This song is also known as "Ballad Of Casey Jones" or simply "Casey Jones". John Luther Jones
was a railroad engineer - train driver in English parlance - who was killed when his train the Cannonball Express
crashed into a stalled freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi on April 30, 1900. When Jones saw the other train he told his fireman Sim Webb to jump; Webb leapt from the speeding Cannonball Express
and although knocked unconscious escaped with bruising, but Jones managed to reduce the speed of the train from 75 to 35 miles per hour, which undoubtedly saved the lives of his passengers.
Obviously the stuff of legend, it was unsurprising that his heroism was versified, but rather than a troubadour, it was a fellow railwayman who wrote the ballad, Wallace Saunders who worked as a cleaner in the railroad shop at Canton. Saunders appears to have improvised the song purely for his own amusement, but as often happens with folk songs, it was picked up by someone else, in particular by another railroad engineer, William Leighton, whose brothers Frank and Bert were vaudeville performers. They worked on it, added a chorus, and took it on the road with them.
When it was first published in 1902, T. Lawrence Seibert was credited as the composer, and Eddie Newton as the lyricist. Wallace Saunders never received a dime for his creation.