"No, that's impossible" and other myths about railway preservation

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Monday, January 14, 2019

NASHVILLE – Impossible. Never will happen. Can’t be done.

American railway preservation has many of those. I hear about them in casual conversation. I read about them online. They are the least hopeful railroads, locomotives, rolling stock, depots, etc., on the earth. Sometimes that assessment is true. Other times, it is for lack of trying.

But from time to time someone or some group or organization punches a gaping hole in steely impossible. It makes things happen. It gets the job done.

One of those lost causes, the liberation of Nashville Chattanooga & St. Louis No. 576 from its long-term home in Nashville’s Centennial Park, took place Sunday. The engine had been there since 1953, and at least a half dozen attempts had been made unsuccessfully to navigate the politics and funding that would see this locomotive, a modern superpower in the south, ready for restoration.

After two years of work, the locomotive was loaded on a self-propelled transporter and moved 2 miles yesterday where it will be placed on rails later today. In 3-4 years and some $1.5 million later, we’ll see a locomotive that can pull excursions on the Nashville & Eastern Railroad. I know a little about this because I had the good fortune to sit on the group’s original board of directors and now serve on its advisory council. But I assure you that I had little to do with what happened: That was in the hands of a good leader, Shane Meador, and a host of good people who raised the money, negotiated the lease, set up the plan, sold the souvenirs, prepped the engine, and basically prepared it for a new life. Many of these people I call long-term friends, and many are new friends. All are dedicated to getting the job done.

So, as I flew back to Milwaukee today, I was reminded that nothing is impossible. I urge everyone who has an impossible dream out there to go for it. Find those other kindred souls who want to make things happen. And go do it.

The last time I checked there’s still a set of Baldwin Sharknose diesels in a warehouse in Michigan. There’s still a Bessemer & Lake Erie 2-10-4 that’s homeless and landlocked in the Pittsburgh area. The East Broad Top still deserves a better fate. Those and many other impossibilities are out there. They’re not totally out of reach. If you try.



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