Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad
Train Number 4 was scheduled to depart Nashville at 7 a.m.
Tuesday, July 9, 1918 headed for its destination of Memphis
with stops along the way. Pulled by Locomotive Number 282,
Train Number 4 departed Union Station in Nashville at 7:07
a.m. In addition to its locomotive, it was pulling a mail
and baggage car and six wooden coach cars. When leaving the
yard, train Number 4 would follow a section of double tracks
until reaching the point where the track merged back into
a single track at a point called Shops.
Inbound from Memphis was Train Number 1, pulled by Locomotive
Number 281. The locomotive was pulling one baggage car, six
wooden coaches and two Pullman cars that were constructed
of steel. It was running behind schedule with an estimated
time of arrival (ETA) of 7:10 a.m. in Nashville. It was a
rule that outbound trains yield the right of way to inbound
trains; therefore Train Number 1 had the right of way.
Each train was crowded with passengers. America was at war
and many of these passengers were in the military or worked
for civilian companies doing business with the government,
such as the Dupont Corporation which had a busy gunpowder
producing facility near Nashville.
Aboard Train Number 4, Mr. William Ferris, a well-known
local businessman stood in the crowded train car. A young
man offered his seat to the elder Mr. Ferris, who thanked
him and politely accepted the chance to sit down.
Nashville resident, Milton Frank, president of the
National Bag Company boarded the crowded train, but could
not find an empty seat in the front cars. He proceeded to
the rear cars to sit down just as the train began to move.
An unknown jewelry salesman boarded the train after
having checked his luggage, a trunk containing a $30,000 inventory.
The trunk, with its valuable contents, was loaded on the mail
and baggage car. He took a seat in one of the rear cars.
Former Confederate soldier, Josiah L. Shaffer boarded
the train with his son-in-law, William Knoch. They
were going out of town on a fishing trip.
As the train started to pull away from the station, S.P.
Dannel, who lived at the Commercial Hotel and was employed
at the alcohol plant in Lyle, Tennessee went to the smoker
car to have a smoke.
Leland Moore seated himself with a friend on one of
the rear cars and was engaged in friendly conversation when
Number 4 started moving out of the station. He had planned
to go to the smoker car for a cigarette, but his friend was
telling a funny story, so he decided to put off the trip to
the smoker for a few minutes.
The experienced engineer of Train Number 4, David Kennedy
pulled his train past the yard tower. At 7:15 a.m, tower operator
J.S. Johnson made a note of Number 4 leaving the yard,
then gave him a green flag, meaning all was clear. But then
Johnson realized that there was no note of Number 1 having
ever arrived and it could very well be closing in on Nashville!
Immediately he ordered an emergency warning whistle to be
sounded, but there wasnt a railroad employee at the
back of the train to hear the whistle.
As the train rumbled along a stretch of double tracks, conductor
J.P. Eubanks of Number 4 was so busy taking tickets
he ordered his subordinates to keep watch for Number 1, which
should have been inbound at just any moment. A small cut of
cars, pulled by a switching engine was mistakenly identified
as Number 1. Mr. Eubanks was too busy to look up to
verify this for himself, he took the word of his workers.
Train Number 1 rumbled across the Tennessee countryside at
near full power. This was to be Engineer William Floyds
last run before retiring. He, like Kennedy, was a respected
engineer with an exemplary safety record. He just wanted to
get this last run safely behind him so he could start enjoying
Aboard Number 1 was eighteen-year-old passenger, George
Scott, who had accepted a job with the Dupont gunpowder
manufacturing facility in Old Hickory, near Nashville. Throughout
his overnight trip, his first time away from home, he had
a feeling that something terrible was going to happen. It
could have been the fact that he had never before traveled
at such a high rate of speed. He couldnt rest, so at
about 6 a.m. he moved to the next following passenger car,
sat down, pulled the shades and waited for the uncertain,
unidentified doom his feelings seemed to have been predicting!
Brakeman Robert D. Corbitt of Train Number 1 was at
his usual position in the locomotive, when he suddenly became
almost overpowered with the need to see the back of the train!
He left the locomotive and started making his way toward the
end of the train to see if there was anything unusual there
to be found. The remainder of his life he would wonder what
it was that made him check it at that exact time.
Number 4 came to the end of the double tracks at Shops and
set out along the single track that ran for approximately
ten miles. Engineer Kennedy applied more power, hoping to
make up for the lost time. Meanwhile, Number 1 was already
on the single track from the opposite direction! Ahead of
them lay Dutchmans Curve! Neither engineer could see
around the curve.