to a halt. No.83 close behind had to stop also, but before its last two cars had cleared the mainline.
Correctly, the flagman from No.83 went back on the mainline to place torpedoes (detonators) on the line and with red and white lights to signal the approaching express that the way ahead was obstructed. The approach to Vaughan station was a long curve and train No.1 rounded this at a speed of approximately 75 mph. Although it was estimated that Engineer Jones would have had an unobstructed view of the flagman from a distance of 1 1/2 miles, the train did not begin to slow. According to the fireman, he was attending to the fire when he heard the explosion of the torpedoes. He crossed to the engineer's side of the cab and looking out, he saw the warning lights of the flagman. He crossed to the fireman's position from where he could see the markers of the caboose of train No. 83. He called to the engineer that there was a train ahead. Jones immediately applied the air brakes. At a distance of about 100 yards from No. 83, the train had slowed to about 50 mph. Webb considered that the train was not going to stop in time and jumped from the engine.
The express struck the boxcars of the freight train demolishing them. Engine 382 was derailed but continued on for some distance before turning over onto its side. Although "Casey" Jones was killed, there were no other deaths. There may have been more loss of life had Jones followed his fireman and left the engine, but by remaining at his post and continuing to apply the brake, he lessened to potential impact.
The cost of the accident to the railroad amounted to $3,323.75. In addition varying amounts were paid out to comapny employees for injuries sustained:
Although this was quite a minor mishap both in terms of loss of life and cost to the railroad, the incident has passed into American railroad folklore. At the hands of Wallace Saunders, an engine wiper who made up a song about the incident, Casey Jones emerges as a hero.
Copyright © David Fry 1998
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