Last Train

 Last Train

Casey would have normally, stayed in Memphis on a layover, but a fellow engineer was sick and he was asked to take the No. 1 along with its six cars back to Canton. The train was scheduled to arrive at 4:05am and, the delay of changing engineers had already a put him 95 minutes behind schedule.

See Casey had a reputation for being on time. He was so punctual, it was said that people set their watches by him. Jones was also recognized by his peers as one of the best engineers in the business. So he wouldn’t consider the option of being late, even if it was a foggy and rainy April morning.

He was traveling at 75 miles per hour and was entering a one and half mile left-hand curve. He was only twenty five miles away and he still had a chance of arriving on time.  However, his view had been blocked within the curve and he couldn’t see the stalled cars that were on the track up ahead.

Jones reversed the throttle and slammed the air-brakes into an emergency stop, but the engine quickly plowed through a wooden caboose, a car load of hay, another of corn and half way through a car of timber before leaving the track. Legend holds that when Casey’s body was pulled from the wreckage, his hands still clutched the whistle cord and brake.

However, this isn’t the story of Casey Jones and the Cannon Ball Express. It is a story that wouldn’t even begin until almost twenty years later.

I remember as a child going to the Kiddy Land section of the Birmingham Fairgrounds and seeing the old 4018 located under a large canopy. We would see it every time that we visited the fair or happen to pass by the grounds. I never knew its story, just that it was an old train located that the fairgrounds for some reason. It was kind of cool. I bet that you didn’t have a steam locomotive parked inside your fairgrounds.

The 4018 is a class USRA Light 2-8-2 “Mikado” steam locomotive. These locomotives were called “war babies” because they were part of the build-up ordered through the United States Railroad Administration during World War I.

The No. 4018 was constructed in October 1919 and designed by the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The overall length of the engine and tender is almost 82 feet long, and it stands 19 feet tall. It was sold to the St Louis and San Francisco Railway in 1923 and spent much of the next three decades carrying transport between Bessemer and Birmingham.

Steam engines were phased out in favor of diesel locomotives in the mid-20th century. The 4018 was the last steam locomotive to operate on any part of the Frisco Railway and quite possibly the last to operate within the Birmingham metro area.

At the request of Mayor J. W. Morgan, the locomotive was saved from the scrap-yard and given a full cosmetic overhaul before making its final five-mile run to Birmingham. It went on display at the Alabama State Fairgrounds in 1952. Then in 2009 it was moved to its present location at Sloss Furnaces.

I took this photograph several years ago, and was recently playing around with the picture in Elements and Fractalius. I wanted to create the impression on an out of control runaway train. The truth is that the only ride that this train has been on in the past sixty years was on the back of an eighteen wheeler across town, and it took three days.


  1. Farrell Kenimer September 25, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    I have got to go viral with this one. Look for the link to show up again on my Facebook timeline. I know that the depiction of the locomotive is trickery but oh what a job and imagination to perform such Magic. The story is Fascinating!

    • Phillip September 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

      Thank you Ken. I remember as a child riding the small scale train at the zoo. The “Engineer” would always slow down and remove his hat as we passed the make believe grave site of Casey Jones. It is funny the things that we remember.

  2. Rob September 25, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Excellent work, it gives a sense of extreme motion. Thanks for the story of Casey Jones!

    • Phillip September 25, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      Thanks Rob. It was a lot of fun. As the picture evolved it make think about Casey Jones. Even though he died before this train was built.

  3. Jimi Jones October 2, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Very nice processing on the image, Phillip. Really enjoyed reading this, which took me back in time. 😉

    • Phillip October 2, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

      Thanks Jimi, I hope that it was a pleasant trip! 🙂

  4. Andrew Graeme Gould October 4, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    The impression you’ve created here is remarkable, Phillip. Interesting background information, spiced up by the Casey Jones story. (I remember the old Casey Jones TV series.) I’ve been fascinated by trains and street cars (or trams, as we call them) all of my life, and have memories of my mother taking me to see the steam trains at the station before the age of 10, when we still lived in England. And this has remined me that I want to go back to see the permanent exhibition of steam trains that’s in a Santiago park.

    • Phillip October 4, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

      I appreciate it Andrew. It was a lot of fun.

  5. Edith Levy October 4, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Excellent job on the processing of this image and love the story.

    • Phillip October 4, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

      Thanks Edith, I’m glad that you enjoyed it.

  6. Otto von Münchow October 11, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    There is so much energy in this photo, it feels like it could be a photo of a ghost train of some kind. I have never even heard about Fractalius. I checked it out and it looks like a lot of fun. Maybe to easy to make into a toy, but in this case and with this photo, it really turned it into something special. Love your story behind the photo, in its various shades. There is something special about those old steam locomotives, isn’t there?!

    • Phillip October 11, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

      Thank you so much for the kind words Otto. It’s really nice to find people who at least pretend to understand my sense of humor. This was just a fun shot. After I began playing around with it, the story started developing on its own.

      Fractalius is a plugin designed by Redfield Plugins for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. I first saw it used by Denise Ippolito a very talented photographer. She has created some beautiful images with this tool.

  7. DaniLew October 20, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    You are such an historian, Phillip! I love reading your tales and really like how you seemed to create motion along the wheels of this old steam engine.


    • Phillip October 22, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

      Thanks Dani. This was such a fun project that I about to post several others pictures also taken at Sloss. (That is if I can ever find the time to sit down and put it together) 🙂

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