|(I would like to thank John Ascher for
writing his book. It has been a great reference for my website.)
The Louisville & Nashville Railroad train had picked up speed
through the mountains but wasn't running as smoothly as it had in
flatter country. The men, sleeping or preparing for bed, knew the
train was behind schedule. But they still thought it was going too
fast. That's when they heard the crack.
And seconds later, the train was ripped in half. The engine, tender
and four cars plunged 50 feet below. Twelve died instantly.
Many more died in the next few days.
It was the troop train wreck of July 6, 1944, the nation's second
worse train disaster during World War II.
Think of the absolute worst place in the world for a train wreck,
and you'll have a picture of the Jellico Narrows in Campbell County,
Tennessee. (It looks like something out of a model train layout.)
The gorge cuts down 50 feet to the Clear Fork River, a rocky and
shallow current capped in white. Limestone, peppered with trees and
scrub and mud, line the descent. A road follows the gorge up above
on one side, with the train tracks on the other side. The tracks
occasionally dart through tunnels or veer off away from the gorge.
But where the wreck occurred, the tracks are right on top of the
It is reported that 1,006 fresh recruits were on the train headed to
"points South" the destination was classified because of the war.
The recruits, having finished basic training, were on their way to
their first assignment to an Army unit at Fort Benning in Georgia.
The train stopped in Corbin, Ky. before starting through the
mountains at Jellico, near the Kentucky-Tennessee border.
The relief engineer was supposed to take over at Corbin, but he
never showed up. The first engineer, Lyle Rollins, was reportedly
angry about having to continue with the train.
"He was very mad and possibly under the influence of alcohol," a
witness was quoted. In addition to the engineer's condition, a steep
grade before the Narrows gave trains a boost of speed. Thanks to the
engineer and the grade, the train was speeding by the time it
reached the Narrows first sharp curve.
Dave Harkness, then principal of Jellico High School, recalled that
a soldier told him, "One of the fellows on the train said we could
never make it, then we just went off and the cars piled up."
The river was a jumble of twisted metal, smoke, flames, steam and
When the locomotive plunged over the side of the gorge, it took with
it its tender and four cars. The kitchen and baggage cars burned,
and two coach cars turned over and burned at the gorges brink.
The engineer and others died because they were pinned underwater.
Others burned to death from the steam. Some bodies were trapped
under the cars, other bodies laid-out over the flat rocks. Some
survivors had to cross the river barefoot and stood there shivering.
Those pinned were screaming.
"When we got there it was just an awful mess," a local resident
recalled years later. Leo Lobertini was one of the first on the
scene. He and his brother took their truck to the wreck, picking up
as many miners as would fit in the truck.
Dr. Ned C. Watts didn't know the wreck had occurred until "a young
man wearing only underwear briefs who was shouting" flagged him
down. Watts hospital had only one phone, so staff went to
neighboring houses to call other doctors only to discover that Watts
was the only doctor available. He spent several hours as the lone
doctor at the wreck.
The rescue effort was a shoestring affair. Hundreds of Campbell
County residents flocked to the scene to help. They made the first
rescues, using block and tackle slings to hoist the wounded up the
side of the gorge to the road. It often took up to ten men to hoist
a body up to the road. Some brought welding torches to free the
A trucker who was passing through stopped to take a load of injured
soldiers to the hospital. He came back and took several more loads.
Volunteers continued to comb the river for dead and wounded.
Later in the night, doctors from nearby towns Corbin, Lafollette,
Middlesboro and Williamsburg joined Watts. They went from car to car
giving morphine injections to the trapped men. One soldier received
plasma transfusions. Many soldiers, their faces bleeding and dirty,
waited for their more seriously injured comrades to be taken away
before they received care themselves.
The ambulances joined the rescue effort two hours after the train
derailed. They waited at the road for the injured and took them to
hospitals in five nearby towns.
Early the next morning, an Army major arrived to take over leading
the rescue effort. But the county's work was just beginning. Most of
the injured had been rescued by midnight, but there were still dead
to be recovered and wounded to look after.
That morning, more organized efforts were put in place. Boy Scouts
went door to door collecting shoes, clothes and sheets for the
soldiers. Red Cross units served food on the Jellico hospitals lawn.
A local restaurant closed in order to assist in preparing the food.
Assembly lines were set up to make sandwiches, and local volunteers
transported the food to the rescue site. Local groceries were
emptied of bread.
