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New book details ‘story within the story’ of famed locomotive

Last year, Mark Stevens and A.J. “Alf” Peoples put together a one-of-a-kind pictorial history that chronicled the journey of the Clinchfield Railroad’s fabled “No.1” steam locomotive.
Just one year later, the duo are releasing a second book, “The Clinchfield No. 1: Tennessee’s Legendary Steam Engine” as a follow up to last year’s “The One & Only”, although the former is described as a definitive history text publication, while the latter is defined as more of a pictorial history.
“The Clinchfield No. 1: Tennessee’s Legendary Steam Engine” is 160 pages and around 37,000 words. While the publication is more text-based, it contains around 80 photographs, some of which have never been published.
The text itself centers around a 4-6-0 steam locomotive known as the Clinchfield No. 1. It has been a source of interest for both men for quite some time.
“I just developed this fascination with it over the years when I lived in Erwin and worked as the publisher of the newspaper there,” said Stevens in an interview with the History Press. “I guess you can say I’m a railroad fan. But Alf, now, he’s got a real connection.”
“My first job on the railroad was a car marshal for the No. 1’s excursion trains,” said Peoples. “That’s where my 45-year career as a railroader started… I worked all my career on the same tracks the No. 1 traveled and it was the No. 1 where I got my start.”
The locomotive was purchased by the Town of Erwin in the 1950s. The original plan was to turn the locomotive into a display piece. The plan never materialized and the locomotive fell into a state of disrepair, her rusting hulk becoming more of an eyesore rather than a tribute piece.
Thomas D. Moore became the general manager of the Clinchfield Railroad in 1968 and he ordered that the locomotive be restored.
“He wanted to use it as a public relations tool and have it pull excursions,” said Stevens. “That’s the start of how the engine became famous.”
It was put into service throughout the 1970s and at the time was the nation’s oldest working steam locomotive. The locomotive was retired from service in 1979 and is now housed at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore.
The book includes interviews with longtime Erwin icon, George Hatcher, revered member of the ‘Erwin Nine’ and former fireman for the No. 1 for 11 years as well as current U.S. Senator and former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander, who rode behind the famed locomotive in 1972 and in 1978 as part of a whistle-stop campaign by U.S. Senator Howard Baker Jr.
“This story is more about the pages in the story rather than about just a piece of machinery,” said Stevens. “That’s what we really wanted to do; tell the story within the story.”
Stevens said that both The New York Times and Chicago Tribune reported on the locomotive during its running years.
“I’m not sure that some people in Erwin really grasp how big [the locomotive] was,” said Stevens. “It’s what put the Clinchfield on the map.”
Stevens and Peoples will be doing a tour of the area for book signings in the coming days.
On Friday Aug. 22, from 10-11 a.m., Stevens and Peoples will be at the Elizabethton Star. From 12:30-2:30 p.m., they will be at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce. From 3:30-4:30 p.m., they will be at Tupelo Honey Café in Johnson City. Finally, from 5:30-7 p.m., they will be at the Clinchfield Railroad Museum in Erwin.
On Saturday Aug. 23, the two men will be at the George L. Carter Railroad Museum on the campus of East Tennessee State University from 10-11 a.m. Also, from 12-2 p.m., Stevens and Peoples will be at the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society in Jonesborough. The book signing will be held onboard the Clinchfield 100 executive coach, marking the first time, according to Stevens, that the public has been allowed onboard the car since its restoration.
Additionally, a signing will be held on Oct. 16 from 3:30- 5:30 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in Johnson City.
Books will be available for purchase at many local bookstores and also at Historypress.com, the publisher of the book.