Fast Mail (Southern Railway)

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Fast Mail
Service type mail and express
Locale Southern United States
Current operator(s) Southern Railway
Start Washington, D.C.
End New Orleans, Louisiana
Train number(s) 97
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The Fast Mail was a Southern Railway steam train that on September 27, 1903, derailed at Stillhouse Trestle in Danville, Virginia. The train consisted of two postal cars, one express car, and one baggage car. The accident inspired the famous railroad ballad - Wreck of the Old 97. As mentioned in the song, the old 97's locomotive (#1102) did make it to Spencer, North Carolina. It was hauled to the Southern Railway Spencer Shops where it was repaired and placed back into regular service for many years afterwards.

Southern Railway's Train 97 had previously been in another fatal accident earlier in 1903. On Monday, April 13, Train 97 left Washington, DC, at 8 AM en route to New Orleans, Louisiana. As the train approached Lexington the train struck a large rock on the track causing the train to derail and become ditched killing the engineer and fireman. The locomotive that pulled the train is unknown. Southern #1102 had yet to be delivered to the railroad at that time.