Some help was not as organized. Many residents took in soldiers for
the night, giving them food, a place to bathe and a place to sleep.
The volunteers who had worked all night carrying the bodies out of
the gorge eventually built a makeshift dam to lower the water level
to retrieve bodies. They continued to work through the next three
In all, 34 men died in the wreck and 75 were injured (some survivors
went on to fight in North Africa, according to Watts). The wreck
received scant national press at the time (the New York Times, for
instance, ran three short stories). There used to be a historical
marker at the wreck's site, but that has been stolen. In 1993,
Jellico area residents paid for a monument in downtown Jellico. The
unobtrusive granite block lists the names of all those who died in
the wreck, along with Jellico's other losses from war.
But the people who really remember the wreck are those who saw it
and heard it.
Jim Tidwell, chairman of the organization that built the monument
and a participant in the rescue effort, wrote a letter to the editor
of the Jellico newspaper in which he described what he would
remember when he thinks of the wreck:
"I will see the troop train casualties stretched out on the rocks in
the Clear Fork River and hear the ambulances once again as they
wailed out screams, carrying the injured to the Jellico Hospital. I
will see the engineer who was pinned under water with his hair
waving at the surface. I will see a soldier who was finally freed
from the wreck after several hours, sit down on a rock in the river,
ask for a cigarette and then die. I will see the doctors working
from coach to coach injecting morphine to ease the pain of those
(Tidwell has since passed away.)
Corbin Times Tribune, Corbin, KY, 21 Feb 1975
Heads Or Tales
Like No Other Name
by Gene Siler
Windom Quinn lives on Meadow Creek.
No other name like this can be found anywhere from Dan to Beersheba
so far as I know. It's not like Andy Faulkner or Jim Lawson or Bill
Siler, you see.
So I didn't know what to make of this man or his name until he told
me he married Edith Siler and his mother was a Rollins from Meadow
Creek. After that I began to feel close kin to Windom.
Then I said, "Yes I will be up to your place to see you." And today
I redeemed that promise.
They live in a house "about 100 years old" and underneath its smooth
white exterior are logs hewn by pioneer Whitley County citizens
long, long ago.
Proprietor and owner of the place is Roy Rollins, who "will be 84
tomorrow" -- never married because he couldn't find anybody willing
to put up with him, he told me.
Windom says three Rollins brothers married three charming King
sisters way back yonder and these Rollins-King combinations lived
all up and down the creek with their households and left many
Rollinses everywhere, including Eugene Rollins of Corbin.
Now the Quinn connection came along when one Lawrence Quinn migrated
down here from Montreal, Canada, Lawrence, a doctor and construction
man, finally wound up as store manager for Imperial Jellico Coal
Company just across the ridge from Meadow Creek. Lawrence climbed
over that tall ridge and married one of the Rollins girls on Meadow
Creek. So this is where Windom emerged. He came from a Canadian
ridge climber and a Meadow Creek Rollins.
As I talked with Windom and
Edith and Uncle Roy and the Quinns' son, Windom, Jr., I got into the
story of the disastrous train wreck that happened over near High
Cliff, in the Narrows about a couple of miles below the
Kentucky-Tennessee line. Lyle Rollins was the engineer.
Lyle, son of Rufus Rollins, was raised on Meadow Creek. He became an
L&N engineer and was pilot of that ill-fated passenger train which
took 35 lives on July 5, 1944. Lyle was a cousin of Windom Quinn and
married Mae Smith, daughter of W.T. Smith, former Whitley County
This wreck occurred around midnight. It was a troop train. All those
killed were soldiers or train crew.
Engineer Rollins arrived in Corbin on that July evening after
pulling another train up from Etowah. When the Train Master asked
him to take the troop train south Rollins told him he was tired and
not feeling well. The Train Master prevailed on him to take the
wartime troop train south regardless. Rollins did so because he was
The train was twenty-eight minutes late and traveling much too fast
when it hit a sharp curve in the Narrows. It failed to make the
curve, turned over on the river bank and carried many people,
including Engineer Rollins, to tragic death down in the darkness of
the river gorge.
On my way back to town I stopped at the Rufus Rollins place where
Engineer Lyle Rollins was raised. This place has been renovated and
looks like a southern mansion. It is occupied by the John Hudgens
family. They came from Arkansas and two Hudgens girls are attending
University of Kentucky. This Rufus Rollins place, now the John
Hudgens place, contains 1800 acres and is today a regular showplace.
