The destructive of Old 97

by Lyle Lofgren(Originally published: within Bluegrass, June 1998)

The Civil war era had actually two song writers, both of them well known forgreatmelodies and also heartfelt lyrics. The South had actually Stephen Foster (who wasactuallya Northerner, but who wrote nearly entirely about Southern life), whilethe North had actually Henry Clay Work. Despite the hostilities, northernerssang Foster song while southerners sang work-related songs. You deserve to still hearsouthern Bluegrass bands carry out Work"s functions -- two examples are MyGrandfather"s Clock and also Kingdom comes -- and also evenoccasionalinstrumental version of his Marching v Georgia. One ofhis various other songs, The delivery That never Returned, told the genericstory of a sea voyage and all the people that left but were never ever heardfrom again. The story was mainly brought by a good tune, so the waspopularthroughout the last fifty percent of the nineteenth century.

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In 1902, the southerly Railroad signed a contract through the U.S.Governmentto provide service in between Washington and also Atlanta v a mail-onlyexpresstrain, designated #97. Castle optimistically guaranteed on-time delivery,even despite the roadbed wasn"t in all that great condition. The traintendedto run late, so it wasn"t unusual that, once rookie technician Joseph(Steve)Broady took end in Monroe, Virginia, top top September 27, 1903, that wasalreadyforty-seven minute in the hole. Going downgrade from Lynchburg, hemadeup time through "whittling," choose up rate on the straight-awaysand braking hard on the turns, as with a Minnesotan who firstencountersa downgrade in the Rocky Mountains. Like the Minnesotan, his brakesgaveout in ~ the bottom of the hill, and also he was evidently law ninety whenthetrain careened roughly the critical turn prior to the trestle at Danville. Afamousphoto mirrors the engine and associated wreckage in the Dan river gorge,aboutforty feet too far to the right, and around seventy-five feet too low,tomake the across. Count the engineer and the fireman, eight peopledied,which appears like tiny potatoes compared with modern-day wrecks.


The words provided here space a mix of number of versions I"veheardover the years. If it"s not an accurate reconstruction that what theoriginalverses were, it"s what they should have actually been. I acquired the train wreckstoryfrom the notes to the Blue Ridge academy album BRI 004 VirginiaTraditions: native Virginia Ballads and also an post on the wreckthatBruce Jaeger reprinted in the might 1992 within Bluegrass. NormCohenwrote a book, long Steel Rail, the reportedly also includestheOld 97 story, but my regional library doesn"t have a copy.

There are countless dozen train destructive songs. Ns wonder why nobody writesaboutairplane crashes?


Complete Lyrics:

They offered him his orders under at Monroe, Virginia,Saying, "Steve, you"re means behind time;This is not 38, however it"s Old 97,You must collection her into Spencer ~ above time."

He turned around, speak to his black, greasy fireman,"Just heave in a little much more coal,And when we reach that White Oak Mountain,You simply watch Old 97 roll."

It"s a mighty rough roadway from Lynchburg to Danville,And Lima"s top top a three-mile grade;It to be on the grade that he shed his wait brakes,You deserve to see what a jump he made.

He to be going down grade, act ninety mile an hour,When his whistle began to scream;They uncovered him in the wreck, v his hand top top the throttle.He to be scalded to fatality by the steam.

A message arrived on Washington Station,And this is what it read:Those 2 brave men who traction Old 97Are lie in Danville, dead."

Oh, ladies, you should take warning,From this time on and also learn:Never speak harsh native to your true love husband,He might leave you and also never return.

This track is laws G2, and Laws lists sixteen different versions,fromArkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri, new York, north Carolina,Tennesee,and Virginia.

Long stole Rail: The rail inAmerican Folksong, by norm Cohen. College of IllinoisPress, 2nd edition, 2000.

Scalded to fatality by the Steam,by Katie Letcher Lyle. Algonquin books of Chapel Hill, 1991.

In addition to the recommendations to long Steel Rail, check out thearticleThe wreck of Old 97, through Freeman H. Hubbard, released in RailroadAvenue.

Modern execution of the song continue to be found, but increasinglytheyare contaminated through the Dalhart version. That the track is not by any kind of ofthe declared authors is proved, e.g., through the much much longer version printedby Randolph (his #683).

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The delivery That never Returned is regulations D27, and also Laws has actually sixreferences, from Kentucky, Missouri, north Carolina, and also Tennessee.Laws"snotes ~ above D27 additionally list versions of The Train That never Returned.