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Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum



by Chris Guenzler



After leaving the NC&StL museum, we drove through Jackson to the Casey Jones museum.

Casey Jones History

Jonathan Luther "John" "Casey" Jones (March 14, 1863 - April 30, 1900) from Jackson, Tennessee, was an American railroader who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. He was killed on April 30, 1900 when his train collided with a stalled freight train near Vaughan, Mississippi. His dramatic death while trying to stop his train and save the lives of his passengers 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.

As a boy, he lived near Cayce, Kentucky, where he acquired the nickname of "Cayce", which he chose to spell as "Casey".

Marriage

Jones married Mary Joanna ("Janie") Brady (born 1866), whose father owned the boarding house where Jones was staying. Since she was Catholic, he decided to convert and was baptized on November 11, 1886 at St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Whistler, Alabama, to please her. They were married at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Jackson on November 25, 1886. They bought a house at 211 West Chester Street in Jackson, where they raised their three children. By all accounts he was a devoted family man and teetotaler.

Promotion to engineer

Jones went to work for the Mobile & Ohio Railroad and performed well and was promoted to brakeman on the Columbus, Kentucky to Jackson, Tennessee route, and then to fireman on the Jackson, Tennessee to Mobile, Alabama route.

In summer 1887 a yellow fever epidemic struck many train crews on the neighboring Illinois Central Railroad, providing an unexpected opportunity for faster promotion of firemen on that line. On March 1, 1888, Jones switched to IC, firing a freight locomotive between Jackson, Tennessee and Water Valley, Mississippi.

He was promoted to engineer, his lifelong goal, on February 23, 1891. Jones reached the pinnacle of the railroad profession as an expert locomotive engineer for IC. Railroading was a talent, and Jones was recognized by his peers as one of the best engineers in the business. He was known for his insistence that he "get her there on the advertised" and that he never "fell down": arrive at his destination behind schedule. He was so punctual, it was said that people set their watches by him.

His work in Jackson primarily involved freight service between Jackson and Water Valley, Mississippi. Both locations were busy and important stops for IC, and he developed close ties with them between 1890 and 1900.

Famous train whistle

Jones was also famous for his peculiar skill with the train whistle. His whistle was made of six thin tubes bound together, the shortest being half the length of the longest. Its unique sound involved a long-drawn-out note that began softly, rose and then died away to a whisper, a sound that became his trademark. The sound of it was variously described as "a sort of whippoorwill call," or "like the war cry of a Viking." People living along the IC line between Jackson and Water Valley would turn over in their beds late at night upon hearing it and say "There goes Casey Jones" as he roared by.

Service at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893

During the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago, Illinois, in 1893, IC was charged with providing commuter service for the thousands of visitors to the fairground. A call was sent out for trainmen who wanted to work there. Jones answered it, spending a pleasant summer there with his wife. He shuttled many people from Van Buren Street to Jackson Park during the exposition. It was his first experience as an engineer in passenger service and he liked it.

At the fair (also called The Chicago World's Fair), he became acquainted with No. 638, a big new freight engine IC had on display as the latest and greatest technological advancement in trains. It had eight drive wheels and two pilot wheels, a 2-8-0 "Consolidation" type. At the closing of the fair, No. 638 was due to be sent to Water Valley for service in the Jackson District. Jones asked for permission to drive the engine back to Water Valley. His request was approved, and No. 638 ran its first 589 miles with Jones at the throttle to Water Valley. Jones liked No. 638 and liked working in the Jackson District because his family was there. They had once moved to Water Valley, but returned to Jackson, which they felt was home.

Jones drove the engine until he transferred to Memphis in February 1900. No. 638 stayed in Water Valley. That year he drove the engine that became most closely associated with him, for one time. That was Engine No. 382, known affectionately as "Ole 382.", or "Cannonball". It was a steam-driven Rogers 4-6-0 "Ten Wheeler" with six drivers, each approximately six feet high. Bought new in 1898 from the Rogers Locomotive Works, it was a very powerful engine for the time. When a potential disaster arose, all of Jones' skill and the engine's responsiveness were put to the greatest test.

His regular fireman on No. 638 was his close friend, John Wesley McKinnie, with whom he worked exclusively from about 1897 until he went to the passenger run out of Memphis. There he worked with his next and last fireman, Simeon T. "Sim" Webb in 1900.

