As the men worked deep into the mountain, digging and laying track, Crodes released the Steam Hammer Robot from the rails. It began slamming into the sides of the tunnel, threatening to bring it down around the men. Quick thinking John Henry and the Foreman were able to get most of the men out but the entrance collapsed on them, leaving John, the Foreman and the Steam Hammer Robot trapped. John had no choice but to confront the rampaging machine and destroy it, a two hour battle that shook the mountain itself. In order to clear the entrance that was blocked with rock, John had to dig with a pick and shovel for 36 hours. He finally managed to get himself and the Foreman out, but the work, the battle and John's age and size were finally catching up with him and his heart was feeling the strain.
Due to the accident the contract was awarded to C&O and Jim Crodes was asked to pack up his scrap metal and move on. John finished the rail line but died quietly in his sleep one night. The men who he had worked with over the years began to spread his story far and wide, particularly among the South where black men were still growing accustomed to freedom. In the end Jim Crodes was forced to find work where it was available, eventually forced to work as a shaker for a small construction firm. He died years later after a blow to the head when the hammer man he worked with missed the nail.
John Henry had a son who went on to have adventures of his own, one of the first black superheroes of the Western Frontier, the Black Rider.