576 receives unanimous Nashville council support

Lease agreement will be signed soon, the next step is to raise money for restoration
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Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis 4-8-4 Dixie-type locomotive No. 576 as it looked steaming in Memphis, Tenn., in July 1948. The Nashville Metropolitan Council agreed to lease the locomotive to the Nashville Steam Preservation Society Tuesday evening for the locomotive's eventual restoration.
Sid Davies, Louis A. Marre collection
NASHVILLE — The push to bring Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Ry. No. 576 back to life is advancing with an open throttle to fundraising today hours after the Nashville Metropolitan Council unanimously approved leasing the 4-8-4 to a steam locomotive restoration group.

“We’ve got the ball rolling, and we now encourage the community to take an interest in the Nashville Steam Preservation Society” and its fundraising drive to make the project happen, says Council Member Angie Henderson, sponsor of the lease ordinance and chairwoman of the Parks, Library, and Recreation Committee.

“This is great,” says society President Shane Meador. “It’s a major milestone, obviously, in the history of the locomotive. Now we have to buckle down and start the fundraising campaign. That’s going to be our primary focus right now."

The society's request to lease and move the Class J3 Dixie out of Centennial Park in downtown Nashville had been approved by the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation on June 7, and by the Parks Committee of the Metropolitan Council on Aug. 2. The council's tourism committee gave its blessing Tuesday afternoon, before the full Council meeting.

The lease signing comes next, then the move of No. 576 to the Tennessee Central Railway Museum in Nashville, where it will be restored over the next four to five years. Once back in action, the engine is expected to lead museum passenger excursions over the Nashville & Eastern Railroad from Riverfront Station downtown.

But near term, the society must raise a $500,000 in the next few months if it’s to meet its goal of moving the locomotive this autumn. It’s too late in the year to apply for grants, so pitches will be made to individuals, and presentations, to civic organizations and potential corporate funders.

“We must have $500,000 in the bank for the move to take place,” Meador says. “We’re talking $200,000 to move the locomotive,” then additional money “to strip it down, take the appliances off, media-blast the boiler, do ultrasonic testing and define the scope of work."

About $100,000 would be put in escrow as an insurance fund — to pay to reassemble the engine for static display should a restoration not happen. That’s the worst-case scenario. Society leaders estimate it would take up to $3 million to do a full rebuild. It has budgeted another $2 million to construct a visitors’ center next to the museum.

The next stop is the Wilson County Fair Aug. 19 to 27 in Lebanon, Tenn. Steam society volunteers will share a table with the Tennessee Central museum, handing out fliers, answering questions and drumming up enthusiasm — and donations — for the project.

The society will soon announce donor affiliate levels for fundraising, and another work session, the week of Labor Day, “to give some of the guys who have expressed interest in helping out an opportunity to do just that,” Meador says. “The big focus now is finishing the bearing inspections on the tender, and to get the engine cleaned up and presentable for a meet-and-greet on a date to be announced.”

The Alco-built 4-8-4 was delivered in 1942 to answer motive power demands of World War II. The NC&StL donated the locomotive to the city of Nashville in Sept. 1953. It is one of the few surviving examples of modern steam in the South.

No one has ever attempted a restoration of a steam locomotive displayed outdoors this long, society officials say. Nor had any prior effort by steam enthusiasts persuaded the city to release the engine. The last try, in 2001, didn’t make it past the Parks Board.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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