Casey Jones Was A Real person


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Clinton, Kentucky 42031

Casey Jones was a real person just like Johnny Apple seed and Jesse James. He started his career with the steam locomotive by studying telegraphy at the depot in Columbus, Kentucky.

Born John Luther Jones in a backwoods region of Missouri, the lad moved with his family to Cayce, Kentucky, when he was about 13 years old.

It was there that the youth was caught up in the romance of railroading. As a teen-ager he hung around the Mobile & Ohio Railroad station where the clicking of the telegraph ever fascinated him. He never grew weary of watching the thirsty locomotives take on water at the tank near the depot.

Time passed slowly but he continued to be lured by the powerful iron horse as it pulled a long line of freight cars along the rails stretching into the distance away from Cayce.

Finally in 1879, with the reluctant consent of his parents, Frank and Ann Nolen Jones, lanky John Luther, then about 15 years old, boarded the M&O passenger train and headed North for the Columbus depot where he'd made up his mind to study telegraphy.

Columbus was the end of the line for Northbound passenger and freight trains on the M&O and retained that distinction until 1881. The depot there was abuzz with activity because of transfers made from the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad which had been extended into Belmont, Missouri, just across the river from Columbus. A transfer boat ferried the trains across the river to make connections North and South. (See Photo).

When young Jones arrived at Columbus, he was soon recognized by the train crew as the boy who spent his spare time around the water tank at Cayce. Forthwith he was nicknamed 'Cayce' but the spelling was soon simplified to Casey.

Casey Jones' first job on the railroad was as a fireman but he soon realized his dream of becoming an engineer. After 12 years with the Illinois Central system, he was assigned to its fast mail train, the Chicago to New Orleans 'Cannon-ball.'

On the night of April 29,1900, he brought the roaring locomotive into Memphis, Tennessee, on a regular run. When he learned that the engineer scheduled to take the 'Cannon-ball' on South was sick, he volunteered to run the next leg of the journey.

The train was 95 minutes late when he headed toward Mississippi from Memphis at 12:55 a.m. on April 30. With Sim Webb, the black fireman, madly shoveling coal, Casey set out to make up the time.

Having received the 'al clear' signal, he opened up the throttle and highballed through the countryside, with the whistle on the locomotive wailing like a giant whippoorwill Casey's trademark.

Orders had been given to clear the main track but as two freights were being sidetracked on a long curve just North of Vaughan Station, Mississippi, one of them burst a hose, causing four cars to stall on the main track and with not enough time to move them.

Too late, Casey saw the warning flares. 'Jump, Sim, for your life,' he yelled. Webb did and landed in a clump of bushes, uninjured, but Casey stayed with the train in an effort to slow it down, but his Engine

382 plowed into the protruding cars. Casey died with one hand on the throttle and the other on the airbrake control, but all the passengers survived.

The brave engineer has been immortalized with a ballad written by Wallace Saunders which says in part: 'I'm gonna run her till she leaves the rail or make it on time with the southern mail.'

At Cayce, on the corner of the school yard, is a monument honoring the fabled engineer and farther South in Jackson, Tennessee, his life is memorialized with a whole museum.

This ad is printed on a card which was distributed in connection with the famous Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876. It is interesting that a firm dealing in farm equipment would have had its office on Broadway, New York City.

OLD ST. LOUIS TRANSFER-In 1871 the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad extended its track into Belmont, Missouri, just across the Mississippi River from Columbus, Kentucky. On the Kentucky side, Columbus was the terminus for the Mobile and Ohio Railroad which originated in Mobile, Alabama. A transfer boat shown below in this 1883 photograph ferried the St. Louis and Iron Mountain cars and trains across the river to make a connection with trains to Mobile.

The track of the Iron Mountain was 4 feet, 8 inch gauge, and the M. & O. gauge was 5 feet. Because of the difference in the tracks, it was apparent that either all freight would have to be unloaded and reloaded at the Columbus terminal or that the railroad trucks under the cars would have to be exchanged. It was finally decided that a steam hoist would be established to raise all cars after which the trucks were changed. Therefore, all cars that were ferried across the river in either direction between Columbus and Belmont were hoisted and the trucks under them changed as needed. It was in this setting that Casey Jones began his railroad career. The ferry was discontinued around 1911.