John is a very cordial man and will show you his beautiful outlay
almost at the drop of a hat. I hope to return there later.
Getting back to Uncle Roy Rollins -- "84 Sunday." He gave me some
good advice as I left him. He said, "Now Gene you need to get out of
that law office in Williamsburg and go out in the hollows and up the
creeks and see many people. Did you know you have good Siler cousins
on Meadow Creek?"
"Yes", Uncle Roy, "I know these Silers on Meadow Creek. They are
excellent citizens and I have been in some of their homes -- Bill
Siler, now deceased, John Siler, Jennie Powers, Nan Perkins and now
Edith Quinn. I am proud of them. We all sprang from Jacob and Rachel
Siler who came over from North Carolina about 1800. We are like the
Rollinses, old settlers."
Then Uncle Roy gave me a long hard look. But I think he was pleased
I had stopped at his place.
Mary Lou Hudson
Claypool, IN 46510
Kingsport Times Tennessee 1944-07-07
17 Killed In Troop Train Wreck.
Jellico, Tenn, - AP – At least 17 persons, all but two of them
soldiers, were killed last night when a troop train plunged into a
50-foot gorge of the Clear River 11 miles South of here.
DR. E. P. MUNCY, resident physician of Knoxville's General Hospital,
said the death toll probably would exceed 40.
The locomotive and four cars were piled at the ravine's bottom, and
a fifth hung over the precipitous edge, where it left the Louisville
and Nashville railroad tracks.
One soldier, identified by Army Public Relations as Pvt. LEONARD
BATTAG, of Evanston, Ill., was still pinned in the bottom of a
wrecked car 12 hours after the crash, with four dead men piled on
him. He regained consciousness and talked with rescuers as acetylene
torches cut through twisted steel nearby. The youth, in the Army
only 13 days, asked a doctor if he was in a plane.
“It sure looks like it,” he said. “This is a lot better hole than on
that train.” He is the son of MR. And MRS. FRANK BATTAG of Evanston.
By noon six bodies had been brought to the government hospital at
Oak Ridge, Tenn., and eight other bodies were reported on the way
there. Army authorities at the hospital said that they had admitted
80 injury cases and had at least four more on the way and there were
nine additional cases of soldiers given first aid treatment but not
A partial death list released by the Army included the following
enlisted men, with serial numbers but with home addresses still not
DONALD J. CLARK (35845018), WILLIAM M. GOREY (35845175), DALE MATTIX
(35844937), W. H. McCHESNEY (35844928).
Among the injured were the following three railroad porters, all
from Indianapolis: WILLIAM EUGENE McANULTY, SHERMAN COLLEY and
THOMAS E. JONES, Extent of their injuries was not announced.
JOHN RUGGLES, in charge of the Knoxville office of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, said that possibilities of sabotage in
connection with the wreck were being investigated.
Work of extricating the victims from the locomotive and five cars
which tumbled down the steep 50-foot bank to the shallow stream was
slow and unofficial estimate placed the casualties as high as 25
dead and 250 hurt.
The train was a special carrying only soldiers and the train crew.
An emergency train made up from the twelve cars which did not leave
the track left this morning taking fifty of the injured to Lake
City, Tenn., en route to the government hospital at Oak Ridge,
Tenn., and at least thirty other injured service men were sent to
Oak Ridge Hospital in ambulances.
State Guard Company C from Knoxville, commanded by Captain BEN
SANDERS, joined military police in patroling the wreck scene this
morning as acetelyne[sic] torches were used to cut away portions of
the cars and slings and pulleys were used to move the injured men up
The kitchen and baggage cars of the southbound train, reported
carrying more than 1,000 soldiers just out of basic training were
Express Agent C. L. ALLEY of Jellico said first rescues were made by
nearby mountainfolk who tediously hoisted the injured by block and
tackle slings up the shrubbery-lined gorge. Waiting ambulances
rushed the injured to hospitals in Lake City, LaFollette and
Jellico, and Corbin and Williamsburg, Ky.
Rescuers worked doggedly early today to free two soldiers trapped in
one of the smashed coaches. Doctors gave blood plasma transfusions
to one of them, pinned down in the gorge wreckage. Two others who
had been trapped were extricated, one of them dead.
The fireman, identified at a Jellico hospital as J. W. TUMMINS, of
Etowah, died in the institution several hours after he was hurled
free of the wreckage.
