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Welcome to the official podcast of The Nashville Retrospect, the monthly newspaper devoted to stories from Nashville's past. Editor and host Allen Forkum interviews local historians and people who experienced the city’s history firsthand. He also investigates audio artifacts from area archives and relates fascinating articles from old Nashville newspapers.

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Jul 2, 2018

The deadliest train wreck in U.S. history occurred at Dutchman's Curve in West Nashville. Host Allen Forkum (editor of The Nashville Retrospect newspaper) interviews historian Betsy Thorpe about the July 9, 1918, tragedy. Thorpe discusses why there was a disproportionately high number of African-Americans killed, who was ultimately blamed for the accident, and how she became interested enough to write a book, The Day the Whistles Cried. (Segment begins at 03:40)

Two Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis passenger trains collided in West Nashville on July 9, 1918, killing 101 people. Crowds can be seen gathering in the surrounding cornfields. A wreck train can be seen in the background. This photo was taken from a bridge over the track that is today part of the Richland Creek Greenway, near White Bridge Road and Harding Road. (Image: H.C. Hill III, photo by H.C. Hill)

In this photo of the wreck, rescuers work to remove survivors from some of the telescoped cars. Spectators can be seen standing on what later became known as White Bridge Road and is today part of Richland Creek Greenway, near today's Belle Meade. A newspaper reported that 50,000 flocked to the scene of the accident. (Image: H.C. Hill III, photo by H.C. Hill)

Also in Episode 04, hear excerpts from the album “Down to Earth, with Elmer Hinton.” Hinton was a popular columnist for The Nashville Tennessean for nearly 30 years. Known for his folksy humor and nostalgia for country life, Hinton recorded an album in 1968 that also featured music by Gary and Randy Scruggs and the Rudy Sisters, among others. (Segment begins at 28:00)

The front cover of Elmer Hinton’s 1968 album.

And finally, Allen Forkum reviews some of the stories in the July 2018 issue of The Nashville Retrospect, including: the dedication of Hadley Park, the county’s first municipal park for African-Americans (1912); the early 1800s settlement in Mexican Texas called Nashville-on-the-Brazos; the discovery of a comet by local astronomer E.E. Barnard (1884), and an army baseball tournament held in Nashville for the entertainment of soldiers stationed there during WWII (1943). (Segment begins at 01:35)



A list of articles relating to this episode contained in back issues of The Nashville Retrospect (back issue can be ordered by clicking here):

• “Passenger Trains Collide at Dutchman’s Curve,” Nashville Tennessean, July 10, 1918 (The Nashville Retrospect, July 2010)

• “Massive Walls of City Reservoir Crumble Without Warning,” Nashville Banner, Nov. 5, 1912 (The Nashville Retrospect, November 2009)

• “Avalanche of Flames in East Nashville,” Nashville Banner, March 22, 1916 (The Nashville Retrospect, March 2016)

• “Flu Cases Exceeded 100,000 in Tennessee,” Nashville Tennessean and Nashville American, Nov. 1, 1918 (The Nashville Retrospect, November 2014)

• “1918 Flu Epidemic ‘Horrible,’” Nashville Banner, March 26, 1976 (The Nashville Retrospect, March 2018)

• See the July 2018 issue of The Nashville Retrospect for other stories referenced on this episode, such as Hadley Park.


Other related articles:

• “The New Elmer Hinton—Even Better On Tape?!” The Nashville Tennessean Sunday Showcase, June 2, 1968

• “Death at the Throttle on Dutchman’s Curve,” The Nashville Tennessean Magazine, July 10, 1960


Links relating to this episode:

The Day the Whistles Cried by Betsy Thorpe

Dutchman’s Curve 100th Anniversary Event

“Great Train Wreck of 1918” at Wikipedia

“Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway” at Wikipedia

“Hadley Park” by Debit Oeser Cox

“Elmer Hinton” by Glenn A. Himebaugh, Tennessee Encyclopedia

Elmer Hinton Memorial Public Library

Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival in Portland, Tenn.

St. Cecilia Academy

“Railroad Sounds” by Audio Fidelity


Audio: Excerpts from “Down to Earth, With Elmer Hinton,” by Geordie Records (1968); excerpts from “Railroad Sounds” by Audio Fidelity (1958)

Music: “Near You” by Francis Craig and His Orchestra (Bullet, 1947); “Quiet Outro” by ROZKOL (2018); “Covered Wagon Days” by Ted Weems and His Orchestra; and “The Buffalo Rag” by Vess L. Ossman