Traditional, from Joan Baez, Michael Nesmith

Along came the F.F.V.
The swiftest on the line
She was runnin' down the C&O road
Just twenty-five minutes behind

Runnin' into Sewall
The headquarters on the line
And receivin' very strict orders
From the station right behind

Georgie's mother came to him
Her bucket on her arm
And she said, "My darlin' son,
Be careful how you run,

There's many a man that's lost his life
Just tryin' to make lost time.
But if you run your engine right
You'll get there right on time."

Up the tracks she darted
And into a rock she crashed
Upside down the engine turned
And poor Georgie's head was smashed

His head lay 'gainst the firebox door
And the flames were runnin' high
And he said, "I'm proud to be born for an engineer
With C&O road to die."

The doctor said to Georgie,
"My darlin' boy, be still.
Your life may yet be saved
If it is God's precious will."

"Oh no," cried he, "That will not do.
I'd rather die so free.
I want to die for the engine I love:
One hundred and forty-three."

The doctor said to Georgie,
"Your life cannot be saved."
He was murdered on a railway
And laid in a lonesome grave

And his eyes were covered up with blood
And his eyes they could not see
So the very last words poor Georgie cried
Were, "Nearer my God to thee."

This folk song, also known as "Engine 143" and "The Wreck On The C&O",
is based on the events of 23 Oct 1890, when a landslide 3 miles
east of Hinton, West Virginia caused a trainwreck.

The best-known recording of "Engine 143" is by the Carter Family.


The Wreck on the C & O

This ballad, like that of "John Hardy", was made in West Virginia. Ten variants
have been found, all very much alike. The facts out of which the song grew
were obtained from Miss Margaret Alley and Mr. Ernest N. Alley, Alderson, West
Virginia, sister and brother of George Alley, the man killed in the wreck, and
from Mr. R.E. Noel Hinton, formerly an engineer on the Chesapeake and Ohio

George Alley was born in Richmond, Virginia, July 10, 1860, was married and had
four children. The wreck on the C & O in which he was killed occurred at
5:40 A.M., October 23, 1890. He was running train No. 4, the F.F.V. (Fast Flying
Vestibule), engine No. 134. He lived five hours after being hurt. The wreck
occurred three miles east of Hinton, and was caused by a landslide. Lewis Withrow,
the regular fireman, was firing the engine. He had been "laying off," but, on the
morning of the wreck, took his run back at Hinton.

Jack Dickinson was not on the engine, but Robert Foster was. He had been working
in Withrow's place, and his run being out of Clifton Forge, he was deadheading
back home that morning. Neither he nor Withrow jumped into the New River: he went
out of the window on the left side of the engine, that being the side away from
the river, and Withrow went out of the gangway on the same side. The engine
turned over on the opposite side, that is, toward the river. Withrow was badly
hurt and for a long time it was thought he would not live.

George Alley was six feet tall, weighed about 170 pounds, had a dark complexion,
black eyes and straight black hair. At the time of the wreck his home was at
Clinton Forge. The ballad and the facts agree as follows: (1) The F.F.V., train
No.4, was running east on the C & O Railroad, was wrecked near Hinton by a
landslide. (2) The regular engineer, George Alley, was killed. (3) The fireman
saved his life by jumping from the engine.

As in "John Hardy," certain fundamental facts are retained, but the details are
entirely untrustworthy.

(Folk Songs of the South edited by John Harrington Cox)

Along came the F.F.V., the fastest on the line,
Came running o'er the C & O Road, just twenty minutes behind;
Came running into Sewell, lies quartered on the line,
And then received strict orders for Hinton, away behind.

Many a man's been murdered by the railroad,
By the railroad, by the railroad; (Chorus)
Many a man's been murdered by the railroad,
And is sleeping in his lonesome grave

When she got to Hinton, her engineer was there,
Georgie Allen was his name, with blue eyes and curly hair;
His fireman, Jack Dickinson, was standing by his side,
Waiting for his orders, and in his cab to ride.

Georgie's mother came to him with a basket on her arm,
Saying, "Now, my darling son, be careful how you run;
For many a man has lost his life trying to gain lost time,
And if you run your engine right, you'll get there yet on time."

Georgie said to his pal, "Jack, just a little more steam;
I mean to pull old No. 4 the fastest ever seen;
And o'er this road I mean to fly with a speed unknown to all,
And when I blow for the Stock Yard Gate, they will surely hear my call."

Georgie said to his pal, "Jack, a rock ahead I see;
I know that death is waiting to grasp both you and me;
So from this cab you must fly, your darling life to save,
For I want you to be an engineer when I am sleeping in my grave."

Up the road she darted; against the rock she crashed;
Upside down the engine turned, upon his breast it crashed;
His head upon the firebox door, the burning flames rolled o'er;
"I'm glad I was born an engineer to die on the C & O Road."

Georgie's mother came to him, "My Son what have you done?"
"Too late, too late my doom is almost run."
The doctor said to Georgie, "My son, you must lie still;
Your precious life may yet be saved, if it be God's holy will."

"O no, doctor, O no! I want to die so free;
I want to die with my engine, old 143."
His last words were, "Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee."

(This version contributed by Mr. John B. Adkins
April 1, 1916)