Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

“There’s a girl from Tennessee, she’s long and she’s tall. . . .”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on September 5, 2014

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Many years ago, Alan Lomax recorded the legend of the Wabash Cannonball, a sort of Flying Dutchman of American railroading:

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The youngest of the Bunyan boys, Cal S. Bunyan, built the most wondrous railroad in the world; the Ireland Jerusalem, Australian, and Southern Michigan Line. It took the largest steel mill in the country two years, said Swede Hedquist, operating on a schedule of a thirty-six-hour day and a nine-day week to produce one rail for Cal. Each tie was made from an entire redwood tree The train had seven hundred cars. It was so long that the conductor rode on a twin-cylinder, super-deluxe motorcycle to check tickets. He punched each ticket by shooting holes through it with a .45 calibre automatic. The train went so fast that after it was brought to a dead stop it was still making sixty-five miles an hour. After two months of service, the schedule had been speeded up, so that the train arrived at its destination an hour before it left its starting point.
 
One day Cal said to the engineer, “Give her all the snuss she’s got.” That was the end of the I.J.A. & S.M. Railroad. The trains traveled so fast that the friction melted the steel rails and burned the ties to ashes. . . . When it reached the top of the grade, the engine took off just like an airplane and carried itself and the seven hundred cars so far into the stratosphere that the law of gravity quit working. That was years and years ago, but the I.J.A. & S.M. is still rushing through space, probably making overnight jumps between the stars, by Jupiter!

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This particular video is a wonderful bit of stagecraft, opening with a 1940 clip of Roy Acuff performing the song in the film Grand Old Opry, which transitions into a video clip from the Opry in 1973, which then transitions into a live performance, led by Ketch Secor and Old Crow Medicine Show. Grand Ole Opry members joining them on stage include Bobby Osborne, Marty Stuart and Connie Smith, Clint Black, Ricky Skaggs, and Riders in the Sky, among many others.

Lotta talent on that stage, right there.

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