Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Following No. 1 from land sea (Dec. 3, 2014 issue)

“There is not a place I know of where you can stand and listen to the train whistle echo through the mountains like it does in Erwin. You hear it four to six times. The No. 1 stood in Erwin abandoned for 13 years with her brass whistle standing tall for all to see. Yet, for some reason, no one dared to remove it. Did people know or hope that it would echo through the mountains again for thousands to hear her melody?
The whistle has echoed away,” Alf Peoples says, remembering the steam locomotive lending its name to two books he co-authored with Mark Stevens, former publisher of the Erwin Record. Their second book, “The Clinchfield No. 1,” is subtitled “Tennessee’s Legendary Steam Engine.” “The One & Only: A Pictorial History of the Clinchfield No. 1” was their first book about the steam engine built in 1882 and now displayed in Baltimore’s B&O Railroad Museum.
A third-generation railroader, Alf began his career in 1969 on the restored steam engine and notes that he “had the blessing” of working with George and the late Ed Hatcher, brothers who ran the No. 1 on excursions. Ed “would put his hand over mine on the whistle cord and try to teach me how to blow the whip-poor-will, telling me ‘see, it’s all in the wrist action.’”
Such special times were woven among his hours of work as car marshal and later captain. Whether it was a theatre outing (probably Alf’s favorite), transporting kids to see a ball game, trip to a concert or some other adventure, duties included helping passengers on and off, supplying and tidying cars, turning seats in the direction of travel. Answering passengers’ questions, getting them to the first aid car for things like a cinder in the eye were all in a day’s work.
While Alf’s firsthand experience inspired his contributions to the book, Mark’s research into a 1978 excursion brought things together for him.
He and Amy had moved to Pawley’s Island, S.C. In March this year he was back to do research at East Tennessee State University’s “marvelous and invaluable” Archives of Appalachia. “Well, lo and behold, in the boxes and boxes of archival material about the No. 1, I found a newspaper clipping from the Georgetown Times, which is my local newspaper here in South Carolina and where I am now executive editor. At the time, though, I was just working from home on the book and when I found the newspaper clipping, it was my two worlds colliding.”
Back in South Carolina he did more research, meeting families who shared never-before-published photos for the book, signed copies of which you may order by sending a check for $19.99 plus $3.00 for shipping to Mark Stevens, 390 Lumbee Circle, Pawley’s Island, S.C. 29585. If you would like a book personalized, note that.
Then, sit back and enjoy the ride. The excursions are just part of the story. How they came to be, what happened after they stopped–you will want to read all about it.
Hey, is that a train whistle I hear—or, perhaps, the echo of a sigh of pleasure from a story well-told?