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Out of the Depot

Some Records You Don’t Want To Set

By J. K. Gurner


One night in the fall of 1900, Mr. Bob Moore had an experience with the 382, the engine that Casey wrecked. The 382 had been repaired and was back in passenger service between Memphis and Canton.
That night, Mr. Moore had come out of Water Valley on a freight train with a little 800-class engine. Tom Miller was firing for him. While stopped at Grenada, the dispatcher told Mr. Moore to wait a few minutes. He said the 382 was coming out of Memphis and he wanted them to double-head the freight from there to Canton.
Double heading is the use of two locomotives at the front of a train, each operated individually by its own crew. Mr. Moore’s locomotive would have been connected to the 382 and they would have been hauling both the freight train and the passenger cars.
When fireman Miller got the news that the engineer on the 382 was Jack Kennedy, he voted in favor of letting Kennedy go on and they would pull their freight load alone. Miller was a freight man and the stories he had heard about Kennedy made Casey Jones sound like a Boy Scout. It got so bad that Kennedy was finally fired for his fast running.
Anyway, there were Mr. Moore and Miller running their little 800 engine behind Jack Kennedy and that powerful 382. Mr. Moore said that the dust didn’t settle in Pickens for two days after they went through that night.
The 800 hit a rough place in the track going through the creek bottom just north of Canton. Miller was putting coal into the fire and thrown to the deck. He didn’t even try to get up, he just lay there and hollered over and over: “Lord, help us, Lord, Lord help us.” It was only four miles to Canton and they made it with out Miller’s help.
Railroad men were always trying to set records like the fastest time between Canton and Water Valley or the most on-time runs. But, one record they could do without was the most farm animals killed at one time. Over the years there were many cows, horses, pigs and goats hit and killed by trains. It was dangerous to hit anything and would often result in the locomotive leaving the track.
Engineer Tom Gafford set the record for mules on the Panama Limited passenger train in 1937 near Hardy, a small community just south of the Yalobusha County line. The train hit and killed 21 mules at one time and never left the track. The fireman, Norman Cooper, said he thought they had hit another train.
A few months later, the same engine (no. 1187) that Tom Gafford was running the night he hit the mules, struck a cow just south of the Tallahatchie River. The engine left the track, turned over and killed engineer Charley Barnett and fireman Thomas White.

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