Apropos of nearly nothing, a brief from the June 22, 1908, edition of The New York Times:
Umpire Assaulted and His Leg Broken
Two nines, one composed of Americans, the other of Italians, engaged in a game of baseball yesterday at Colden and Brunswick Streets, Jersey City. The umpire was Pasquale Carlo, 19 years old, of 173 Fifth Street. He gave a decision that did not suit the American players and several of them attacked him. He was knocked down and his left leg was broken. The police were summoned, but by the time they arrived the ball players had dispersed. Carlo was taken to the City Hospital.
What I was really fishing for when I came across that was information about old train wrecks that have served as fodder for folk ballads; especially ballads with train or engine numbers in the title. “Engine 143,” for instance (a song I remember hearing Joan Baez sing on her second album, not too long after steam locomotives were retired). “The Wreck of the 1256,” which is reminiscent of “Engine 143.” “The Wreck of the No. 9” And especially, “The Wreck of Old 97,” which I heard again while I was looking recently for train songs. (If you’re interested in the history of these songs, there is a definitive history and guide: “Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong,” by Norm Cohen.)
You know “Old 97.” The most commonly sung lyrics:
They gave him his orders at Monroe, Virginia,
Saying, “Stevie, you’re way behind time.
This is not 38, but it’s Old 97,
You must put her into Spencer on time.”
He looked ’round and said to his black greasy fireman
“Just shovel in a little more coal,
And when I cross that old White Oak Mountain
You can just watch Old 97 roll.”
It’s a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville,
And the lie was a three-mile grade,
It was on that grade that he lost his air brakes,
And you see what a jump that she made.
He was going down the grade making 90 miles an hour,
When his whistle began to scream,
He was found in that wreck with his hand on the throttle,
He was scalded to death by the steam.
What I didn’t realize was that “Old 97” is based on an actual 1903 wreck just outside Danville, Virginia. There’s a nice writeup on it, complete with contemporary news accounts, here: Blue Ridge Institute and Museum: The Wreck of the Old 97.” As the Wikipedia article on the song notes, a copyright dispute over the ballad’s authorship wound up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
And yes, you should see what a jump she, and/or he, made.