WRECK OF 1256
On that cold and dark cloudy evening,
Just before the close of the day,
There came Harry Lisle and Dillard,
And with Anderson they rolled away.
From Clifton Forge they started,
And their spirits were running high,
As they stopped at Iron Gate and waited
Till Old Number Nine went by.
On the main line once more they started
Down the James River so dark and drear,
And they gave no thought to the danger
Or the death that was waiting so near.
They were gay, and they joked with each other
As they sped on their way side by side,
And the old engine rocked as she traveled
Through the night on that fast fatal ride.
In an instant the story was ended,
On her side in that cold river bed,
With poor Harry Lisle in the cabin,
With a deep fatal wound in his head.
Railroad men you should all take warning
From the fate that befell this young man.
Don’t forget that the step is a short one
From this earth to the sweet Promised Land.
Researcher Paul Shue interviewed Sidney Dillard, the locomotive fireman, 45
years after the derailment
of the 1256 along the James River in 1925. Dillard recalled the weather was cold
and snowy the evening
the train left Clifton Forge, traveling downstream along the river. At the
community of Iron Gate,
just outside of Clifton Forge, the 1256 pulled onto a siding to allow a
westbound passenger train to pass,
then proceeded on toward Richmond. Further down the line the 1256 rounded a
curve and ran upon a rock slide
which had buried the tracks just after the passenger train had traveled the
same stretch. The locomotive
left the tracks and rolled into the river. Dillard and the engineer, Sam
Anderson, made it to safety, but
the brakeman was killed.
"The Wreck of the 1256" was written by Carson Robison, a Kansas-born songwriter
and performer whose career
in country music spanned four decades. Robison was extremely successful at
writing songs for the
country-music market, and event songs were a specialty. He wrote his ballads
from newspaper accounts,
and "The Wreck of 1256" was recorded by Vernon Dalhart just nine months after
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