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.