Monday, May 1, 2017

A Train Story from Screven in Wayne County

Railroad history was made on Screven's tracks in March 1901 in an event that still holds forth in railroad lore. The Spanish–American War had ended, but occupation troops were to remain in Cuba until 1902. Post Office Department officials, realizing the need for faster mail service, had begun drawing up a contract to award to either the Plant System (then known as the Savannah, Florida and Western) or the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, both of which operated south of the ACL termination point of Charleston, South Carolina. The Havana mail would depart from Jacksonville. Actually, Seaboard was favored because of her more direct route. The Plant Road detoured over 30 miles from Savannah to Waycross then to Jacksonville. And it was Jacksonville where the steam packet to Havana waited to load the mail. Both trains left Union Station in Savannah at 3:00 a.m. The SF&W's route was a longer one since it traveled through Jesup, Screven, and Waycross before cutting over southwest to Folkston to travel on to Jacksonville. Twelve miles out of Savannah, the SF&W’s engines ran hot. After one attempt at repairing the engine failed, Engineer Albert Lodge made the decision to switch engines and start again making it from Fleming to Jesup in less than 33 minutes. Knowing he must make up an hour of time if they were to have a shot at the mail contract, Lodge ripped out of Jesup on Number 111 and made 11 miles in 9 minutes. More speed was added and the train traveled five miles in two and a half minutes – she was traveling at 120 miles per hour when she passed through the town of Screven and approached the Little Satilla Bridge. Dispatcher D. S. McClellan is quoted as saying, "I shall never forget the things that passed through my mind as this train reached the top of a little hill just south of Screven and started slowing down for the fill for the Satilla River. There is a little curve just after passing over the river, and I wondered if the engine were going to take that curve or if it were going to take to the woods." When the train came into Waycross, the crew figured they had come the 40 miles from Jesup in 28 minutes. The stop in Waycross completed, the train headed south to Racepond and arrived in Folkston in 25 minutes. Engine 111 arrived in Jacksonville at 6:31. The men had traveled faster than any other and their record would stay unequaled until 1934; to date, it has never been beaten. Info from

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