Readers have described Lost at Thaxton as “gripping” and felt as if they were “sitting on the train” themselves. The Bedford Bulletin called it “highly readable” and “hard to put down.”
In 1889, a massive late night storm caused a tiny stream at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains to turn into a raging river and washed away an embankment where the railroad crossed the creek. Near the small village of Thaxton, a passenger train plunged into the washout, and at least 18 people perished in the wreck. The survivors remained stranded with no contact or help for four hours in the rain, while those who did not make it out were consumed by a raging fire that ripped through the wreckage. In the days that followed, most of the remains found were tossed into a common and now unmarked grave in the city of Roanoke, and the wreck was forgotten even in the state of Virginia, where they have memorialized train wrecks that were much less devastating. The book’s author, Michael Jones, extensively researched the wreck for nearly two years. His narrative telling focuses on the people on board the train, and their stories before, during, and after the wreck.
“I have stood on the battlefield, and heard shot and shell rattling around me, and seen my comrades falling like leaves in autumn, but I have never seen anything that curdled my blood with horror or moved me to deeper depths of compassion than the scenes of that dreadful night.”
Major Henry N. Martin, Wreck Survivor