Written By Joanna Adams Sergent
Photograph of a painting of the Engine No. 382 the “Cannonball” was taken at the Casey Jones and Railroad Museum in Jackson, Kentucky by Joanna Adams Sergent.
Casey Jones was a hero before the fatal accident in which he saved many lives. His hero status would go on to live in a television series as well as an animated short by Disney. We will look at the actual event that had him spoofed in the short, and the television series. Then we will cover the last transfer in his career.
Fred J. Lee’s Story of Casey Jones
During one of his routes in 1895 toward Michigan City, Mississippi. Jones had turned over the engineering duties to another engineer, Bob Stevenson. After reducing the train speed, Jones then went out to the running boards of the train to oil the relief valves and to adjust the steam screen. This routine maintenance that all the engineers, fireman, and brakemen did to keep the engines running.
After completing this task, Jones returned to the cab of the train. Immediately he noticed a group of children on the tracks some 60 yards ahead. Noticing the oncoming train, most of the children stopped playing and left the tracks, except for one little girl who was frozen in fear. Jones yelled to Stevenson to reverse the engine. Jones leaped into action. Climbing out onto the cowcatcher, Jones was able to scoop up the little girl. When the train had stopped, he returned her safely to the ground.
This event has been spoofed in the movie “The Brave Engineer” where the hero saves a damsel in distress from the bandit. This incident could have placed him in the hero status alone and immortalize his name forever. It would be another train trip that would cement him in history as the hero that he was.
This account can be found by Fred J. Lee in his book Casey Jones: Epic of the American Railroad (1939).
Photograph taken from The Brave Engineer made by the Disney Corporation copyright usage under the Fair Use Law.
Casey Jones in Movies and Television
There are many of us who remember the Casey Jones cartoons with him as a both a train engineer and baseball player. Walt Disney did a short in 1950 called “The Brave Engineer”. The short has run several times on different shows over the years. The basic plot is that Casey is asleep in his engine when he gets the call to deliver mail on time, running late because of several misadventures, Jones speeds his way to get there, only to have a crash at the finish line holding the mail in his hand while pieces of his engine roll past him.
Casey at the Bat
Photograph taken from a film short inside an animated package film called Make Mine Music the short is called Casey at the Bat made by the Disney Corporation copyright usage under the Fair Use Law.
The House of Mouse did another short inside an animated package film called Make Mine Music called Casey at the Bat. While this story is based on a poem about another person, the name of the lead character, Casey Jones, has been linked to the railroad engineer and his love of baseball. They are not connected.
Casey Jones the Television Show
Photograph taken from the Casey Jones television series copyright usage under the Fair Use Law
There was a classic television show of the Casey Jones story and the steam engine “Cannonball Express” that ran. Alan Hale Jr. (Who would also be famous as the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island) played Casey Jones. Bobby Clark would play Casey Jones Jr. The show aired during the 1957-58 television season. It was loosely based on the pioneerig western railroad system with plots centering around Jones and his family as well characters in subplots such as trail robbers, bandits, and vandals. The show is in syndication and does run from time to time.
Transfer to Memphis
Photograph of a photograph of the Engine No. 382 the “Cannonball” and Casey Jones in the driver’s cab was taken at the Casey Jones and Railroad Museum in Jackson, Kentucky by Joanna Adams Sergent.
The Number 638 and Jones would be together until Jones transferred to the Memphis line in February 1900.
This run was dubbed the “Cannonball Run” because it was at that time, billed as the fastest schedules in American history of railroading. Because of the fast pace of the trains, many veteran engineers quit or transferred because of doubt that the schedules could be met. This is what happened to Engineer Willard W. “Bill” Hatfield. He transferred from Memphis to have another run out of Water Valley. This opened trains Number 2 (North) and the Number 3 (South). Jones took the opening and moved his family to Memphis to run the trains.
New Job Description
The new position gave him a regular “high wheel” job as this would be one link of four in a chain with trains running from Chicago, Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana. He would run the passenger train from Memphis to Canton in five hours run time. As the passenger demand got heavier, and the trains became longer, the work got harder and more demanding with the schedules not changing allowing for more time for the trains to make their destinations. Passenger comfort was not important and there were no damage suits at that time for being thrown about in the passenger cars, so speed was not adhered to for the schedules to be met.
Engine No. 382
Photograph of a conductor’s uniform that was taken at the Casey Jones and Railroad Museum in Jackson, Kentucky by Joanna Adams Sergent.
New Historical Partnership
Jones would become associated with this new engine in history as the Engine No 382 came with the job. Engine Number 382 or also known as “Ole 382” or “Cannonball”, was a steam-driven Rogers 4-6-0 “Ten-Wheeler”. The engine had six drivers, each about six feet high. It was bought new from the Rogers Locomotive Works in 1898 and was an innovative design and powerful engine of its time.
His new and last fireman to work with was Simeon T. “Sim” Webb in 1900. Webb would go on to write “The Ballad of Casey Jones” as a memorial to his friend that saved his life.
Photo of Simeon T. “Sim” Webb. Photographer and date unknown.
In our next post we will cover the circumstances that lead to the fatal accident of Casey Jones. As well as the accident itself. In the final post we will cover the accident report and the aftermath of this historical event.
For more information on the topic of Casey Jones
The Ballad of Casey Jones
Casey Jones was Crushed by His Own Engine in the Famous 1900 Train Wreck
The Story of Casey Jones and the Wreck That Made Him Famous
Casey: A long-forgotten train wreck is remembered
Why was Casey Jones an American folk hero?
The Truth about Casey Jones
The Other Half of the Casey Jones Legend: His Wife
Casey Jones (TV series)
Casey (Make Mine Music)
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When we forget our past and who we are as a people, then we become who “they” say we are. ~~ David Sergent
I have attended the University of Kentucky. I have an Associates Degree from Hazard Community College and Technical School. I have also attended the University of Pikeville. I have taken several classes in Journalism as well as in the Appalachian History, Literature, and Sociology during my time at those schools.
I was born in Florida and grew up in Burdine, Kentucky. I have been married to David W. Sergent since May 4, 2013. I have two children and four grandchildren from a previous marriage. I currently live in Tennessee but my hope is to one day come back home to live in the beautiful mountains once more.