Cover image for Casey Jones's fireman : the story of Sim Webb
Casey Jones's fireman : the story of Sim Webb
Farmer, Nancy.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Phyllis Fogelman Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 22 x 28 cm
Even though the railroad fireman senses danger ahead, he follows his engineer's command to increase the train's power so that the mysterious whistle blows.
Reading Level:
390 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 3.5 0.5 32701.

Reading Counts RC K-2 3.1 2 Quiz: 21816 Guided reading level: P.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PZ8.1.F2225 CAS 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PZ8.1.F2225 CAS 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



In the final years of the nineteenth century, the engineer of the mighty locomotive depends on the fireman to stoke the furnace that runs the engine and supplies steam to the whistle. Sim Webb is proud to be Casey Jones's fireman--because Casey is the best engineer on the Illinois Central, and his is the biggest whistle. But one day Casey and Sim meet a sinister red-headed gentleman who offers Casey an even bigger whistle, an unearthly whistle that Sim knows should not be blown. Can Sim stop Casey from dooming not only the train, but the entire world?The marvelous text of two-time Newbery Honor winner Nancy Farmer, and astonishingly vivid art of James Bernardin bring a thrilling part of American history and folklore to fire-breathing, steam-belching life. It's a story that will blaze across the reader's imagination and will not soon be forgotten.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 4^-8. The train disaster of legend and song is told from the perspective of Sim Webb, Casey Jones' fireman on the Cannonball Express. In the late nineteeth century, railroad jobs for black men were rare, but Sim fulfills his dream by working with Casey. One night, a mysterious gentleman offers Casey a train whistle made from Gabriel's trumpet. Casey can't resist, but Sim believes that blowing the whistle will bring the end of the world. How can he stop Casey Jones? Farmer eloquently interweaves history and myth into a suspenseful, engrossing drama, enhanced by well-developed characters, particularly Sim, an ordinary man challenged by extraordinary circumstances. Bernardin's lush, vibrant paintings are lovely and mystical, immersing readers in the early days of railroads. The combination makes for an unusual interpretation, a dark and thrilling journey in which naive overconfidence precludes a tragic downfall. A fascinating story, though some of its depictions may be too intense for some children. An author's note provides historical context. --Shelle Rosenfeld

Publisher's Weekly Review

It's all aboard for adventure as Newbery Honor author Farmer (The Eye, the Ear and the Arm) produces an exciting blend of history and imagination. Here, readers see the legendary train engineer Casey Jones through the eyes of his fireman, Sim Webb. As fireman, Webb maintains the coal-burning furnace that provides Jones's engine with its steam power. One night Jones meets a shady character who offers him a golden steam whistle for his engine. Said to be made from the angel Gabriel's trumpet, the whistle will require a dangerous amount of steam to blow. When a proud Jones tries out the new whistle (against Webb's advice), heÄand his engineÄmeet with disaster. Farmer's fully realized portrait of a little-known figure from African-American history will fascinate readers. Narrated by Webb, the account resonates with you-are-there immediacy and emotion. Bernardin (Dancing with the Wind) depicts Webb and Jones as jovial, hardworking young men, but the real stars of these dark-hued dramatic oil paintings are the trains, seen on nearly every page. Showing Jones's Cannonball racing through the inky night, Bernardin seems also to capture the sound of the whistle and the feel of the rushing wind. Children will want to proceed full steam ahead to the dramatic finale. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 4-Farmer takes the historical facts of Casey Jones's final train ride and gives the story a Faustian twist. Told in the first person by Jones's African-American fireman, Sim Webb, the tale explains why the Cannonball was traveling at such a high rate of speed on the night of the crash. A stranger who looks suspiciously like the Devil offers Jones a whistle made of seven golden pipes, said to be fashioned from Gabriel's trumpet, which is prophesied to blow on Judgment Day. Jones, with his famous weakness for distinctive train whistles, "borrows" it against Webb's advice. Ordering more steam and speed than is wise, just to make the whistle sound, Jones ignores Webb's warning and rushes toward disaster. He stops shoveling coal and exhorts Jones to look out for lights ahead. The engineer commands his fireman to jump while he stays onboard, hand on the brake. The whistle itself survived the crash to be handed down from trainman to trainman until the day that Gabriel reclaims it. This is dramatic stuff and Bernardin's vivid, painterly illustrations do it justice, with larger-than-life heroes, and the mythic Cannonball hurtling through the night landscape. An author's note presents many facts about the men and 19th-century trains in general. Unfortunately, there are no source notes and readers are left to speculate on which parts of the story are original and which are based in traditional lore. Nonetheless, this is a handsome introduction to the age of steam trains and to two legendary trainmen.-Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.