“We’re on the prairies!” exclaimed Bob, as he went to the lavatory to get ready for breakfast. “Say, now we’re in the wild and woolly west, all right.”
“Well, it’s not the first time,” replied Jerry. “Still it does look good to see it again. It’s a little different, traveling this way, than it was scooting along in our auto.”
“Yes, and I think I prefer the auto to this,” spoke up Ned, yawning and stretching. “This is too lazy a way of journeying. I’d like to rough it a bit.”
“Rough it!” exclaimed Bob. “Wait until we get out in California, and we can sleep out doors, while the folks back home are tending the furnace fire.”
The three boys were just about to enter the lavatory when the train gave a sudden lurch, and then it began bumping along over the ties, swaying from side to side. Every window in the car rattled as if it would break, and the boys were so shaken up, that, to steady themselves, they had to grasp whatever was nearest.
“We’re off the track!” cried Ned.
“This— is— roughing— it— all right!” said Jerry, the words coming out in jerks. “There’s— been— an— accident!”
“A— whole— lot— of— ’em— by— the— way— it— feels to— me,” declared Jerry. “I— wonder—”
Just then the train came to a stop, the car the boys were in being tilted at quite an angle.
“Let’s see what happened,” suggested Bob, going to the door. His companions followed him, and, from various berths the passengers began emerging, in different stages of undress. They looked frightened.
“Well, at any rate, none of us are killed,” said Professor Snodgrass, as he came down the aisle, fully dressed, for he had arisen early to continue his reading about horned toads. “What is the matter, boys?”
“We’re just going to find out,” said Jerry, as he went down the steps and walked along the track toward the engine, about which a crowd of passengers and train men were gathered.
“What’s the trouble?” asked Bob of a brakeman who was running toward the rear end of the train with a red flag.
“I don’t know exactly. Something wrong with the engine; I guess. I heard the conductor say it was a bad break.”
“Come on,” said Jerry to his chums. “There doesn’t seem to be anybody hurt, but it looks as if we were in for a long wait,” and he pointed to several cars that were off the track, the wheels resting on the wooden ties.
The boys found a group of worried trainmen gathered about the engine, and it needed but a glance to show what the trouble was. The piston rod had broken while the ponderous engine was going at full speed, and the driving rods, which had broken off from where they were fastened to the wheels, had been driven deep into the ground. This had served to fairly lift the engine from the rails, and, in its mad journey it had pulled several cars with it.