Thursday, May 4, 2017

Cheers, applause greet restored Civil War locomotive Texas at its new Atlanta home

Gordon Jones guides the caravan. (Civil War Picket)

A 53,000-pound iron horse made famous in the Civil War turned heads as it made its way Thursday to a new home at the Atlanta History Center.

The restored locomotive Texas and its tender were greeted by cheers and applause as tractor trailers carried them up a driveway in front of the Buckhead museum.

From there, they were plucked by cranes and placed on railroad tracks in a specially built gallery that will be enclosed. Hillary Hardwick, AHC vice president of marketing communications, said that part of the move was completed about 7 p.m. "They complement each other quite well," she said.

The pair will be an important companion piece to the Atlanta Cyclorama painting, which is currently being restored in a new circular building on the campus ahead of its opening in 2018.

“I am happy to have delivered this baby” to work crews, said Gordon Jones, the AHC’s senior military historian.

(Civil War Picket)

He and other AHC officials took part in a weekend event in Spencer, N.C., where the Texas was restored over 16 months. The caravan to Atlanta took two days. The smokestack, cowcatcher and headlamp were removed to keep them safe during the journey.

The timing of the arrival early in the afternoon appeared providential. The rain had cleared and AHC officials, guests and the curious snapped photographs and video. The Texas' bell softly clanged as it entered the driveway.

Among those on hand was Harper Evans (left, with his niece), 95, of Griffin, Ga. He grew up in the city’s Grant Park neighborhood, where the Texas and painting were housed for decades before the building was closed ahead of the move of the large artifacts.

Evans was about 5 when he was able to scramble into the Texas’ cab in 1927, the year it was moved inside the building at Grant Park.

The locomotive was famous for being in the 1862 “Great Locomotive Chase” from Big Shanty toward Chattanooga, Tenn. It successfully pursued Union raiders who were trying to destroy track of the Western & Atlantic Railroad.

The tender was carried on a a separate trailer.

AHC officials chose to paint the Texas in colors from its postwar operation in 1886. The engine, built in 1856 and most famous for its Civil War glory, became a workhorse as the city became a prominent railroad hub.

Some critics on Civil War and railroad forums have questioned why the refurbished Texas does not have a Civil War appearance. They also wonder whether it should have retained the name Cincinnati, which it gained several years after the war and apparently carried to the end of its service.

Tender is set onto tracks (Georgia Battlefields Association)

Jackson McQuigg, vice president of properties for the AHC, said the locomotive “is still the Texas.”

It’s true that only the frame and a few other parts survive from the Civil War, but that’s almost always the case for engines that served for decades, McQuigg said. “A locomotive is a collection of spare parts” and they wore out and were interchangeable.

“We know what the name Texas means to Atlanta,” said McQuigg. The Texas, officials say, is “true to its parts” and will tell many stories of 19th century Atlanta.

Locomotive merchandising arrived at the AHC before the engine and tender. Sheffield Hale, the center's president and chief executive officer, sported a Western & Atlantic ballcap for Thursday's welcome.

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