Rescue of a child from the tracks

A little-known example of Jones' heroic instincts in action is described by his biographer and friend Fred J. Lee in his book, Casey Jones: Epic of the American Railroad (1939). He recounts an incident in 1895 as Jones' train approached Michigan City, Mississippi. He had left the cab in charge of fellow Engineer Bob Stevenson, who had reduced speed sufficiently for Jones to walk safely out on the running board to oil the relief valves. He advanced from the running board to the steam chest and then to the pilot beam to adjust the spark screen. He had finished well before they arrived at the station, as planned, and was returning to the cab when he noticed a group of small children dart in front of the train some 60 yards ahead. All cleared the rails easily except for a little girl who suddenly froze in fear at the sight of the oncoming locomotive. Jones shouted to Stevenson to reverse the train and yelled to the girl to get off the tracks in almost the same breath. Realizing that she was still immobile, he raced to the tip of the pilot or cowcatcher and braced himself on it, reaching out as far as he could to pull the frightened but unharmed girl from the rails. The event was partially spoofed in The Brave Engineer, in which the hero rescued a damsel from a cliche bandit.

Baseball player

Jones was an avid baseball fan and watched or participated in the game whenever his schedule allowed. During the 1880s he had played at Columbus, Kentucky, while he was a cub operator on the M & O. One Sunday during the summer of 1898, the Water Valley shop team was scheduled to play the Jackson shop team and Jones got to haul the team to Jackson for the game.

Rules infractions

Jones was issued nine citations for rules infractions in his career, with a total of 145 days suspended. But in the year prior to his death, Jones had not been cited for any rules infractions. Railroaders who worked with Jones liked him but admitted that he was a bit of a risk taker. Unofficially though, the penalties were far more severe for running behind than breaking the rules. He was by all accounts an ambitious engineer, eager to move up the seniority ranks and serve on the better-paying, more prestigious passenger trains.

Transfer to passenger trains

Jones, in February 1900, was transferred from Jackson, Tennessee, to Memphis, Tennessee, for the passenger run between Memphis and Canton, Mississippi. This was one link of a four-train run between Chicago, Illinois, and New Orleans, Louisiana, the so-called "cannonball" passenger run. "Cannonball" was a contemporary term applied to fast mail and fast passenger trains of those days, but it was a generic term for speed service. This run offered the fastest schedules in the history of American railroading. Some veteran engineers doubted the times could be met and some quit.

Engineer Willard W. "Bill" Hatfield had transferred from Memphis back to a run out of Water Valley, thus opening up trains No. 2 (north) and No. 3 (south) to another engineer. Jones had to move his family to Memphis and give up working with his close friend John Wesley McKinnie on No. 638, but he thought the change was worth it. Jones would drive Hatfield's Engine No. 384 until the night of his fateful last ride on Engine No. 382.

Death

There is controversy over the circumstances prior to Casey Jones' last, fatal run. In the account given in the book Railroad Avenue by Freeman H. Hubbard, which was based on an interview with fireman Sim Webb, he and Casey had been used extra on trains 3 and 2 to cover for engineer Sam Tate who had marked off ill. They returned to Memphis at 6:25 on the morning of April 29, giving them adequate time to be rested for number 1 that night, which was their regular assigned run.

The Fred J. Lee biography, Casey Jones, contended the men arrived in Memphis on No. 4 at 9 o'clock on the evening of April 29. They were asked to turn right around and take number 1 back to Canton to fill in for Sam Tate who had marked off. This would have given them little time to rest, as Number 1 was due out at 11:35 pm. In both of these accounts, Jones' regular run were trains 1 and 4.

In a third account, trains 3 and 2 were Casey and Sim Webb's regular run, and they were asked to fill in for Sam Tate that night on No. 1, having arrived that morning on No. 2.

In any event, they departed Memphis on the fatal run at 12:50 a.m., 75 minutes behind schedule, due to the late arrival of number 1. A fast engine, a good fireman (Simeon T. Webb would be the train's assigned fireman), and a light train (they had six cars) were ideal for a record-setting run. Although it was raining, steam trains of that era operated best in damp conditions. The weather was quite foggy that night, reducing visibility, and the run was well known for its tricky curves.

In the first section of the run, Jones drove from Memphis 100 miles south to Grenada, Mississippi, with an intermediate water stop at Sardis, Mississippi (50 miles minto the run), over a new section of light and shaky rails at speeds up to 80 miles per hour. At Senatobia, Mississippi (40 miles into the run), Jones passed through the scene of a prior fatal accident that occurred the previous November. Jones made his water stop at Sardis, and arrived at Grenada for more water, having made up 55 minutes of the 75-minute delay.

Jones made up another 15 minutes in the 25-mile stretch from Grenada to Winona, Mississippi. The following 30-mile stretch (Winona to Durant, Mississippi) had no speed-restricted curves. By the time he got to Durant (155 miles into the run), Jones was almost on time. He was quite happy, saying at one point, "Sim, the old girl's got her dancing slippers on tonight!" as he leaned on the Johnson bar.

