Atlanta History Center prepares to move locomotive for restoration

RELATED TOPICS: STEAM/PRESERVATION | RAILFANNING
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Texas_move
The 'Texas' is moved form its longtime display location to undergo restoration in North Carolina.
Atlanta History Center
ATLANTA – The 1856 Texas locomotive, one of the most treasured objects in Atlanta’s history, is on the move again. The 4-4-0 is beginning its journey on Monday from the The Atlanta History Center, which assumed responsibility for the Texas in 2014 as part of a 75-year license agreement with the City of Atlanta, to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer for cosmetic restoration. There, Steam Operations Corp. will conduct the first major restoration ever of the 159-year-old Texas.

Visitors to the North Carolina museum will be able to view the project’s progression, too.

Famed for its role along with the locomotive General in the Civil War’s Great Locomotive Chase in 1862, the Texas is expected to return to the Atlanta History Center in late 2016. It will be permanently featured in a custom-built glass-walled enclosure that will put the prized artifact of Atlanta’s rich railroading past on prominent display, where it will be illuminated at night and clearly visible from West Paces Ferry Road at all hours. The glass enclosure housing the Texas will connect the Atlanta History Museum to the new Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building, which will house The Battle of Atlanta painting, which is estimated to open late 2017.

“After many years of limited view in the basement of the Cyclorama building in Grant Park, we are putting the Texas in a place where it is going to be front and center,” History Center Vice President of Properties Jackson McQuigg says. “This engine that has been at times forgotten in its long lifetime is going to become a focal point.”

The Texas and the General, the star attraction at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw are the sole surviving locomotives that once served the Western & Atlantic Railroad.

“As railroads are Atlanta’s reason for being, this steam engine is an icon of Atlanta’s founding and growth as the Gate City of the South – the commercial center of the Southeast,” Atlanta History Center President and CEO Sheffield Hale says. “The Texas locomotive symbolizes Atlanta’s longtime relationship with railroads and the city’s importance as a hub for people, commerce, and ideas. No artifact can be more important for telling the story of Atlanta’s beginnings than this Western & Atlantic locomotive.”

Hundreds of locomotives serviced the W&A RR and its successors, yet all but the Texas and General were scrapped over the decades. Both engines were saved because of their roles in the 1862 Great Locomotive Chase, when Union Army loyalists commandeered the General from the town of Big Shanty (now Kennesaw) and took it north toward Chattanooga, wreaking destruction to the W&A line, until finally being caught by Confederate forces who had pursued aboard the Texas.

Though the Great Locomotive Chase became the subject of a popular 1956 movie of the same name and books, Atlanta History Center historians believe the Texas has even greater importance as an artifact that speaks eloquently and authentically of Atlanta’s beginnings.

As for its appearance, it will undergo historical paint research at Spencer by the restoration team before any decisions are made about color, numbering and other matters of appearance.

“What it is going to look like is the easy part,” McQuigg said. “We can debate that but it’s just paint. We want to address the rust and structural issues, the things that have been ignored over the years in favor of cosmetic restoration.”

The History Center has dedicated $500,000 to Texas conservation.

For more information about the Atlanta History Center, go to www.atlantahistorycenter.com.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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