“but the train’s got its brakes on and the whistle is screaming…”

Preserve the Dead: 57 Irish Railroad Workers of Duffy’s Cut

…often I think of going up to some of ’em like say blonde ones with wild hair and torn shirts and say, “You oughta apply for the railroad it’s much easier work you don’t stand around the street all day and you get much more pay…”- Jack Kerouac, October in the Railroad Earth

What Kerouac’s story doesn’t tell, is the risk of death when you’re working in cholera-ridden, hostile-to-Irish territory. There’s a patch of land that silently holds a mass grave of Irish railroad workers—I pass it everyday on the Amtrak Keystone in between the Paoli and Exton train stations. It’s only just now—today—that I’ve learned some of the history behind this railway burial site. And I learned of it because a few good people bothered to preserve the dead.

One such person is Dan Leyden, who not only preserves the dead by singing in a Grateful Dead tribute band, Splintered Sunlight, but also preserves the dead by passing along the stories of the dead through song.

Learn more from the Smithsonian Channel and the Duffy’s Cut Project.

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