Saving a Train
by William Topaz McGonagall
‘Twas in the year of 1869, and on the 19th of November,
Which the people in Southern Germany will long remember,
The great rain-storm which for twenty hours did pour down,
That the rivers were overflowed and petty streams all around.
The rain fell in such torrents as had never been seen before,
That it seemed like a second deluge, the mighty torrents’ roar,
At nine o’clock at night the storm did rage and moan
When Carl Springel set out on his crutches all alone —
From the handsome little hut in which he dwelt,
With some food to his father, for whom he greatly felt,
Who was watching at the railway bridge,
Which was built upon a perpendicular rocky ridge.
The bridge was composed of iron and wooden blocks,
And crossed o’er the Devil’s Gulch, an immense cleft of rocks,
Two hundred feet wide and one hundred and fifty feet deep,
And enough to make one’s flesh to creep.
Far beneath the bridge a mountain-stream did boil and rumble,
And on that night did madly toss and tumble;
Oh! it must have been an awful sight
To see the great cataract falling from such a height.
It was the duty of Carl’s father to watch the bridge on stormy nights,
And warn the on-coming trains of danger with the red lights;
So, on this stormy night, the boy Carl hobbled along
Slowly and fearlessly upon his crutches, because he wasn’t strong.
He struggled on manfully with all his might
Through the fearful darkness of the night,
And half-blinded by the heavy rain,
But still resolved the bridge to gain.
But when within one hundred yards of the bridge, it gave way with an awful crash,
And fell into the roaring flood below, and made a fearful splash,
Which rose high above the din of the storm,
The like brave Carl never heard since he was born.
Then; ‘Father! father!’ cried Carl in his loudest tone,
‘Father! father!’ he shouted again in very pitiful moans;
But no answering voice did reply,
Which caused him to heave a deep-fetched sigh.
And now to brave Carl the truth was clear
That he had lost his father dear,
And he cried, ‘My poor father’s lost, and cannot be found,
He’s gone down with the bridge, and has been drowned.’
But he resolves to save the oncoming train,
So every nerve and muscle he does strain,
And he trudges along dauntlessly on his crutches,
And tenaciously to them he clutches.
And just in time he reaches his father’s car
To save the oncoming train from afar,
So he seizes the red light, and swings it round,
And cried with all his might, ‘The bridge is down! The bridge is down!’
So forward his father’s car he drives,
Determined to save the passengers’ lives,
Struggling hard with might and main,
Hoping his struggle won’t prove in vain.
So on comes the iron-horse snorting and rumbling,
And the mountain-torrent at the bridge kept roaring and tumbling;
While brave Carl keeps shouting, ‘The bridge is down! The bridge is down!’
He cried with a pitiful wail and sound.
But, thank heaven, the engine-driver sees the red light
That Carl keeps swinging round his head with all his might;
But bang! bang! goes the engine with a terrible crash,
And the car is dashed all to smash.
But the breaking of the car stops the train,
And poor Carl’s struggle is not in vain;
But, poor soul, he was found stark dead,
Crushed and mangled from foot to head!
And the passengers were all loud in Carl’s praise,
And from the cold wet ground they did him raise,
And tears for brave Carl fell silently around,
Because he had saved two hundred passengers from being drowned.
In a quiet village cemetery he now sleeps among the silent dead,
In the south of Germany, with a tombstone at his head,
Erected by the passengers he saved in the train,
And which to his memory will long remain.