It had been 2 years since Casey Jones went up in flaming immortality with The Cannonball Express, but that cautionary tale was the last thing on Engineer Joseph A. “Steve” Broady’s mind as he tried to slow down his train down to a safe speed approaching the Stillhouse Trestle in Danville, Virginia on September 27, 1903. Well, Steve came darned close to saving the day, but not close enough to avoid celebrating
NATIONAL WRECK OF THE OLD 97 DAY!
It seems the 33 year-old engineer was under pressure to get back on schedule after some delays earlier in his run, and had disregarded numerous speed and safety warnings on his way to Spencer, North Carolina.
Broady picked a poor stretch of track to go all Mussolini on everyone, a banked curve leading to a rickety-looking wooden trestle crossing a deep ravine. Does anyone have to ask what happens next?
Of course the whole train derailed and pitched into the ravine, killing 11 people and injuring 7 more. On the plus side, though, those people were right on schedule when they met their demise, and got to be celebrated in song and story. There’s always that.
Incidentally, the Old 97 engine was salvaged and rebuilt and saw another 33 years of service to the Southern Railway, more than can be said of Steve Broady.
•Suggested Activities: Sitting around the campfire singing train songs.