Restored locomotive Texas will be unveiled at Transportation Museum next weekend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2017

N.C. Transportation Museum

The historic Texas locomotive will be unveiled at the N.C. Transportation Museum on April 28-30.

“The Texas Returns: Featuring 100 Years of American Steam” will highlight the engine and feature operating steam locomotives, multiple train rides behind steam and diesel locomotives, and programs focused on the history of the 161-year-old Texas.

The engine became famous, along with the General, for its role in the Great Locomotive Chase of the Civil War. During Reconstruction, the engine was put to work for the Western & Atlantic Railroad.

“The locomotive served for 51 years on the famous Western & Atlantic Railroad, contributing significantly to Atlanta’s rise as a railroad center, and ultimately, an international city,” said Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center.

The Transportation Museum was chosen for restoration of the Texas because it is the site of a former steam locomotive repair shop. The museum is on the grounds of what was once Spencer Shops, Southern Railway’s largest repair facility in the Southeast. In recent years, the museum grounds have been home to the restoration of significant pieces of railroad equipment.

The Texas Returns event will be the engine’s first public appearance since a 16-month exterior restoration, undertaken by Steam Operations Corp. and funded by the Atlanta History Center. It will be the engine’s only public appearance before returning to the Atlanta History Center to be permanently housed at the newly completed Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building, which also houses the famed Battle of Atlanta painting.

The Atlanta History Center is a partner in the unveiling, with support provided by CSX Transportation. CSX has aided in the restoration of the Texas and will support related events at the Atlanta History Center. CSX also will provide displays and historic rail equipment during The Texas Returns event.

Activities both Friday and Saturday will begin with an unveiling of the Texas. The engine will be rolled out of the Bob Julian Roundhouse at 9:30 a.m. and onto the turntable for the first photos of the post-restoration engine.

Speakers will include Kevin Cherry, deputy secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; Gordon Jones, senior military historian with the Atlanta History Center; and Jackson McQuigg, vice president of properties with the center.

The Texas will be paired with other locomotives for photographs, representing different aspects of the engine’s notoriety.

The “100 Years of Steam” pairing will feature the Texas with the N&W Class J No. 611 and Lehigh Valley Coal No. 126.

A CSX Transportation pairing will feature locomotives that once served railroads that merged to form the modern CSX. The Texas, a Western & Atlantic Railroad workhorse, will appear alongside the museum’s Atlantic Coast Line No. 501 diesel engine, as well as the Atlantic Coast Line No. 1031 and Seaboard Air Line No. 544 steam engines, as well as theNo. 2702 Spirit of Atlanta: Franklin M. Garrett diesel locomotive.

In 1980, the Georgia Railroad named the 2702 after the Atlanta historian who dedicated his life to chronicling the history of the Southern city once known as Terminus, the final stop on a railroad line connecting the Midwest and Georgia. In 1983, the Georgia Railroad merged into Seaboard System. Seaboard kept Garrett’s name on the engine, as did CSX when it merged with Seaboard.

The Spirit of Atlanta will be displayed with modern intermodal freight containers positioned behind the locomotive.

A Sunday photo pairing will feature only the CSX predecessor steam engines.

At the Throttle sessions will take place Friday and Sunday with two steam locomotives, the 611 and the 126. During these sessions, visitors will be stepping into the cab of these engines, with a qualified engineer, to run up and down the museum tracks, living out their rail fan dreams.

The Class J 611 steam locomotive, owned by the Virginia Museum of Transportation, represented the height of steam engine technology when it was built in 1950, with all the size and power that represents.

The 126 allows for a step even further back in time. Built in 1931, the 126 was a mover of coal in Pennsylvania, first for Lehigh Valley Coal Co. and then others. At the Throttle sessions with the 611 are sold out, however, jump seat cab rides behind the engineer are still available. At the Throttle sessions with the 126 are still available in limited numbers.

Saturday only, the N&W Class J 611 will take on the museum’s regular passenger train, moving visitors around the site on steam power.

Saturday evening, the museum will host the “100 Years of Steam” dinner. Traditional N.C. barbecue will be served as railroad photographer Ron Flanary and Class J 611 historian Col. Ingles Lewis “Bud” Jeffries lead the program. Flanary will detail his experiences photographing famous steam locomotives. Jeffries will delve into the history of the Class J 611.

Each day, the North Georgia Live Steamers will be on hand with scale steam engines, miniature versions that are one-eighth the size of full-size locomotives. Steam tractors that would have been used in farming in the late 19th and early 20th centuries will also be featured.

Turning the focus to four-wheeled locomotion, the CSX-sponsored Play It Safe racing car will be displayed.

Through the Play It Safe initiative, CSX works to raise awareness about how to safely cross railroad tracks. Visitors can try a NASCAR simulator that allows fans to put their driving skills to the test by taking a virtual spin around the racetrack from the driver seat of the Play It Safe car.

One-, two- and three-day passes are available. The dinner is an upgrade at $20 per person. For prices and more information or to buy tickets, go to  Advance purchase is recommended..

The Texas will return to Atlanta, where it will be permanently featured in a glass enclosure. It will be illuminated at night and visible from West Paces Ferry Road.