Wreck of the 1262, The (The Freight Wreck at Altoona)
DESCRIPTION: Freight train 1262 is heading down the mountain when the air brakes fail. The brakeman tightens the brakes by hand, but the train still crashes; engineer and fireman are killed. Listeners are urged to be prepared, for "you cannot tell when He'll call"
AUTHOR: Words: Fred Tait-Douglas/Music: Carson J. Robison
EARLIEST DATE: 1926 (recordings, Vernon Dalhart)
LONG DESCRIPTION: Freight train 1262 is heading down the mountain when the engineer sounds the whistle; the air brakes have failed. The brakeman climbs out on the car tops and tightens the brakes by hand, but the train continues to accelerate. It crashes; the engineer and fireman are killed. Listeners are urged to always be prepared, for "you cannot tell when He'll call"
KEYWORDS: warning train death railroading work crash disaster wreck worker
Nov 29, 1925 - Freight #1262 crashes near Altoona, PA, apparently due to defective air brakes
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Cohen-LSRail, pp. 243-246, "The Freight Wreck at Altoone/The Wreck of the 1262" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS1, pp. 158-159, "Altoona Freight Wreck" (1 text)
Cambiaire, pp. 64-65, "The Wreck at Latona" (1 text)
Vernon Dalhart, "Freight Wreck at Altoona" (Victor 19999, 1926) (Columbia 15065-D [as Al Craver], 1926) (Radiex 4172 [as Jeff Calhoun], 1928; Sunrise 33056, 1929) (Herwin 75524, late 1920s) (CYL: Edison [BA] 5122, c. 1926)
Red River Dave, "Altoona Freight Wreck" (Musicraft 288, 1944)
Riley Puckett, "Altoona Freight Wreck" (Decca 5455, 1937)
NOTES: This comes pretty close to live journalism: The accident took place in late November 1925, and Dalhart was in the studio recording the result on January 15, 1926.
The REALLY strange part is, Cambiaire's head notes report of it, "Source: Edison Brown, who found it in old papers at his home in East Tennessee. This ballad has been sung for many years in the Cumberland Mountains." Sure, he calls the wreck site "Latona," but it's engine 1262, as in the commercial versions of the song. It looks as if either Cambiaire or Brown was tricked.
Altoona is a very interesting place for trains and train enthusiasts. The "Horseshoe Curve," built in the 1850s, was considered a major engineering feat at the time and is now an historical monument -- and it's steep (2375 feet/724 meters long, with a slope of 91 feet to the mile/17 meters to the kilometer). It's enough of a landmark to show up, e.g., in Webster's Geographical Dictionary. It looks almost like a hairpin, with a lake in the middle of the pin. It must be a really interesting region to drive a train.... - RBW
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