Articles & Stories

Fireman And Engineer Died In Train Wreck At Mullins Tunnel

Family and Friends Reflected On The Short Life Of Bob Reynolds

Submitter's Note: The following is from material authored by the Rev. Granville B. Johnston, regarding his uncle, Bob Reynolds, who was killed in a L&N train wreck at Mullins Tunnel in Rockcastle County, Kentucky. This information was presented at Bob's funeral on August 29, 1920, by Reverend Johnston, J. M. Reynolds (Bob's father), and Harry Medlock. It portrays Bob Reynold's life and his untimely death, along with engineer, Claude Crowe.

By Rev. Granville B. Johnston - 1920
Submitted by Joe Fothergill

The life of Bob Reynolds is very remarkable in many
ways. To each individual who had the privilege of knowing him, if even for a short time only, and into each and every home that was blessed with his presence, he carried sunshine and gladness.
Realizing that every individual and every home could and would be blessed if they would carry out the great principles that were manifested in his life, I decided to publish this history. The life of Claude A. Crowe is closely allied with that of Bob Reynolds. Mr. Crowe was the engineer who died with Bob Reynolds in the Mullins Tunnel in Rockcastle County, Kentucky. Mr. Crowe was a noble Christian gentleman, a splendid husband and father, and a citizen of high standing.
(Following is the obituary prepared and read at the funeral of Bob Reynolds at his father's home Sunday August 29, 1920, by his father, J. M. Reynolds.)


The Reynolds Family of Jackson County, Kentucky, ca. 1920. Back row, l-r: Minnie, Bob, Flora, Matie, Albert, and Cleo. Front row, l-r: Marie, Monroe, Ed, Matilda (Johnston), and Maude.

(Photo courtesy of Joe Fothergill.)

"Bob Reynolds was born May 5, 1894, on Big Bottom Branch at Annville, Jackson County, Kentucky, and died in a wreck on the L&N Railroad at Mullins Tunnel in Rockcastle County, Kentucky; at about eight 8:00 a.m. He leaves his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Reynolds, of Bond, Kentucky; two brothers, Albert and Clyde of Bond, Kentucky; and six sisters: Mrs. Everett Stowe, Dayton, Ohio; Mrs. W. B. Thacker, Lexington, Kentucky; and Mattie, Cleo, Marie, and Maude Reynolds all of Bond, Kentucky.
"We moved from his birthplace in the spring of 1896 to Laurel County where we remained until the following November. From there we moved to Moore's Creek in Jackson County where we remained a little more than seven years.
"He began early in life to help on the farm together with his sister, Minnie, the first born in our home. She is now Mrs. Everett Stowe. They were very attached to each other.
"We moved near Annville in 1904 and remained there for three years, and then moved to Whitley County near Corbin.
"On December 22, 1909, we left for Hamilton, Ohio, arriving two days later. Bob secured a position with American Can Company. He turned over every check to his father, who was nearly blind with trachoma.
"Leaving Ohio January 9, 1911, we located in Berea, Kentucky, where Bob entered Berea College with his younger sister, Flora, who is now Mrs. W. B. Thacker of Lexington. At the conclusion of his second year he decided to go to work. He secured a position at Boone Tavern Hotel in 1913. He later went to Bond where he helped Mr. James Fozy build the first house in Bond for the Bond-Foley Lumber Company. His parents moved to Bond in November 1914.
"In May of 1917 he went to Paris, Kentucky, where he secured a job with the L&N Railway as fireman, beginning work July 26, 1917, and remaining until May 1918 when he was called to the service of his country during WWI."
(A tribute to Bob Reynolds, the Soldier, by a comrade in arms, Mr. Harry Medlock.)
"Robert Reynolds entered the service May 25, 1918, at Camp Taylor in Louisville where he trained for WWI. He was placed in the 23rd Company, 159th Depot Brigade. From Camp Taylor he was transferred to Battery A, 326th Field Artillery of the 84th, or Lincoln Division on June 3, 1918. The regiment was ordered to West Point where he was placed in a gun squad and trained on three-inch guns.
"The 84th Division received orders on September 6, 1918, for France. The next day we entrained for New York and then to Camp Upton on Long Island where we were issued our overseas' equipment. Robert was always anxious to press onward and reach the oppressed ones on the other side. We set sail on the ship Walmer Castle September 9th. On the way over we fired at two German submarines and presumably sank them, for they disappeared and were seen no more.
"The division landed at Glasgow, Scotland, September 24, 1918. We remained at a rest camp for two days, and then our transportation to Romsey, England, was by train. We traveled by foot from Romsey to Southampton, England. There we were shipped across the channel on the King Edward to Cherbourg, France, where we traveled by box cars to Camp Desauge, France. Here we remained until the armistice was signed. We would have served on the front lines had the armistice not been signed.
"On January 15, 1919, the division left Camp Desauge and went to Pauillic and remained until the 29th until we set sail, landing at Newport News, Virginia, after being at sea for 16 days. After two weeks we traveled to Camp Taylor, Kentucky, where Bob was honorably discharged on March 7, 1919.
"Bob was as true and respectable as was possible for anyone in the Army and treated everyone as a brother. He possessed the ability to turn away from each and every temptation which was laid before him everyday. The railroad called Bob back on duty March 25th.
Mullins Tunnel Catastrophe
"He was sent to different points on the road, but he was headquartered in Covington for a few months, then to Ravenna from which place he made his last visit home.
"On August 27, 1920, Bob passed through Berea going north at 1:00 a.m. and passed back going south at 7:00 a.m., waving and throwing kisses at his aunt, Marinda Johnston, and children. This was his daily custom while passing by her house in Berea.
"The telegram received by Bob's parents read, 'Bob severely hurt in a wreck in Mullins Tunnel.'
"Six lives were snuffed out, two directly and four indirectly, as the result of the wreck in Mullins Tunnel on August 27, 1920, of a double-header freight train southbound. Front engine No. 1528 became detached from the train, and after the wreck was found about 30 yards ahead. None were killed on No. 1528. Second engine No. 1568 left the tracks and turned on its side. A slit in the rear end of the boiler in the cab, together with a broken injector on the fireman's side, poured forth a tremendous volume of hot water and steam carrying death to Bob Reynolds, fireman and Claude Crowe, engineer.
"Mr. Bennett Mullins, the front brakeman, was badly scalded from the waist down but walked unassisted out of the tunnel. He tried removing his clothes but found the flesh in places adhered to his clothing. He was taken to a hospital in London.
"A carload of horses was wrecked among 15 other cars. Many of the horses were horribly mutilated, some having splinters the size of fence rails through their bodies.
"A wrecking and relief train in charge of the railroad officials at Paris was called. On it's way to the scene of the wreck, another catastrophe occurred.
"Four young men from Antepast who had secured employment on the road and were making their way along the track to join a work crew, were crossing the trestle near Elkin Station about seven miles south of Winchester when the relief train suddenly appeared around the bend. They quickened their steps and tried to clear the trestle but were overtaken and killed. Their names were: Carlow Reed, Bronston Murrell, Wilson Martin, and Roscoe McQueen.
"At the time of his death, Bob Reynolds was 26 years, three months, and 21 days of age."

Joe Fothergill, 200 East Franklin Street, Dayton, Ohio 45458, shares this article with our readers.