By J. K. Gurner
There was a special bond between an engineer and his fireman. A good example was the relationship of engineer Ed Kennedy and fireman Taylor Howard.
During the strawberry season in spring of 1930, Howard was firing for Kennedy one evening on a train of empty refrigerator cars coming south out of Jackson, Tenn. They had a 2400 mountain class engine and were running 10 minutes behind regular freight train #75, which was right behind the local passenger train.
Going through the creek bottom south of Toone, Tenn., Howard shouted to “Mr. Ed” to take it easy; he thought he had seen the caboose of #75 going around a curve up ahead. But, Kennedy rolled right on.
Sure enough, when they got around the curve, there was the caboose of #75 about 40 car lengths ahead and barely rolling. What had happened was that the local passenger train had stopped to take water. Their flagman had gotten #75 stopped, but #75’s flagman had not gotten far enough back in time to flag the train of refer cars.
Howard shouted, but Kennedy didn’t appear to make a move to stop. So, Howard grabbed him, shoved him off the engine and then jumped. That big 2400 engine tore through the caboose and a few freight cars and then turned over on it’s back.
Kennedy had cuts on his head that were bleeding badly and Howard had a damaged knee, but he could hobble about.
What had happened up ahead was that Skinny Hartwell, who was the engineer on #75, had started moving slow behind the local passenger train. Wilkey Hudson, the brakeman, was looking back when he saw the caboose explode and knew they were hit.
Hudson said later that he didn’t want to go back and look because his cousin Bill Hudson was on the Kennedy train and would be dead or hurt. But, Bill was neither. He had gotten a big piece of ice at the roundhouse in Jackson and was riding the caboose of the refer train so he could throw the ice off for some of his folks. He was back at the end and that saved him.
At the hospital in Jackson, the nurses couldn’t keep Kennedy in his bed. He kept putting on his clothes and going to see about Howard and he was much worse off than his fireman. Kennedy’s wife, “Miss Madge” was up there by this time, so she and the nurse hid “Mr. Ed’s” clothes. That didn’t stop him, though. He wrapped up in a sheet and went anyway to see about Howard, his fireman and friend.