Capt. KILBURN BROWN, Army public relations officer, said
identification of the dead was proceeding slowly. He explained most
of the soldiers either had been in their berths at the time of the
crash, or were in the wash rooms, preparing for bed. The crash
tossed personal belongings together, and in some cases caused loss
of identification tags.
A soldier, treated at Jellico Hospital, whose name was withheld,
said the crash occurred “just after we finished chow,” and said he
thought the fire started in the train kitchen.
“I was in an upper berth,” he said, “and was almost thrown out when
we went around a curve. Just a moment later she banged off the
Jellico and LaFollette (Tenn.) Red Cross Chapters sent canteens to
the wreck area to serve injured and rescue workers.
Reporter WILLARD YARBROUGH of the Knoxville Journal telephoned his
paper what he counted seven dead when he climbed into the engine
room and looked out. He said two more dead were lying in the stream,
running two to four feet at the wreck scene.
“One soldier pinned in the wreckage cried, 'Get me out of here or
let me die right here',” YARBROUGH said. “Another soldier being
carried across the stream on a stretcher asked his rescuers to let
him die right there.”
The engineer, identified by the railroad as JOHN C. ROLLINS, of
Etowah, Tenn., was “somewhere beneath his engine,” YARBROUGH said
and the fireman was picked up from the spot to which he was hurled
and brought to Jellico hospital.
Private WALLACE LEWIS of Canton, Ohio, a passenger on one of the
cars hurled into the gorge, said, “I saw a big flash, and someone
said, 'There's going to be a wreck.' There was. I crawled out of the
car, fell into the shallow creek, and then stumbled out.”
In this Cumberland Mountain section on the Kentucky-Tennessee line,
the L. and N. tracks traverse numerous trestles over deep gorges and
loop around hairpin turns.
Ten Army doctors and 12 Army ambulances were rushed to the scene
from Clinton. They carried ample supplies of blood plasma.
Express Agent ALLEY, who said the train carried 1,000 soldiers,
reported early today the cars remaining upright had been switched to
another track and were proceeding to their destination.
Army Released Jellico Casualty List
July 6, 1944:
RUSSELL J. ALQUIST, Paducah, Kentucky.
ROBERT H. BAIRD, Canton, Ohio.
LEONARD J. BETTAG, Evansville, Indiana.
CHARLES B. BOSWELL, Paducah, Kentucky.
CHARLES BRITZKE, LaPorte, Indiana.
JACK C. BROWN, Louisville, Ohio.
JAMES W. BUCHANAN, Buttonsville, West Virginia.
WILLIAM R. CATHEY, Paducah, Kentucky.
CHARLES T. CLAPP, Paducah, Kentucky.
DONALD J. CLARK, North Canton, Ohio.
JAMES N. CLARK, Paducah, Kentucky.
WAYNE E. CLEMMENS, Warren, Ohio.
ROBERT C. CLINGERMAN, Elkins, West Virginia.
RAYMOND COLE, Brazil, Indiana.
GEORGE E. EAVES, Orwell, Ohio.
WILLIAM N. GOREY, Pataskala, Ohio.
DONALD E. HILL, Canton, Ohio.
EUGENE L. HILTON, Menett, Missouri.
RAYMOND B. KIESLING, Canton, Ohio.
RAYMOND B. LILLIE, Warren, Ohio.
DON P. MASLINE, North Canton, Ohio.
DALE MATTIX, JR., Akron, Ohio.
WILLIAM E. McCHESNEY, Akron, Ohio.
RICHARD W. MILLER, Toledo, Ohio.
RAY W. PARKER, Trenton, Ohio.
AUSTIN E. PAUMIER, Louisville, Ohio.
HERBERT REICHLE, Bedford, Ohio.
JOSEPH G. SHIPBAUGH, Canton, Ohio.
JOHN R. WICKLINE, Orient, Ohio.
JOHN R. WISBERGER, Akron, Ohio.
RAY WOOD, JR., Kevin, Kentucky.
CLARENCE M. WRIGHT, Minerva, Ohio.
RAYMOND W. YAPP, Paducah, Kentucky.
HARGIS SALYER, Balyersville, Kentucky.
JOHN (LYLE) C. ROLLINS, engineer of train.
JOHN WILLIAM TUMMINS, fireman of train.
