Windham Life and Times – June 18, 2021

Windham Train Wreck- 4-4-0 241 Lancaster in wreck east of station, Windham NH,

There were several wrecks in Windham on the Worcester, Nashua and Rochester line which met the B&M line at Windham “Junction.” One problem for engineers was a confusion between West Windham Station and Windham Junction. That is why “West Windham” was renamed the “Anderson Station.” Brings back memories of that Grateful Dead song, “Casey Jones,” Driving that train, High on Cocaine, Casey Jones you better, Watch your speed…” OK enough!

According to Wikipedia, John Luther “Casey” Jones (March 14, 1863 – April 30, 1900) was an American railroader who was killed when his passenger train collided with a stalled freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi.

Jones was a locomotive engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad, based in Memphis, Tennessee, and Jackson, Mississippi. He was noted for his exceptionally punctual schedules, which sometimes required a degree of risk, though this was not a factor on his fatal last journey. However, there is some disagreement about the sequence of events on that night, 29–30 April 1900.

He was due to run the southbound passenger service from Memphis to Canton, Mississippi, departing 11.35pm. Owing to engineer absence, he had to take over another service through the day, which may have deprived him of sleep. He eventually departed 75 minutes late, but was confident of making up the time, with the powerful ten-wheeler Engine No. 382, known as “Cannonball”.

Approaching Vaughan at high speed, he was unaware that three trains were occupying the station, one of them broken down and directly on his line. Some claim that he ignored a flagman signaling to him, though this person may have been out of sight on a tight bend, or obscured by fog. All are agreed, however, that Jones managed to avert a potentially disastrous crash through his exceptional skill at slowing the engine and saving the lives of the passengers at the cost of his own. For this, he was immortalized in a traditional song, “The Ballad of Casey Jones”.

Case Jones

“Jones may have been going too fast that fateful night near Vaughan, Mississippi, but there’s no evidence that he was high on cocaine or any other illicit substance.”

I would like to have seen how they put this behemoth in Windham back on the tracks. I am speculating that this wreck occurred east of the West Windham station. The WN&R used to be the tracks used for the “Bar Harbor Express, which brought wealthy Americans to Bar Harbor for their summer sojourn. People used to wait by the tracks to see the “rich people” go by during the lazy days of summer.

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