A terrible wreck occurred on August 13, 1909. A train, which traveled around 40 mph on the Southern Railway, suddenly plunged down an 30-feet-high embankment outside Bristol, Virginia. The engine was followed by the mail, baggage, and express cars.
The entire train was destroyed. Coach cars were reduced to splinters, and the mail carriage was ripped in two. The floor of the mail car was thrown 40 feet, into a field.
Engineer Samuel Bush pulled himself out of the wreckage, with a crushed leg and a hole in his skull. Passengers noticed his struggle through the debris and ran to carry him away from the wreck. They searched for a physician amid the passengers, but none was found. The passengers then searched for whiskey to aid the engineer, but he refused it.
He asked the men who surrounded him to smell his breath first, so they might testify he was not drunk, and had not been drinking, when the accident occurred. He then asked about the passengers. Those tending to him stated that no one else was injured. He finally consented to a drink of the liquor. Despite the extent of his injuries, he died at peace shortly after.
Unfortunately, there were injuries. The train’s fireman was scalded, John R. Shields suffered internal damage, and postal clerk Fay Price, suffered permanently debilitating injuries. Both postal clerks R.W. Hunt and Fay Price clung to the floor of the mail car as it flew into the field.
Overuse and the elements had caused the rails to spread, and sent the train down the embankment. Engineer Bush died a hero. The Bedford County native had worked with the Southern Railway for 3 decades.