Kingsport Times Tennessee 1944-07-07
The following article was written
by Ray Smith and published 05-22-2007 at:
July 6, 1944: Oak Ridge responds to a troop train wreck
Author(s): D. Ray Smith Historically Speaking The Oak Ridger Date:
May 22, 2007 Section: Community
Editor’s Note: This is the first in
a series on this topic.
In late 1942, under the most unique and unusual circumstances, a
city was born almost overnight, and 3,000 people had to find another
place to live to accommodate the huge industrial effort to obtain
sufficient quantity of Uranium 235 for an atomic bomb. Oak Ridge was
born. In 1943 the city grew at an amazing pace never before seen.
The Oak Ridge community was a gated city, a “Secret City,” as it was
not on any map and badges were required of all who sought to enter
the military area known to various people first as the Kingston
Demolition Range, then the Clinton Engineer Works, and The Manhattan
Project in Tennessee, and finally Oak Ridge.
The local people had no idea what was going on. They wondered about
these unusual people coming to live where their small communities
once proudly stood. Yet the surrounding communities knew by word of
mouth that something very important was being done there and that it
had to do with the war effort. Occasionally the surrounding
communities interacted with the new and most unusual “Secret City,”
and often officials in surrounding cities exchanged communications
with the military officers there.
This unusual collection of young energetic and educated individuals
were placed in the midst of several communities of Appalachia that
had been settled starting a century and a half ago by a mixture of
people seeking freedom and independence without the crowded
conditions of the coastal cities. They took the land from the
Cherokees through various treaty negotiations and by just living on
the land they wanted. Over the years, a proud heritage had developed
in the area which was typified by the Overmountain Men’s victory at
A fiercely independent people who were, at the same time, strongly
patriotic toward the young United States lived in the ridges and
valleys of East Tennessee. It is these people who were removed in
November and December 1942 with little notice and less consideration
to make way for the new wave of highly educated and singularly
focused people, the main leaders of whom knew their effort was
dedicated to winning a race for the very life of the planet.
These few individuals, both the leaders and the primary scientists
and engineers, understood the stakes. They knew the awful danger the
world faced if they could not be the first to create an atomic bomb.
Many other workers came only knowing that whatever it was that was
being done in this secret location was extremely important. It is in
this setting that the following story of uncommon valor in the face
of danger and response to the need for help is set.
In researching the 1944 train wreck which is the subject for
Historically Speaking, I had two primary sources for this material:
Bill Sergeant, the person who personally went to Jellico late in the
night as one of the leaders in the response from Oak Ridge to the
Jellico Troop Train Wreck on July 6, 1944; and Scott Chippendale, a
volunteer with the Oak Ridge Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Bill provided information about the troop train wreck and recalled
for me the tremendously strong impressions he received about the
enormous damage done by the train wreck. He quickly told me that the
night he spent there helping organize the assistance remains a vivid
memory firmly planted in his mind.
During the research for this column, I found a Web site that is
dedicated to the memory of the famous troop train wreck:
www.trooptrain.com, titled “My Tribute to the… WWII Troop Train
Wreck of July 6, 1944” by Phil Lea of Benton, Tenn. This Web site is
extremely informative, with photographs of many of those who died as
well as several of the survivors of the train wreck. Phil has also
done an excellent job of documenting the train wreck.
This project has grown significantly and will require more column
space than I first imagined. I hope you will enjoy the final product
as much as I am enjoying learning the details about the train wreck
and the response by Oak Ridge. It is yet another source of great
pride in our city’s support for our neighbors that started during
the earliest months of the Manhattan Project’s Clinton Engineer
Some details about the ill-fated train and the awful wreck will help
put perspective on this disaster, often mentioned as one of the
nation’s major troop train accidents and placed in the top 25 United
Sates railway accidents of all time. The overwhelming response by
the citizens of Jellico and surrounding communities will make you
proud to be a part of this special part of our country.
A southbound Louisville-Nashville passenger train derailed at
approximately 9 p.m. on Thursday evening, July 6, 1944, and plunged
into the approximately 50-foot-deep Clear Fork River gorge at a
place known as the Jellico Narrows. The train, No. 47, a south-bound
second-class passenger train, consisted of steam engine No. 418,
four Pullman tourist cars, one Pullman kitchen car, one Pullman
troop-sleeping car, two Pullman tourist cars, one baggage car, three
Pullman troop-sleeping cars, one Pullman kitchen car, two Pullman
troop-sleeping cars and one baggage car, in the order named. All 16
cars were of steel construction.
