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Live streaming the Texas brings to mind history and a childhood recollection

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Sunday, April 23, 2017

On Friday and Saturday, I’ll be in Spencer, N.C., at my home museum, the N.C. Transportation Museum, where Trains will live stream the rollout of the cosmetically restored 1856 steam era locomotive Texas of the Civil War Great Locomotive Chase fame. You can watch along with us at www.TrainsMag.com/BigSteam, and be sure to check out coverage on Newswire as well as our Facebook page. In addition to the Texas, you’ll see Norfolk & Western No. 611 and Lehigh Coal 0-6-0T No. 126 in steam, as well as a smattering of vintage diesels, other static preserved steam, and freshly repainted CSX GP38-2 No. 2702, the Franklin M. Garrett. Garrett was the official historian for the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta History Center, where the Texas will take up residence next week on permanent display, telling not only the story of its Civil War day of drama but the role that railroads played in the growth and development of Atlanta.

To get ready for the Texas rollout event (print coverage will appear in our July issue, available around June 1), I went to my home library and pulled out Russell S. Bonds 2007 book, “Stealing the General.” I highly recommend the book; it’s readable, factual, and addresses the mythology surrounding the chase (burning bridges, flying locomotives, and other such foolishness) that grew out of Walt Disney’s 1956 movie about the chase. Rereading the book also reminded me that the stolen General was pursued by locomotives other than the Texas. One was the Catoosa and another was called the William R. Smith. Neither was up to the task. But the Texas, pretty much a twin to the General (although a different manufacturer), and despite running in reverse toward a hostile crew, was the locomotive that prevailed.

I have fuzzy memories as a child of seeing the Texas in the basement of Atlanta’s Cyclorama building, a tomb of a display location from which it was extracted. I remember the poor engine being stuffed in there, its giant stack almost scraping the ceiling. Because American type or 4-4-0 locomotives like the Texas were the model of the day on early American railroads like an ES44 or an SD70 would be today, the locomotive deserves this restoration and its day in the sun. Whether it’s a celebrity or a run of the mill locomotive, the Texas deserves a place of honor.

 

 

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