Nashville Ledger: Dutchman’s Curve, 100 Years Later

Here’s my complete June 29, 2018 article in the Nashville Ledger. Thanks for reading!

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By Tom Wood 

Standing out here in the freshly-mown grasses of Richland Park Greenway, several yards from the Dutchman’s Curve Train Wreck historical marker placed alongside White Bridge Road, I listen for ethereal echoes of the past.

This is as much a ghost story as it is a history lesson.

Photograph by Henry Hill, official photographer for the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway, courtesy of Henry Hill III. Cover by Leigh Melton Singleton, art director Nashville Ledger

Call it ‘Ghosts of Dutchman’s Curve’ because they still whisper to us as the 100th anniversary of the nation’s deadliest train wreck fast approaches. Remember us, they murmur on the gentle wind that stirs the humid air.

It is Saturday, June 9, a little after 7 a.m. – exactly 99 years and 11 months after the accident occurred. Exactly where I am standing on this sun-splashed morning in Belle Meade. One month shy of a day of remembrances that will take place for one of Nashville’s largely forgotten tragedies – yet one that still profoundly resonates with many people nearly a century later.

“From the very beginning of this journey – when I first started this project – I felt like the ghosts of Dutchman’s Curve had chosen me to learn their names and tell their story. I heard their voices and did as they asked,” says Betsy Thorpe, author of the 2014 book, “The Day the Whistles Cried: The Great Cornfield Meet at Dutchman’s Curve.’’

More than a decade ago, Thorpe – who says she quickly became known as the Train Wreck Lady – spearheaded a movement to get the historical marker placed at the site of the wreck. In coming days, she and the Nashville Chattanooga Preservation Society will host several commemorative events leading up to July 9, the 100th anniversary of the fateful, life-altering crash.

“The voices of the victims at Dutchman’s Curve still echo 100 years later,” says Nashville Mayor David Briley, who will speak briefly at the greenway memorial observance. “It’s important that we never forget this tragedy in our city or the many people it affected, including the families of the 101 people who died.

“A century after the crash, people across Tennessee still feel the loss.”

On this bright June morning at the greenway, there is indeed an otherworldly feeling, as if time somehow stands still here. Not a presence but a prescience.

Read more in the Nashville Ledger here.

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