The Wreck of the Old No. 97

No.97 Wreckage



Of Those Who Met Death, All Were Trainmen or Mailmen — Nearly Everyone on the Train Was Either Killed or Injured.

Fast mail train No. 97 on the Southern Railway jumped the track near Danville, Va., Sunday afternoon, killing nine men and injuring seven.

The following are the names of the known dead:
James A. Brodie, engineer, Statesville, N.C.; J. Thomas Blair, conductor, Central, N.C.; John L. Thompson, postal clerk, Washington D.C.; W.N. Chambers, postal clerk, Washington D.C.; mail clerk in charge, name not yet learned; Clarence White, Statesville, N.C.; D.T. Flory, Nokesville, Va., postal clerk; P.N. Ardenwright, Mt. Clinton, Va.; postal clerk; a flagman and a brakeman, names unknown.

All the injured men are seriously hurt. There were eighteen persons on the train.

The trestle where the accident occurred is 500 feet long, and is located on a sharp curve. Engineer Brodie was a new man on that division of the Southern and it is said he came to the curve at a very high rate of speed.

The engine had gone only about fifty feet on the trestle when it sprang from the track, carrying with it five mail cars and an express car. The trestle, a wooden structure, also gave way for a space of fifty feet.

At the foot of the trestle is a shallow stream with a rocky bottom. Striking this the engine and the cars were reduced to a mass of twisted iron and steel and pieces of splintered wood. As the cars went down they touched the sides of the Riverside cotton mill, which is very close to the trestle.

A great crowd of people was soon at the scene of the wreck. No one on any of the cars had made an effort to jump, and the bodies of all those killed and injured were found in the wreckage of the different cars to which they belonged.

All unofficial opinions that have been ascertained agree in giving only one cause for the wreck, the high speed of the train on the sharp curve.

Carroll Sentinel (Carroll, Iowa) Sep 29, 1903


Terrible Disaster on the Southern Near Danville, Va. — The Post Mail Goes Over a Trestle — Four Cars Wrecked, Nine Killed and Seven Injured.

Danville, Va., Special, 27th, to Charlotte Observer.

No. 97, the Southern Railway’s fast mail, plying between New York and New Orleans, plunged over a trestle north of this city this afternoon, killing nine men, injuring seven others and completely wrecking three mail cars and one express car.

The killed are:

J.L. Thomspon, railway mail clerk, of Roxboro, N.C.; W.S. Chambers, railway mail clerk, of Midland, Va.; D.P. Flory, railway mail clerk, of Nokesville, Va.; P.M. Argenbright, railway mail clerk, of Mt. Clinton, Va.; J.A. Broady, engineer, of Placerville, Va.; J.T. Blair, conductor, of Spencer, N.C.; A.G. Clapp, of Greensboro; Flagman S.J. Moody, of Raleigh, N.C.; a 12 year-old son of J.L. Thompson.

The injured are: Lewis W. Spies, of Manassas; Percival Indenmauer, of Washington; Chas. E. Reames, of Charlottesville; Jennings J. Dunlap, of Norwood, N.C.; N.C. Maupin, of Charlottesville; J. Harrison Thompson, of St. Luke.

All of the above are railway mail clerks. It is said that this is the first time that Engineer Broady ever ran a mail train and the supposition is that he was running too fast and was not entirely familiar with his road-bed.

The wreck occurred on a steep grade, the latter embracing the trestle, which is in the shape of the letter “S.” The train was probably running at a rate of between 50 and 60 miles an hour when the engine left the track. The train ran some distance on the crossties, plunging over the trestle at a tangent, when the engine was about half way across.

The engine and all of the cars fell 75 feet to the water below. The last car tore up a considerable section of the trestle. The engine struck and was buried in the bed of the creek. The cars piled on top of the engine, all of them being split into kindling wood. The engineer was found some distance from his cab, horribly mangled and dead. All of the bodies save one have been recovered.

The train carried nothing but mail and express. The mail was not much damaged, considering the extent of the wreck. Some loose registered letters and the valuables of the dead men have been recovered. The express matter was considerably injured.

Among the express consignments were a number of crates containing canary birds. The birds were not hurt and were singing when taken from the wrecked cars.

Two small boys, names unknown, were playing under the trestle when the wreck occurred. They were thrown down and injured, but not seriously.

A woman, in a delicate condition of health, witnessed the wreck from her chamber window. She fell to the floor unconscious and it is not believed that she will live.

The mail coaches were taken in charge by R.B. Boulding, a clerk who spends his Sundays in this city. He arrived on a train within half an hour after the disaster. Mail clerks were sent on special trains from Richmond, Charlotteville and Greensboro, N.C., to assist in rescuing the government property.

The wreck itself beggars description. All of the cars are battered into kindling wood and the engine is buried in the mud of the creek. A wrecking crew is laboring to remove the debris so that the trestle can be repaired for the continuance of traffic at as early an hour as possible tomorrow.

All of the injured mail clerks were taken to the Home of the Sick in this city, where they received medical attention.

At a late hour it was learned that Lewis W. Spies is in a critical condition and will probably not live through the night.

The other victims may recover, although the physicians can give out no definite information as to their condition. One man, name unknown, is still in the wreck. He can be seen, but the debris under which he is lying has not been removed.

Express Messenger W.F. Pinckney escaped injury.

Landmark, The (Statesville, North Carolina) Sep 29, 1903


At the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum website:

Song “Wreck of the Old 97” Lyrics and Audio

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