Re: [Harp-L] Freight Train Boogie (was Doc Watson)

Ok.  I am going to get a little pedantic, for the moment.  The term
"driver" is way more interesting than that.  The railroad engineer driving
the locomotive is the "driver".  However, the locomotive has driving wheels
and a driving arm that drives those wheels together.  To call a locomotive
an "eight wheel driver" is descriptive, like calling a riverboat a
"stern-wheeler" or a "side-wheeler".  It tells you about the vessel.

The song, in referencing the locomotive as an "eight wheel driver", is
telling you that Casey Jones liked to drive a powerful locomotive with
eight driving wheels.  Apparently, his favorite engine #638 was a "big
eight wheeler" (2-8-0 or 2 pilot wheels, 8 drivers, and no following

Casey Jones died in 1900 on a friend's favorite "big ten wheeler" (4-6-0),
#382, doing a run called the "Cannonball Express" connecting Memphis, Tn.,
and Canton, Ms.  His friend was sick and couldn't make the run.  Casey had
come off of a long run already, but agreed to take his friend's run, too,
even though it was an hour and a half late already.  He had almost made up
the lost time and finished the run, but the upcoming station had left cars
in his way on the main track and he had no choice but to crash into
them.  Apparently, they were overloaded at that spot with trains too long
for the by-pass track and were maneuvering those trains back and forth to
move the cars overflowing onto the main track out of the way of the trains
passing on the main track.  As they tried to move the cars out of Casey
Jones' way, an air line broke and stranded the end cars of one of the
trains on the main track in Casey Jones' way.  He and his fireman set the
engine to stop as well as they could and Jone's set his fireman off to
safety.  Jones' died preserving the hundred lives riding in the cars of his
train.  He was the only fatality of the event.

As for "six eight wheeler" or "six to eight wheeler" or "sixty eight
wheeler" (as I have heard it differently by different people), some appear
to think that this is actually a reference to the size of the wheels, which
were 68-69 inches.  It isn't an actual railroader reference.  However, the
verse in this song that uses it could actually be interpretted as
ambiguously referencing both of the engines for which he was known -- his
favorite "eight wheel driver" and the "ten wheeler" on which he died, which
had six actual drivers (4-6-0) -- as in "six or eight wheeler" or "sixty
eight wheeler" "that was flat to the ground" (going really fast).  There is
obviously room for intrepretation since this verse also refers to a bell
being rung by the fireman to alert everyone that Casey Jones was coming,
and Casey Jones was actually known by a particular steam whistle pattern
that was said to resemble a whipporwhill call.

In any case, it is a fun song to sing and it has a great story to go with
it about a man who gave his life to save many others while striving to
excel in his service to his employer and customers.


On Thu, Apr 26, 2012 at 8:14 AM, <captron100@xxxxxxx> wrote:

> Rick wrote:  One thing I noticed in Doc's version is that he says 'big
> eight wheeler', which
> is what I always sang, but only because the Delmore's sound like they're
> singing 'six eight wheeler'
> The correct lyric is "eight wheel driver".  A driver is the locomotive.
> Here's the Delmore Bros.:
> ron

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.