October 10, 2022 | Mark Paradies

The Wreck of Old 97

Wreck of Old 97

What Can You Learn From a Song

I remember this song from when I was a kid. Watch Johnny Cash sing it here:

Here are the lyrics:

They gave him his orders down at Monroe, Virginia,
Saying, “Steve, you’re way behind time;
This is not 38, but it’s Old 97,
You must get her into Spencer on time.”

He turned around, saying to his black, greasy fireman,
“Just heave in a little more coal,
And when we reach that White Oak Mountain,
You just watch Old 97 roll.”

It’s a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville,
And Lima’s on a three-mile grade;
It was on that grade that he lost his air brakes,
You can see what a jump he made.

He was going down grade, doing ninety miles an hour,
When his whistle began to scream;
They found him in the wreck, with his hand on the throttle.
He was scalded to death by the steam.

A message arrived at Washington Station,
And this is what it read:
Those two brave men who pulled Old 97
Are lying in Danville, dead.”

Oh, ladies, you must take warning,
From this time on and learn:
Never speak harsh words to your true loving husband,
He may leave you and never return.

Here’s another version that might be easier to hear…

Lessons Learned from the Wreck of Old 97

What’s the lesson learned from this accident/song?

The original lesson was …

So now, all you ladies … you’d better take a warning
From this time on and learn
Don’t you speak hard words to your true lovin’ husband
He may leave you and never return – poor boy!

But our perspective on safety has changed. Now everyone has the right to return home in one piece.

Accidents should be prevented. Especially fatalities.

Did pushing the engineer to get back on schedule contribute to this accident?

Let’s make sure there are no sad lessons learned at your facility!

The Rest of the Story

By the way, the song was based on a real accident. That’s where the drawing comes from. Old 97 was a mail train with people onboard sorting mail. 11 people were killed. Watch the video below for more information…

Not exactly a good investigation – was it?

Accident, Safety
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