At Durant, he received new orders to take to the siding at Goodman, Mississippi (eight miles south of Durant, and 163 miles into the run), wait for the No. 2 passenger train to pass, and then continue on to Vaughan. His orders also instructed him to meet passenger train No. 26 at Vaughan (15 miles south of Goodman, and 178 miles into the run). He was told that No. 26 was a local passenger train in two sections and would be in the siding, so he would have priority over it. Jones pulled out of Goodman only five minutes behind schedule. With 25 miles of fast track ahead, Jones likely felt that he had a good chance to make it to Canton by 4:05 am "on the advertised".

Unknown to Casey, three separate trains were in the station at Vaughan: double-header freight train No. 83 (located to the north and headed south, which had been delayed due to having two drawbars pulled while at Vaughan) and long freight train No. 72 (located to the south and headed north) were both in the passing track to the east of the main line. As the combined length of the trains was ten cars longer than the length of the east passing track, some of the cars were stopped on the main line. The two sections of northbound local passenger train No. 26 had arrived from Canton earlier, and required a "saw by" for them to get to the "house track" west of the main line. The "saw by" maneuver required that No. 83 back up (onto the main line) to allow No. 72 to move northward and pull its overlapping cars off the main line and onto the east side track from the south switch, thus allowing the two sections of No. 26 to gain access to the west house track. The "saw by", however, left the rear cars of No. 83 overlapping above the north switch and on the main line - right in Jones' path. As workers prepared a second "saw by" to let Jones pass, an air hose broke on No. 72, locking its brakes and leaving the last four cars of No. 83 on the main line.

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 halfway 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 30, 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.

The headlines in the Jackson, Tennessee Sun read: "FATAL WRECK - Engineer Casey Jones, of This City, Killed Near Canton, Miss. - DENSE FOG THE DIRECT CAUSE - Of a Rear End Collision on the Illinois Central. - Fireman and Messenger Injured - Passenger Train Crashed Into a Local Freight Partly on the Siding - Several Cars Demolished."

A Jackson, Mississippi, newspaper report described the accident:

"The south-bound passenger train No. 1 was running under a full head of steam when it crashed into the rear end of a caboose and three freight cars which were standing on the main track, the other portion of the train being on a sidetrack. The caboose and two of the cars were smashed to pieces, the engine left the rails and plowed into an embankment, where it overturned and was completely wrecked, the baggage and mail coaches also being thrown from the track and badly damaged. The engineer was killed outright by the concussion. His body was found lying under the cab, with his skull crushed and right arm torn from its socket. The fireman jumped just in time to save his life. The express messenger was thrown against the side of the car, having two of his ribs broken by the blow, but his condition is not considered dangerous.

Legend begins

Jones' legend was quickly fueled by headlines such as, "DEAD UNDER HIS CAB: THE SAD END OF ENGINEER CASEY JONES," The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee; and "HEROIC ENGINEER - Sticks to his post at cost of life. Railroad Wreck at Vaughan's on Illinois Central Railroad - Terrible Fatality Prevented by Engineer's Loyalty to Duty - A passenger's Story," The Times-Democrat, New Orleans.

The passenger in the article was Adam Hauser, formerly a member of The Times-Democrat telegraph staff. He was in a sleeper on Jones' southbound fast mail and said after the wreck:

"The passengers did not suffer, and there was no panic."

"I was jarred a little in my bunk, but when fairly awake the train was stopped and everything was still."

"Engineer Jones did a wonderful as well as a heroic piece of work, at the cost of his life."

"The marvel and mystery is how Engineer Jones stopped that train. The railroad men themselves wondered at it and of course the uninitiated could not do less. But stop it he did. In a way that showed his complete mastery of his engine, as well as his sublime heroism. I imagine that the Vaughan wreck will be talked about in roundhouses, lunchrooms and cabooses for the next six months, not alone on the Illinois Central, but many other roads in Mississippi and Louisiana."

Funeral

The next morning Jones' body was transported on the long trip home to Jackson, Tennessee on passenger train No. 26. On the following day, the funeral service was held in St. Mary's Church, where he and Janie Brady had married fourteen years before. He was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery. Fifteen enginemen rode 118 miles from Water Valley to pay their last respects, which was a record.

Illinois Central Railroad report on accident

A conductor's report filed five hours after the accident stated, "Engineer on No.1 failed to answer flagman who was out proper distance. It is supposed he did not see the flag." This was the position the IC held in its official reports.

