“The Dying Mine Brakeman (The True and Trembling Brakeman)”


The young mine train motorman is horrified to discover that, because he could not stop in time, he has run over his brakeman. The dying brakeman speaks to his sister and sends messages to his parents


Reportedly written by Jenks in the three months following the accident in 1915. Jenks was one of those involved in taking the brakeman's body from the wreckage. Cohen observes that this may be a case where a singer took traditional materials and reworked them, but there is no clear evidence of a version of this song (as opposed to "The Dying Californian" and its relatives) predating Jenks. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1915 - Death of the brakeman

Cross references


  • Cliff Carlisle, "True and Trembling Brakeman" (Superior 2669/Champion 16295 [as the Lullaby Larkers], 1931; Champion 45029, 1935; Montgomery Ward M-8036, 1939)
  • Jess Johnson, "The Dying Brakeman" (Champion 16255, 1931)
  • Carter Family, "The Reckless Motorman" (Decca 5722, 1938)
  • Bradley Kincaid, "True and Trembling Brakeman" (Melotone 12184, 1931; Conqueror 8091, 1933; Vocalion 02683, 1934; Panachord [UK] 25901, 1937; Polk 9064/Panachord [Australia] P-12184, both n.d.)
  • Paul Mason, "True and Trembling Brakeman" (OKeh 45479, 1930)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "True and Trembling Brakeman" (on NLCR05)
  • Aulton Ray, "True and Trembling Brakeman" (Gennett 6129/Herwin 75552/Champion 15277/Challenge 269/Bell 1186 [as Carl Bunch]/Superior 385, all 1927)


  1. Laws G11, "The Dying Mine Brakeman (The True and Trembling Brakeman)"
  2. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 257-260, "The True and Trembling Brakeman" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Randolph 695, "The True and Trembling Brakeman" (1 text)
  4. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 92, "True and Trembling Brakeman" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. DT 783, TREMBRAK*
  6. Roud #8599
  7. BI, LG11


Alternate titles: “The Reckless Motorman”
Author: Orville J. Jenks (?)
Earliest date: 1927 (recording, Aulton Ray)
Found in: US(Ap,So)