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I've always had a fascination with trains and train travel. I guess it comes of having a long tradition of railroad men in my life. My Grandfather and Dad worked for Missouri Pacific in Memphis, and I even married into a railroading family, since my husband earned his way through college working for Chicago Northwestern, and his grandfather, John Duke Randolph was an engineer for Illinois Central in Jackson, Tennessee working with the infamous, Casey Jones.
One of the delights for all of his grandchildren, was to sit around in a circle while PawPaw entertained them with stories of the daring Jones boys. For there were three of them who all met their fateful end riding the rails. It's easy to understand why a young man from a small town would be romanced by the power and adventure of railroading.
I'm sure most people are familiar with the Ballad of Casey Jones. Here's one of the traditional versions:
BALLAD OF CASEY JONES
Come all you rounders for I want you to hear
The story told of a brave engineer;
Casey Jones was the rounder's name
On a heavy six-eight wheeler he rode to fame.
Caller called Jones about half-past four,
Jones kissed his wife at the station door,
Climbed into the cab with the orders in his hand,
Says "This is my trip to the promised land."
Through South Memphis yards on the fly,
He heard the fireman say, "You've got a white-eye,"
All the switchmen knew by the engine's moans,
That the man at the throttle was Casey Jones
It had been raining for more than a week,
The railoraod track was like the bed of a creek.
They rated him down to a thrity mile gait,
Threw the south-bound mail about eight hours late.
Fireman says, "Casey, you're runnin' too fast,
You run the block signal the last station you passed."
Jones says, "Yes, I think we can make it though,
For she steam much better than ever I know."
Jones says, "Fireman, don't you fret,
Keep knockin' at the firedoor, don't give up yet;
I'm goin' to run her till she leaves the rail
Or make it on time with the south-bound mail."
Around the curve and a-down the dump
Two locomotives were about to bump.
Fireman hollered, "Jones, it's just ahead,
We might jump and make it but we'll all be dead."
'Twas around this curve he saw a passenger train;
Something happened in Casey's brain;
Fireman jumped off, but Casey stayed on,
He's a good engineer but he's dead and gone--
Poor Casey was always all right,
He stuck to his post both day and night;
They loved to hear the whistle of old Number Three
As he came into Memphis on the old K.C.
Headaches and heartaches and all kinds of pain
Are not apart from a railroad train;
Tales that are earnest, noble and gran'
Belong to the life of a railroad man.
Shown in this photograph is the powerful drive mechanism of a vintage locomotive housed in the Galveston Railroad Museum (Texas)
February 26th, 2012
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