The final IC accident report was released on July 13, 1900 by A.S. Sullivan, General Superintendent of IC It stated that "Engineer Jones was solely responsible having disregarded the signals given by Flagman Newberry." John M. Newberry was the flagman on the southbound No. 83 that Jones hit. According to the report, he had gone out a distance of 3,000 feet, where he had placed warning torpedoes on the rail. He continued north a further distance of 500 to 800 feet, where he stood and gave signals to Jones' train No.1. Historians and the press had questions about the official findings.

In the report Fireman Sim Webb states that he heard the torpedo explode, then went to the gangway on the engineer's side and saw the flagman with the red and white lights standing alongside the tracks. Going to the fireman's side, he saw the markers of the caboose of No. 83 and yelled to Jones. But it would have been impossible for him to have seen the flagman if the flagman had been positioned 500-800 feet before the torpedoes as the report says he was. In any event, some railroad historians have disputed the official account over the years, finding it difficult if not impossible to believe that an engineer of Jones' experience would have ignored a flagman and fusees (flares) and torpedoes exploded on the rail to alert him to danger.

Contrary to what the report claimed, shortly after the accident and until his death Webb maintained, "We saw no flagman or fusees, we heard no torpedoes. Without any warning we plowed into that caboose.

Museum Backround

Located next to Casey Jones's historic home, our Railroad Museum contains many exhibits dedicated to Casey's life and famous last ride. Enjoy a short film about the story of Casey Jones, three authentic rail cars, and even an original engine model Casey drove. Kids of all ages are welcome to climb aboard and ring the bell just like Casey. Civil War enthusiasts will enjoy our permanent exhibit entitled "The Railroads & The Civil War In Tennessee." We are also proud to have the Jackson Room: a room dedicated to our town's rich railroad history.

Our Visit



Illinois Central 4-6-0 382 which is really Clinchfield 99.





Illinois Central Railway Post Office car 51.





The front of Illinois Central 4-6-0 382.





Baggage cart with various railroad emblems.





Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Pullman car Judge Milton Brown.





Elizabeth takes a look at the GM&O car.





Casey Jones' house in Jackson. From here we went inside and I introduced myself to the person at the counter. He knew I was coming so he let me in for free. Bob and Elizabeth showed their NRHS membership cards and also got in for free.





The first thing you see is a nine-minute video about the life of Casey Jones and the accident that ended his life. He was a true American hero in his death.





Some of the displays of Casey Jones' life.





The hearse that carried Casey Jones to his final resting place.





A painting of the wreck that ended Casey Jones' life. From here I then toured his home.





The first room was the parlour with the piano.





The living room.





The dining room.





The master bedroom.





The children's bedroom.



The bathroom.







The kitchen.





The stove pipe in the kitchen. From here I walked outside and behind the house.





Maintenance of way railroad equipment.





Illinois Central caboose 9764.





Exterior views of Casey Jones' house. From here I walked toward the cab of the steam engine.





Illinois Central Railway Post Office Car 51.





Benches on display.





Illinois Central caboose 9764. Then I went into the cab of the steam locomotive and rang the bell ten times in honor of Casey Jones' memory.





This is the truth about the locomotive.





This is Illinois Central 382 masquerading as Clinchfield 99.





Baggage cart on display.





The meeting area of the Casey Jones museum. A special thank you to the Casey Jones Railroad Museum for allowing me to visit their wonderful museum today. Everyone who loves trains should go and visit this fine museum.

The Return Trip to Nashville

From here Bob wanted to see the shop buildings of the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad here in Jackson. I aim to please so I drove him to it.





The Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Iselin shops in Jackson.





Western Tennessee Railroad C30-7 5517.





Western Tennessee Railroad C30-7 5543. Both of these were former ATGX (Atell Group) and Burlington Northern. From here we drove a very scenic route along US 70 to an unscheduled stop at Bruceton after Bob found a yard on his phone and we went to invesitgate.





CSX SD40-2 8052. Next we drove the rest of the way to our next stop in Clarksville to see the train display at the depot called The Last Train to Clarksville, a homage to the song by the Monkees.







Louisville and Nashville Clarksville station with the Last Train display on a stub track.





Illinois Central caboose, unknown number, former US Army 907.







R.J. Corman GP35M 3501 on display at Clarksville. After this went to White Castle for dinner before we drove on to Madison to our final stop of the day.





The history of Amqui station in Madison.





The visitor's information center adjacent to the depot.







The Amqui depot at Madison.





The depot and information center complex. From here we drove back to the Days Inn where the FTP Explorer was still not working but we kept on writing stories anyway as the worst case scenario would be I would upload them either at the hotel Saturday morning or when I get home next Monday.



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