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Shoe Stops Locomotive on Rogue River Valley Railroad

Railroad accidents were common around 1900, but few as amazing as Frank Smith’s fall in 1932 in front of an advancing train on the Rogue River Valley Railroad in Medford, Ore.  Here’s how the Jacksonville Miner newspaper reported it:

“When Frank fell, the cowcatcher struck him in the nose, and one foot … came in contact with the front … (wheel unit) … of the locomotive, his shoe heel wedging between the track and the wheel.

“Much to the annoyance of the engineer, the giant engine came to a sudden halt and try as he might, he could not get the ponderous locomotive to move. Huge clouds of smoke belched from the stack, steam hissed from the stuffing boxes and driving rods groaned from strain…With boiler heaving from effort, the engineer shut off the steam and dismounted, walking to the front expecting to see some gigantic obstacle--boulder or dead elephant—(only) to discover Smith on his back, one leg under the forward wheel, nose pressed against the cowcatcher and swearing like a sailor’s parrot.

“Smith claimed it was his nose which stopped the iron horse, but authorities admitted the heel of his shoe…did the trick.”

Source:  "Shoe Heel too much for iron horse to climb." The Jacksonville Miner 9 Sept. 1932. Print.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.