Divine Help Needed For Trip To Canton
By J. K. Gurner
Railroad historian Bruce Gurner enjoyed visiting with the retired railroad men who worked out of Water Valley during the golden age of steam. Some lived here in the city, but others settled elsewhere after their time was up.
Among his favorites was R. E. (Bob) Moore of Winfield, Ala., who spent 28 years with the Illinois Central Railroad. He retired in 1924 from the coal and passenger run between Brilliant and Winfield, a small stub of the IC’s Mississippi Division just across the Alabama state line.
Moore went into the service station business in Winfield before he retired and built the first brick garage there. He also took over the Woco-Pep gasoline business and had the Willys-Overland and Dodge automobile agencies.
He went to work with the ICRR in Water Valley around 1896 and was pictured on the group shot of the Firemen’s Lodge in 1897, the same photo composite on which Casey Jones appears.
Moore did well at his job and was promoted to engineer sometime before 1900. One of the stories he tells is about the time he was running south out of Water Valley on a freight pulled by a small 800-class engine.
When he arrived at Grenada, the dispatcher informed Moore that he wanted him to wait for a light passenger train out of Memphis and let the larger, more powerful engine double-head his freight on to Canton.
When Moore and his fireman, Tom Miller, got word that the passenger engineer was the notorious Jack Kennedy, the fireman said they should just let Kennedy go on and they could pull their train alone.
Miller had been around long enough running freight that he was aware of Kennedy’s reputation for fast and reckless railroading and he wanted no part of running with Kennedy.
But, the dispatcher’s instructions were to be followed and Moore, Miller and the little 800 engine ended up behind Jack Kennedy, who was at the throttle of the infamous 382, the powerful engine that Casey wrecked at Vaughan just months before.
When asked about the trip, Moore said the dust didn’t settle in Pickens for two days after they went through there that night. As they approached Tilda Bogue Creek, just north of Canton, the 800 hit a rough place and Miller was thrown to the deck. He didn’t even bother to get up. He just lay there hollering over and over, “Lord help us… Lord help us.”
It was only four miles to Canton and they made it. Probably with the Lord’s help, according to Moore, because they weren’t getting any from Miller. He was on the deck scared to death.