August 16, 2003
To: Editor, Nashville City Paper
--Your paper has run related stories on this subject several
times over the years.--
A Nashville city landmark will celebrate it's fiftieth anniversary
in September. This is quite a feat since the landmark
is a machine and has been left standing out in the
weather for all that time. I speak of the steam locomotive
in Centennial Park. Nashville, Chattanooga and St Louis Railroad (NC&StL)
engine number 576 was moved into place on September 13, 1953 as
a gift from the RR to the citizens of Nashville. If you'll recall,
the NC&StL RR was Nashville's very own Railroad
though controlling shares in its stock were owned
by the L&N RR at that time. The NC&StL was merged
into the L&N in 1957 and all subsequently became part of the present-day CSX system.
The NC&StL retired all its steam engines in 1952, and since
this one was only ten years old at the time, it was
still in beautiful condition. It seemed fitting to
remember the glory days of steam locomotion in Nashville by
making this gift and displaying it. The City graciously accepted.
Many a person, myself included, has visited this engine
to study, in awe of its size and complexity, the majesty
of railroading in by-gone days. Engine 576 represented the very latest in engineering, speed and power for
As a former citizen and native of Nashville, I was privileged
to have spent many hours getting to know the engine.
Almost fifty years ago as a mere lad of eleven I sat
in her cab and thought to myself "This is
magnificent, what a shame to be sitting here dead." In
my youthful naiveté,
I thought 576 would be immortal. Many trips to visit
(and later be denied access to the cab because of
security needs) over the years have witnessed her decline. It's
sort of like watching and old friend die and knowing you could
have done something about it. I think we can do something about it.
I am glad that she is sitting there dead, because that means
she still exists, unlike every other NC steam engine.
At least she still has a little chance of surviving
further, but not another fifty years out in the weather. Why
can't the citizens of Nashville see that? She came real close to
being saved a couple of times but obviously that never
happened. What a shame. If the engine gets cut up
someday after I am dead, I will not be the looser, but
the citizens of Nashville and their children's children. Today's citizens who did not take steps to preserve her shoulder the blame.
Over these fifty years of visiting, I learned how to run and repair
steam engines, because of an instilled interest in
the beast...all of 576's doing. Yeah, it could have
been any other old steam engine, but it wasn't. It was 576.
Also somewhere along the way I recognized that she was not ever "too far
gone" to be made to run again, and that I could play some
small part in that should it happen. It turns out I was not alone.
Several years ago I began a letter-writing campaign and set up
a web site with e-groups in the interest of protecting
576 from the elements. To my surprise, there were
people all over the country who had the same thoughts as
I did about the engine. As a result a new RR-oriented society was
set up and chartered in the state of Tennessee, known
as the "Nashville
Chattanooga and St Louis Preservation Society"or "NCPS" for
short. (See www.ncps-576.org. ) I am a charter member
of that group. We have been very interested in the
stabilization of 576, and have made trips to Nashville to present ideas for her preservation to the Parks Board and others.
Some members of our group are planning another trip to Nashville
in September to remember the day 576 was moved into
place, celebrating the anniversary. Perhaps a simple
picnic. A quiet gathering to reflect on the past and
what the future might hold. We will gladly grant interviews to
any reporter, either at that time or at any other
time. We think that if the public were notified there
might be a rather large turnout of people and an interesting story
to be written for your paper.
If you have any interest in this, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You have my permission to use any or all of this letter for publication
as you may see fit (except my phone number). I look
forward to hearing from you or your staff soon.
Tom Rye Knowles, Jr.