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Ready, Willis and Able – Train still fascinates in history (Dec. 17, 2014 issue)

Some called her Rosebud. Others called her the One Spot. But mostly she is remembered as the old Clinchfield Number One. This steam locomotive, built in 1882, could have ended up on the scrap heap if not for the vision of Clinchfield Railroad General Manager Thomas D. Moore Jr. and the personnel he chose to bring her back to life in 1968. Now, decades later, the beloved old steam engine resides in a museum, but her story still fascinates us. And Mark Stevens and Alf Peoples have written their second book about her glory days as an excursion train.
This second book is different from Alf and Mark’s previous pictorial history of the old train. Titled The Clinchfield No. 1, Tennessee’s Legendary Steam Engine, and published by The History Press, this latest book contains much history associated with the refurbishing and running of Number One in the late 1960s and 1970s. I especially enjoyed the stories from Nancy Moore Pearson, General Manager Moore’s daughter. Pearson’s stories give great insight into what motivated her father to put all the time and energy into his dream of using Number One as an excursion train and goodwill ambassador for the railroad. There are also stories from the beloved George Hatcher about his days on Number One with his brother Ed. George shoveled the coal and Ed drove the train. Children were especially attracted to Ed and George in their “pinstriped railroader’s Pointer Brand overalls with matching engineer’s caps and red kerchiefs around their necks.”
There is also a great story about P. O. Likens, who was the train’s Chief Mechanical Officer. On one excursion, Number One’s firebox came loose, and the repair shop in Atlanta couldn’t fix it. But dangerous as it was, somebody had to do it. So P. O. donned his coveralls, told engineer Ed Hatcher to make sure Number One didn’t move, crawled under the engine, and tightened the fire box. This story and others come directly from those who ran the old train or from their descendants.
Alf and Mark have also done a great job incorporating information from newspaper articles and other historical records, including Number One’s early history as a freight carrier. Newspapers in the southeast and points north, including the New York Times, loved to write about the old steam engine.
Among other Clinchfield personnel featured in Alf and Mark’s story of Number One are John Lukianoff and Everetter Allen. John was the communications expert, who coordinated the steam excursions. Everette was the “last Clinchfielder” to ride Number One as it traveled to its current home in the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.
I love reading books that leave a “good aftertaste in my mind.” Alf’s and Mark’s book is one of those books. Old Number One’s charisma as well as the personalities of those who rescued, operated, and maintained her jump right off the page. Like its subject, this book is number one.