Saturday, September 24, 2011

Capturing a Locomotive A History of Secret Service in the Late War by William Pittenger

One of my favorite movies, which I have watched many times, is “The General,” starring Buster Keaton and a locomotive.  It was based on a true story of the American Civil War.  We might call it a “train-jacking” nowadays.

It is a durable and fantastic tale that Disney also made as a movie, much truer to life, “The Great Locomotive Chase.”

Capturing a Locomotive A History of Secret Service in the Late War by William Pittenger published in 1881 must have been heavily relied on for both films. (US Edition) (UK Edition)

In telling the story all fictitious embellishments have been rejected. No pains have been spared to ascertain the exact truth, and the reader will find names, dates, and localities so fully given that it will be easy to verify the prominent features of the account.

In narrating those events which fell under his own eye, the writer has waived all scruples of delicacy, and used the first personal pronoun. This is far more simple and direct, while an opposite course would have savored of affectation.

Scruples of delicacy?  Maybe I had better shift to third person!

William A. Fuller, conductor, Anthony Murphy, manager of the State railroad shops at Atlanta, and Jefferson Cain, engineer, stepped off their locomotive, leaving it unguarded save by the surrounding sentinels, and in perfect confidence took their seats at the breakfast-table at Big Shanty. But before they had tasted a morsel of food the quick ear of Murphy, who was seated with his back towards the window, caught the sound of escaping steam, and he exclaimed, "Fuller, who's moving your train?" Almost simultaneously the latter, who was somewhat of a ladies' man, and was bestowing polite attentions upon two or three fair passengers, saw the same movement, and sprang up, shouting, "Somebody's running off with our train!" No breakfast was eaten then. Everybody rushed through the door to the platform. The train was then fully under way, just sweeping out of sight around the first curve. With quick decision Fuller shouted to Murphy and Cain, "Come on!" and started at a full run after the flying train! This attempt to run down and catch a locomotive by a foot-race seemed so absurd that as the three, at the top of their speed, passed around the same curve, they were greeted with loud laughter and ironical cheers by the excited multitude. To all appearances it was a foolish and hopeless chase.

But the chase does not end here . . .

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1 comment:

  1. It was almost frustrating hearing all of their bad luck. Loved it, cheers Marilyn.


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