The train was transporting new army recruits (the exact number is
unknown to me as my research has found numbers ranging from 400 to
1006) from Virginia to Camp Croft, S.C. However, this was not common
knowledge, as the exact destination of the train was kept secret.
In Cincinnati, a strange thing happened that surprised the riders in
the last tourist car. A new locomotive, number 418, backed up to the
car that was the last in line when they arrived. Some of these
riders may well have chosen the last passenger car because of it
being the last one and thus thought by some to be the safest place
to ride on a train.
Then in Corbin, Ky., another change may have taken place. Engineer
John C. (Lyle) Rollins and fireman John William Tummins, both of
Etowah, Tenn., had both just completed a 16-hour shift, and after
the required eight-hour rest were now working this train back toward
Tennessee. They could not know they had boarded and were running
their last train. One reference indicated that another engineer was
scheduled to have replaced Rollins at Corbin but did not show up.
Later, Tummins would indicate that something happened at Corbin,
Ky., that upset Rollins.
The change in terrain along the railroad right of way coming south
out of Kentucky and entering Tennessee is dramatic. The Kentucky
portion of the track is rather level with few curves and none of
them with significant enough degree to present a hazard to a train
traveling at a rather high rate of speed.
However, the curve where steam engine No. 418 left the track, taking
four additional railcars with it to the bed of Clear Fork River and
derailing four more railcars, is said to be the worst curve in the
entire L&N railroad line. The curve is a specified 10 degrees
(actually measured to be a little over an 11-degree curve) and is
the point at which a train coming south at a high rate of speed
(above 35 mph) would be expected to naturally wreck.
In the coming weeks we will examine the various investigations into
the reason for the train wreck and the response Oak Ridge made to
the disaster. We will look at an FBI investigation into sabotage,
two accounts of the Oak Ridge Manhattan District response to the
disaster, the Interstate Commerce Commission report, and several
newspaper accounts of the epic event. We will also look at the Red
Cross response and the history of the origin of the Red Cross in Oak
From: "Mary Lou Hudson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Troop Train Wreck (Transcribed by Mary Lou Hudson / Newspaper Articles)
Date: Tue, 30 May 2006 13:14:50 -0500
I have pasted below the newspaper articles I transcribed on the Jellico, TN train wreck. You are welcome to use the articles on your website.
- Mary Lou Hudson
Oelwein Daily Register, Oelwein, Iowa - July 7, 1944
Troop Train Wreck Toll 17
Jellico, Tenn. -- UP -- Rescue workers recovered the bodies of 17 persons today from the splintered wreckage of a troop train that plunged into a rock strewn mountain gorge while speeding around the curve last night.
Two of the dead were the engineer and fireman. The remainder were understood to be soldiers.
The army said the wreck occurred while the soldiers were preparing to retire for the night. Many of them were in washrooms, separated from their clothes and personal property, which made identification slow.
Many of the dead soldiers were found in a coach which was crushed beneath the coal tender as they plunged into a hollow mountain stream.
Daylight aided the rescue workers who were pulling apart the debris of the splintered coaches in the narrow gorge which was strewn with sharp rocks.
More than _00 (?) soldiers were injured.
The men were crushed in the in the cars when the train left the track while rounding a curve at high speed. The engine careened into a gorge, pulling six coaches with it. Ten other cars did not overturn.
The dead included J.C. Rollings, the engineer, and J.W. Tummins, fireman, both of Etowah, Tenn. Names of the dead soldiers were withheld pending notification of relatives. Maj. Harold Tyler, public relations officer for the Fourth Service Command, said the train was en route from Cincinnati to Knoxville.
Scores of townspeople from this village of 2,000 and neighboring farmers rushed to the scene with floodlights, flashlights and lanterns to assist in searching for the dead and injured.
Many of those hurt were treated in clearings beside the roadbed. Jellico's only hospital
was filled and cots were placed in hallways to accommodate the injured.
Ambulances carried many to nearby towns for treatment. The Office of Civilian Defense and the Red Cross immediately mobilized units to assist the injured and to aid in clearing the tracks of wreckage.
Jellico is 60 miles from Knoxville and is near the Kentucky state line.
The Charleston Daily Mail, Charleston, West Virginia - July 7, 1944
Troop Train's Plunge Into Gorge Claims 17
200 Injured When Engine, 6 Coaches Topple From Rails at Sharp Curve
Jellico, Tenn. (AP). -- At least 17 persons, including 15 soldiers and the engineer and fireman of a Louisville and Nashville passenger train, were killed and more than 200 injured in the train's plunge into the gorge of the Clear river -- 11 miles south of here last night.
