Monday, August 23, 2010

The Great Locomotive Chase - Revisited

Business travels recently took me to Marietta, Georgia. Marietta is a suburb, located on the north side of the city. Upon arrival, I realized my hotel was only about 9 miles away from Kennesaw, Georgia, so I decided it was time to visit an old friend.

Back in the early 1980s, when VCRs and video rental were new, a local drugstore in my hometown also had a selection of movies to rent. One of these movies was Walt Disney's The Great Locomotive Chase, starring Fess Parker and Jeffrey Hunter. The movie tells the true-life story of Union solders, dressed as civilians who sole the General in an attempt to disrupt rail supply of Chattanooga. Their exploits were halted by a determined conductor, William A. Fuller. The raiders were captured, some executed. The events led to the creation and award of the Congressional Medal of Honor. I must have seen this movie hundreds of times while growing up, and probably wore out the tape. About that time, on our way home from a vacation in Florida, my parents stopped at the museum that houses the real steam locomotive the General.

Since that time, the museum that houses the General has grown in both size and scope. Now called The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, the museum focuses on three main areas, Railroad in the Civil War, the Glover Machine Works of Marietta, Georgia, and of course, the Great Locomotive Chase. The museum is now a Smithsonian affiliate, and well worth the visit if you are in the area.

A major new focus of the museum is the Glover Machine Works of Marietta, Georgia. This company, which is still in existence, at a different location, was known as a builder of small industrial and logging steam locomotives. In the 1990s, the Glover family decided to sell the property containing the works, and the museum stepped up and preserved the company records, the patterns, and other items, including antique machine tools. There were even two steam locomotives remaining at the factory. One has since been relocated to display in downtown Marietta. The other is on display at the museum, along with a complete frame for a similar steam locomotive. The displays of the Glover items is impressive, especially all of the wooden foundry patterns.

Of course, the star attraction of the museum is still the General. Today, she looks pretty much as she did in 1962 when the L&N restored her to take place in the 100th anniversary of the chase. The other locomotive that took part in the Great Locomotive Chase, the Texas is housed at the Atlanta Cyclorama. I'd like to go see her one of these days.


Al Reinschmidt said...

The movie was available on Comcast's on demand section a couple of months ago, Watched it again, still fun!

David Wilkins said...

The movie is actually well-done, and demonstrates many aspects of 19th century railroading. You get to see link and pin couplers work, and my favorite, how you stopped a steam locomotive with no brakes, buy shutting off the throttle and throwing the Johnson bar into reverse.