Railroad features Carnegie hero
James E. Dowell
Railroad features Carnegie hero
A screenshot of the Norfolk Southern Facebook post published Feb. 20 to honor Carnegie Hero Dowell, who saved a 16-month-old boy from being struck by a train in 1950. Dowell was the first African American to receive the Interstate Commerce Commission bronze Medal of Honor for the heroic act as well.

Railroad corporation Norfolk Southern recently featured Carnegie Hero James E. Dowell in a #throwbackthursday Facebook post.

Including a photo that Norfolk Southern Assistant Manager Jennifer Davis McDaid found in Ties, a Southern Railway magazine, the post highlighted Dowell’s rescue of a 16-month-old child who was playing on train tracks in St. Charles, Va., nearly 70 years ago.

Dowell, a 60-year-old Southern Norfolk brakeman, was working July 10, 1950, at the caboose of a locomotive pushing six other cars at a speed of about 12 m.p.h. From the platform, Dowell spotted Jimmie A. Woodward playing on the tracks and his mother, Frances Woodward, running toward the track. Dowell shouted a warning, jumped from the train, ran 50 feet alongside the train, and grasped the boy, pulling him from the path of the train when it was 3 feet away. As the train, in emergency braking by then, passed, it brushed against Dowell’s jacket and trousers, stopping 270 feet from where Dowell stood.

According to Norfolk Southern’s post, “Jim did a great job,” conductor Hugh H. Kestner said. “I don’t see how he made it in time.”

Dowell also received the Interstate Commerce Commission bronze Medal of Honor.

“#Safety at Norfolk Southern remains our highest priority. NS trains transport the nation’s goods to businesses and communities across our 19,500-mile rail network, passing through small towns, big cities, and everywhere in between. No matter where we travel, NS works around the clock to deliver a better and safer future,” the Facebook post concluded.

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