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The Day the Whistles Cried the Great Cornfield Meet at Dutchman's Curve

Thorpe, Betsy

5 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1628800402 / ISBN 13: 9781628800401
Published by Ideals Into Books WESTVIEW, Kingston Springs, TN, 2014
Condition: VG+ Soft cover
From K. L. Givens Books (Bella Vista, AR, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Book ia a trade size paperback with photo of a two train collision on the cover. Book has very light edge wear. Book is SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR on the title page. The tragic story of America's deadliest train wreck that occurred in Tennessee. Book has black and white photos. 235 pages. Bookseller Inventory # 012121

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Day the Whistles Cried the Great ...

Publisher: Ideals Into Books WESTVIEW, Kingston Springs, TN

Publication Date: 2014

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:VG+

Dust Jacket Condition: No Jacket as Issued

Signed: Signed By Author

Edition: First Edition

About this title


People are drawn to legendary disaster stories such as that of the Titanic, seeking hope and heroism among the wreckage. The Day The Whistles Cried is a true disaster tale, filled with real people and their lives. Reading about America's worst train wreck is opening a window into Time. Two steam locomotives collide head-on in a cornfield at the edge of Nashville on July 9, 1918, taking the lives of more than a hundred people and injuring at least 300 others. This tragic tale, set against a backdrop of wartime urgency and human error, unfolds in the midst of the racial and societal divisions of the early twentieth century. Segregation and cultural mores helped decide who would perish and who would survive this cataclysmic event, resulting in a book that is more than fact: a riveting story of decided historical impact. The Day the Whistles Cried reveals the railroad system in action in its heyday. Romance and adventure, systems and rules, architecture and machinery. Its sub-culture was intrinsic to America's economy and people.

From the Author:

July 9th, 2008 was my big day. It was the ninetieth anniversary of the worst train wreck in U.S. history. It was also the day that the Dutchman's Curve Train Wreck marker, Metro Nashville Historical Marker #128, was dedicated.
I'd worked for more than a year to have the marker erected, and had arrived at the site early that morning to prepare. Establishing a historical marker is an unusual achievement, especially for someone like me, and as I lingered near the marker, I read the words stamped in granite and reflected on the journey that brought me to that day. 
I've earned my share of titles throughout the course of my life: daughter, sister, hippie, wife, mommy, waitress, grandma, and widow are all nouns which have been used to describe me. I gained those names naturally. Each evolved from the ones that came before, and I recognized myself in each of them.
But that morning, as I anxiously waited for the ceremony to begin, I learned that I'd earned a new title, a name that was unrelated to any persona I'd ever used. I first heard it when a young man called out to me. He was a newspaper reporter from Memphis, and he took me by surprise. I must have been thinking quickly that morning, because it took less than a moment for me to respond and step into my new identity.  What the heck, I thought, as I reached out to shake his hand. "Yes, I'm Betsy Thorpe, the Train Wreck Lady, and I'll be happy to talk to you about Dutchman's Curve.                                                                              
Whenever I'm asked about the train wreck, I like to begin by explaining that to me, the story is more than the tale of two steam locomotives colliding head-on in a West Nashville cornfield. The story encompasses the history of a specific place. It opens long before events on the 1918 home front propelled wartime efforts into action and set the stage for the accident to occur. It starts even before the early days of railroading, when the set of tracks known as Dutchman's Curve were first laid. The story goes back to the beginning of Nashville's recorded history. The story is fluid. It moves forward, across time. It flows through the day of the wreck, on past the immediate aftermath, and through the years that followed.  The story spans the decades between then and now, and includes the present as it continues to unfold before me. 
I first learned of the train wreck while reading a book about the history of my Nashville neighborhood. It wasn't unusual for me to be reading up on local history; I have a keen interest in past events, and I've investigated the history of just about every community I've ever lived in. When I walk through the streets of my neighborhood, I want to know who walked there before me. I want to follow their ghostly footsteps and wander through the world they knew. 
I was about nine years old when I discovered my affinity for people and times long gone. One day during the summer of 1964, my grandma and I hiked to an abandoned house to dig for glass bottles and other antique treasures. It was the first time she'd taken me up the mountain, and we left right after breakfast, leaving my two brothers and all my boy cousins behind. At that time, my grandparents lived in a ramshackle house on Hard Scrabble Road, a tarred thoroughfare that wound through a forested valley, just a few miles past the logging town of Drain, Oregon.
It took us more than an hour to reach the house that morning, and as we made our steep climb, my grandma told me stories about the people who once lived there. My grandparents' landlord, ole Mr. Haines, was a widow-man. His late wife, ole Mrs. Haines, had been born in the house on the land my grandparents' house now sat on, and stretches of Hard Scrabble Road were once part of her family homestead. My grandma knew how to spin a tale, and by the time we reached the first fallen outbuilding and passed the remnants of a hay barn, my imagination was live and I could see the place as a working farm, the way it was when Mrs. Haines was a little girl.
   Looking back on that day, I can now say that I think my grandma was a little envious of her. Mrs. Haines had lived her life out on her family home place, and when she died, she was buried in a plot near her people. Like Mrs. Haines, my grandma was also born on a homestead, but hers was in Kentucky, and her Papa took her from there when she was a little girl. Although she descended from one of western Kentucky's earliest settler families, she spent the next two decades moving around between Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi. During that time, she married my grandfather. It was right after the birth of their sixth child, and after spending years as Mississippi sharecroppers, that my grandparents moved their family out west. They followed two of my grandma's younger brothers all the way to Oregon, where they'd settled after completing duty there with Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps. My grandma spent the rest of her days in Oregon, and although she enjoyed a good life there, she never forgot her childhood home. I believe she always wished her Papa had never taken her out of Kentucky. 
    I don't remember for sure what all my grandma said that morning as we followed a set of wagon ruts up to the house. What I do recall is the hum of bees buzzing around my ears, and that we walked through a patch of brush and discovered an overgrown blackberry thicket. I know that she was telling me something when we stopped to pick a handful of ripe berries, because that's when the history of that mountainside overcame me. Surrounded by briars and lulled by the quiet mountain, my senses followed her voice back through time. I settled into a new awareness, mesmerized by the rhythm of her Southern speech and absorbed in her old-timey expressions.
    Ever since that morning on the mountain, I've had an enhanced perception of time. Since that day, my view of most places I've chanced upon have included either an imaginative or a studied peek into its past. It was that day, as I followed my grandma's voice on a journey through the past, that I took my first steps toward Dutchman's Curve.
This book that you are about to read is my imaginative look into the facts of July 9th 1918, the day the whistles cried; one of the saddest days that Nashville, Tennessee, has ever seen. 

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