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Engines of RedemptionRailroads and the Reconstruction of Capitalism in the New South$
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R. Scott Jr. Huffard

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469652818

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469652818.001.0001

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Damnable Conspiracies

Damnable Conspiracies

(p.135) Chapter Five Damnable Conspiracies
Engines of Redemption

R. Scott Huffard Jr.

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter traces anxieties over railroad safety and train wrecks in the South, which had the nation’s most dangerous railroads by the 1890s. As carnage piled up on the South’s rail lines, companies tried to shift blame to anonymous gangs of train wreckers as a strategy to avoid lawsuits and stave off attempts at state or federal regulation. The chapter uses two case studies of train wrecks – a wreck at Bostian Bridge in Statesville, NC and in Cahaba Creek in Alabama – to show how corporate lawyers and officials tried to perpetuate the myth of the train wrecker. The chapter gives quantitative data that shows how southern newspapers fuelled the panic over train wrecking. The chapter argues that this panic was racialized and many of the accused wreckers were African Americans that some of the same dynamics that led to lynchings. It closes with a discussion of train wreck ballads

Keywords:   Train wrecks, Train wrecking, Railroad safety, regulation, Lawsuits, Lynching, Train wreck ballads

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