Silver Bullet #2, the eastbound crack express passenger train, eased off its brakes and departed the siding, accelerating down the Appalachian hills, whining through the spiral tunnel, picking up its pace as it drifted through craggy cuts, snaking along the forested ridge, making up time. It had been delayed by two long freights which had snarled the main at Harris Glen. Now SB2 was on the roll, rattling faster and faster along the LM&O main, its headlight cutting the foggy mists.
Riding in total luxury, the packed throngs of holiday passengers chatted amongst themselves, read newspapers and lunched in the diner. They reclined in comfort, their minds on their own trivialities.
The engineer of SB2 had just cracked the throttle into run six, feeling the engine accelerate as it dropped down the long sweeping curve that lead into the final tunnel before breaking into the relative flats of Hellertown. He blew two sharp blasts on the horn as he lanced through the portal, plunging headlong into the gravelike darkness. Then suddenly the cab was bathed in an onrushing light. No, not the light at the end of the tunnel, but the oncoming headlamp from Silver Bullet #1, grinding up the hill, unaware that fate and human error was bringing those two crack trains into a fearsome outcome.
The resulting explosion of the four diesels smashing into each other send flames roiling back, instantly incinerating those not killed on impact. In the space of seconds, the Hellertown tunnel into a scorched mausoleum, filled with wreckage and bodies. In all, hundreds died instantly in the disaster…
In the LM&O dispatcher office, Chief Dispatcher Raymond looked at the two conflicting warrants that clearly pointed fault for the slaughter back to him.
“Uh oh,” he muttered.
Yes, I have had better nights. Haven’t killed people like that in quite some time.
In reality, I would have been fired, even perhaps brought up on criminal charges.
In our ops session, I just had to deal with everyone smiling at me.
“Nice going, Robert.”