"Engine One-Forty-Three" is a ballad in the tradition of early American train wreck songs, based on the true story of the wreck of the FFV near Hinton, West Virginia on 23 October 1890. The train was on its way to Clifton Forge, Virginia, when it hit a rock slide. Early accounts record that the engineer, George Alley, remained on the train to try to slow it and save the lives of its passengers. Alley died at the scene, but the fireman is said to have jumped to safety. The ballad elaborates the story, including a mother (not alive at the time of the wreck), excessive speed (a popular theme in train wreck songs), and a motive (a prior delay, and the engineer's wish to make up time on a train with a reputation for swiftness).
^ abFlippo, Chet (August 19, 2004), Nashville Skyline: Carter Family Riches Recalled in The Unbroken Circle, Country Music Television (CMT), Ironically, John Carter Cash produced the last sessions his parents recorded. "Engine One-Forty-Three," the last song Cash recorded, appears here and was one of the first the Carter Family learned. When A.P. fell in love with 16-year-old Sara Dougherty, she was supposedly singing "Engine One-Forty-Three," and he happened to overhear her and was enchanted by her voice.