The Wreck of the FFV

Many of the best songs tell a story. People like stories.

In this song, The Wreck of the  FFV, a heart-wrenching melodrama is presented in short fashion. The song recounts a true occurence. In West Virginia in 1890 engineer George Alley, driving Locomotive #143 on the FFV line, hit a rock slide and died. A.P. Carter first wrote this one down in the 1920’s.

“Many a man has lost his life in trying to make lost time” counsels George’s mother, which I suppose is sound advice for us all.

For Heaven’s sake be careful!

Click to hear Bumba have a go at it.


Along came the FFV the swiftest on the line,
Running o’er the C&O road just twenty minutes behind,
Running into Cevile, head porters on the line,
Receiving their strict orders from a station just behind.

Georgie’s mother came to him with a bucket on her arm,
Saying, “My darling son be careful how you run.
For many a man has lost his life in trying to make lost time,
And if you run your engine right you’ll get there just on time.”

Up the road he darted, against the rocks he crushed,
Upside down the engine turned and Georgie’s breast did smash.
His head was against the firebox door, the flames are rolling high,
“I’m glad I was born an engineer on the C&O road to die.”

The doctor said to Georgie, “My darling boy, be still,
Your life may yet be saved if it is God’s blessed will.”
“Oh no,” said George, “that will not do — I want to die so free,
I want to die for the engine I love, one hundred and forty three.”

The doctor said to Georgie, “Your life cannot be saved.”
Murdered upon the railroad and laid in a lonesome grave,
His face was covered up with blood, his eyes they could not see,
And the very last words poor Georgie said was, “Nearer, my God, to thee.”

OK, I’m adding a little update. (6/8/12) I just did the song again, I think a little better.

12 thoughts on “The Wreck of the FFV

  1. nice music, lyrics – and blog post. Recently we had a bad train crash in Spain – maybe we had to write (and sing) monthly updates related to this topic…

  2. So was that you performing the song (that was the implication)? Tres awesome.

    So is this song the genesis for “The Wreck of the Old 97?” There are some marked similarities, but the lyrics are fairly different. Is Old 97 a newer retelling of the same incident?

    1. Yes it’s me doing the performing. I don’t borrow Utubes or use other people’s stuff on the blog. The Old 97 song is a different tune. And a different train wreck, altho both accidents took place in Virginia or West Virginia – as did John Henry’s race against the steamdrill, “Carry me back to old Virginny”, and the last Republican primary. But all these old folk songs change a lot when people with different cultures sing them over time. There are lots of lyrics for the Old 97.

  3. the sentiment of the song (and the pacing) remind me a lot of Johnny Cash – Don’t Take Your Guns To Town.
    Another cautionary tale, but quite funny, is New Riders Of The Purple Sage – Henry Keep The Brakes On, describing a trucker heading down to Mexico to pick up a whole lot of weed.

    1. Gotta hear that New Riders song. I first heard the FFV song from a Joan Baez record, it’s a traditional song. Thanks for the visit and for the comments.

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