You may already know the legend of Casey Jones, the train engineer who lost his own life saving his passengers during a collision in 1900. Now, meet Jesús García, the Casey Jones of Mexico.
On November 7, 1907, García, a 23-year-old brakeman, was taking a break in the freight yard in Nacozari, Sonora, when he noticed smoke in the air. García then realized that sparks from his train’s chimney stack had blown back onto the first cars, igniting the hay on top. And the day’s cargo made all the difference: the train was transporting 70 boxes of dynamite, detonators, and fuses. That was bad enough on its own—but letting the train explode in the train yard amongst other gas tanks and dynamite stores would have been even worse.
Rather than run or take cover to save himself from the impending explosion, García hopped back on board and threw the train into reverse, driving full-steam to get the doomed train as far away from civilization as possible. His intention, some speculate, was to jump when the train made it to an uninhabited area that wasn’t too far back on the route.
Unfortunately, García didn’t make it that far. The train had traveled about 4 miles when the explosives blew. It’s said that a shower of debris and gravel pelted the ground for several minutes afterward, and all they ever found of the heroic brakeman was a single boot. Thirteen people died, which was still tragic, but a vast improvement on the number that would have lost their lives had the entire yard gone up.
In appreciation, the town changed its name to Nacozari de García, then took up a collection to build a monument honoring their fallen hero. The government donated $50,000 to the cause, and today an elaborate train memorial, obelisk, and gravestone still stand in Nacozari.