From History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce Cline.
Across from the boardwalk in Makanda next to a picnic shelter by the railroad tracks you will find a monument to a hound dog named Boomer. The inscription on the monument reads: “In memory of Boomer the hound dog. Tradition says he dashed his life out against the iron abutment of the railroad bridge 300 feet south of this point on September 2, 1859, while running along on three legs trying to put out the flame in a hotbox on the speeding train of his beloved fireman-master.”
Boomer was the faithful companion of a fireman who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. The railroad bosses would not let Boomer ride on the train with his master, so the hound would run beside the train every time it passed through Makanda. Soon the news got out that Boomer would keep up with the train. Other railroads began to ridicule and joke about how the Illinois Central train could go no faster than a hound dog. After much public abuse, the bosses at the Illinois Central railroad came up with a plan.
The fastest train that the Illinois Central Railroad had was brought to Makanda. Wood and coal was double loaded in the tender. The engineer and fireman were ordered to heap on the fuel and go full speed ahead. The fire raged and the pressure in the boiler rose higher and higher. The firebox door was glowing red and the rivets were about to burst. The pistons pumped harder and harder speeding the train faster than any train had ever gone. Dust, smoke and steam billowed out around the train as it flew down the tracks. People were lined up along the route to see if Boomer could keep up.
Finally, the fireman shouted out “Saints be praised!” Boomer was chasing the train and indeed was keeping up with it. The wheels of the train started to overheat and the bearings lit their grease. Flames started shooting out of the bearing boxes. The fireman yelled out “HOTBOX!” Boomer saw that the train and his master were in peril when the flames started to shoot out. Boomer quickly took charge of the situation. He ran to the hotbox, lifted his leg and pissed the fire out.
Unfortunately, Boomer could not see or react in time to avoid running into a bridge that was hidden by the steam and dust and he was killed instantly. Many lives had been saved by the heroic actions of the faithful hound dog. Boomer was given a hero’s funeral and an impressive monument was erected to his memory.