By Robert Burgins, Jr.  

A bright Sunday evening on a train route passing through Woodstock, AL, two trains traveling on the same track would fatefully crash head-on. The reason being would be discovered and ruled as a failure of signal indications from the northbound train. Between 16-18 lives were lost on that day of 1951, November 25th around 2:35 P.M.  

Due to certain practices of the time, many of the passengers on the north bound train had African-Americans seated right behind the cars which carried dangerous chemicals and hot coals. After the crash many local businesses were called upon, including founder of Johnson Memorial Funeral Director, Mr. Howard Johnson, Sr. “Whenever we’d travel Highway 5 my father would say, ‘Son back in ’51 there was a big train accident that occurred in this area, and I responded to it with our services,'” is what Mr. Howard Johnson, Jr. told us while reminiscing about such a tragic incident.  

At the time, funeral homes were more than just hearse driven businesses, but also operated as ambulance services too.  

We learned that some hearses doubled as ambulances before regulated ambulances were available; combinations are what these particular vehicles were called whereas it could be used as an ambulance and hearse for necessary purposes depending on the situation.  

Mr. Johnson told us his father was simply grateful to be able to provide services for the community and heeding the call to contribute a helping hand on such a day back in 1951, which has led the Johnson name to provide continued services in present days. 

On such a sad day, Mr. Johnson made himself available where a number of other injuries were counted, being that the Johnson family made sure the deceased were spoken for as well. Traveling from New Orleans to New York, the collision would equal many rail employees, passengers and others onboard to be injured and sadly deceased. Mr. Johnson would care for several of the victims on this day, particularly the remains of a female pastor from New York City. 

Seventy-two years later, the Johnson family has kept their legacy going, along with remembering one of their businesses’ most needed services during a tragic time in Alabama. Mr. Johnson informed us, “There’s not too far a distance nor a time too late to avail ourselves where needed, and this unfortunate accident had remained a part of our history, reminding us to always go wherever and whenever needed for our community and residents.” 

To learn more about this accident you may go online or visit YouTube and look up ‘1951 Woodstock Train Accident’. 

Also, for any services or information needed, visit or call 205-425-2414. 

Stay safe and remember to follow all necessary guidelines when traveling on our roads near or far.