October 23, 1890: FFV Passenger Train Wrecks Three Miles East of Hinton

Oct 23, 2017

A B&O steam locomotive at Wheeling, 1952.
Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / J. J. Young

Shortly before dawn on October 23, 1890, the passenger train known as the Fast Flying Virginian, or FFV, wrecked three miles east of Hinton in Summers County. The cause of the accident was a rock slide.

The eastbound luxury train was traveling from Cincinnati to Washington on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Its engineer, George Washington Alley, a member of a prominent railroading family, was killed while trying to stop the train. Firemen Lewis Withrow and Robert Foster were injured.

Alley’s heroic deed soon became the subject of a folk song called “Wreck on the C&O,” supposedly written by an African-American who worked  at the Hinton roundhouse.

More than 80 variations of the ballad have been documented, including ones named ‘‘Fatal Run,’’ ‘‘The Brave Engineer,’’ ‘‘George Alley,” ‘‘Engine 143,” and ‘‘The FFV.’’

Other versions of the song have been recorded by the Carter Family; Flatt and Scruggs; Joan Baez; and Doc Watson.