Posthumous Fame Railroad Engineer Casey Jones

About the famous railroad engineer Casey Jones, biography and history of the man who achieved fame after only death.


CASEY JONES (1864-1900), U.S. railroad engineer

John Luther Jones was born near Cayce, Ky., and carried the nickname Casey throughout his life. He began work on the Illinois Central Railroad as a fireman in 1888, soon graduated to engineer, and thereafter drove express freights in the South and Midwest. On the night of Apr. 29, 1900, when he ended his New Orleans-Memphis run on the Cannonball Express, he learned that the engineer scheduled for the return trip was ill. Casey needed the money, so he took the throttle of the "Old 382" again. At 4:00 A.M. near Vaughan, Miss., he saw a stalled freight train on the track ahead, tried to brake his hurtling locomotive, but knew he couldn't stop it in time. "Jump, Sim!" he shouted to his fireman, and Casey rode his engine alone into the collision. He was the only casualty; workmen found his mangled body with one hand on the whistle cord, the other on the brake. Newspapers spread an account of the incident throughout the country, and engine wiper Wallace Saunders, a black friend of Jones's, wrote "The Ballad of Casey Jones." The song immortalized Casey's name and made him a legendary folk figure. Casey's home in Jackson, Tenn., is now a railroad museum.

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