Work of extricating the victims from the locomotive and fire cars which tumbled down the steep 50-foot bank to the shallow stream while rounding a curve was slow and unofficial estimates placed the causalities as high as 25 dead and 250 hurt.
The train was a special carrying only soldiers and the train crew.
An emergency train made up from the 12 cars which did not leave the track left this morning taking 50 of the injured to Lake City, Tenn., en route to the government hospital at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and at least 39 others were sent to Oak Ridge hospital in ambulances.
State Guard Company C from Knoxville, commanded by Captain Ben Sanders, joined military police in patrolling the wreck scene as acetylene torches were used to cut away portions of the cars and slings and pulleys were used to move the injured men up the bank.
The kitchen and baggage cars of the southbound train, reported carrying more than 1,000 soldiers just out of basic training, were burned.
Express Agent C.L. Alley of Jellico said first rescues were made by nearby mountainfolk who tediously hoisted the injured by
block and tackle slings up the shrubbery-lined gorge. Waiting ambulances rushed the injured to hospitals in Lake City, Lafollette and Jellico, and Corbin
and Williamsburg, Ky.
Rescuers worked doggedly to free two soldiers trapped in one of the smashed coaches. Doctors gave blood plasma transfusions to one of them, pinned down in the wreckage. Two others who had been trapped were extricated, one of them dead.
The fireman, identified at a Jellico hospital as J.W. Tummins, of Etowah, died several hours after he was hurled free of the wreckage.
Reporter Willard Yarbrough of the Knoxville Journal telephoned his paper that he counted seven dead when he climbed into the engine room and looked out. He said two more were lying in the stream, running two to four feet deep at the wreck scene.
"One soldier pinned in the wreckage cried 'get me out of here or let me die right here'" Yarbrough said. "Another soldier being carried across the stream on a stretcher asked his rescuers to let him die right there."
The engineer identified by the railroad as John C. Rollins, of Etowah, Tenn., was "somewhere beneath his engine," Yarbrough said.
Pvt. Wallace Lewis of Canton, O., a passenger on one of the car hurled into the gorge said, "I saw a big flash, and someone said 'there's going to be a wreck.' There was. I crawled out of the car, fell into the shallow creek, and then stumbled out."
In this Cumberland mountain section on the Kentucky-Tennessee line, the L. and N. tracks transverse numerous trestles over deep gorges and loop around hairpin turns.
Ten army doctors and 12 army ambulances were rushed to the scene from Clinton. They carried amply supplies of blood plasma.
Express Agent Alley, who said the train carried 1,006 soldiers, reported early today the cars remaining upright had been switched to another track and were proceeding to their destination.
The Charleston Daily Mail, Charleston, West Virginia - July 9, 1944
Train Death Toll Likely to Pass 19
Jellico, Tenn. (UP) -- The official death toll of the troop train derailment which plunged five coaches into a mountain gorge remained at 19 Saturday night but army authorities feared a few more bodies might be found in a smashed car partially buried in Clear river.
Seventeen of the dead were servicemen and two were trainmen. More than 100 soldiers, who had been inducted only a few days before, were injured.
An investigation was underway by FBI agents and army and railroad officials.
The Charleston Daily Mail, Charleston, West Virginia - July 10, 1944
Soldiers Die in Wreck
Jellico, Tenn. (AP). -- Two soldiers from Randolph county, W. Va., were listed by army officials over the week-end as among the dead in a troop train wreck near Jellico Thursday night.
They were Robert C. Clingeman of Elkins and James W. Buchanan, Huttonsville, W. VA.
The Chillicothe Constitution, Chillicothe, Missouri - July 8, 1944
Train Wreck Death List May Reach 25
Police Chief Roberts of Jellico, Tenn., Says 21 bodies Have Been Removed.
Jellico, Tenn., July 8. -- Wrecking crews amidst smashed coaches of a shattered troop train removed additional bodies of soldiers early today and Night Police Chief Elmer Roberts said the death toll apparently was at least twenty-five.
Roberts said twenty-one bodies had been lifted up the steep sides of the mountain gorge where a Louisville and Nashville train left the track Thursday night and four more had been located in the wreckage.
The Army had not changed its list of known dead --- 19.
Cause of the wreck under investigation by the F.B.I.