Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway aka NC&StL, NC&Stl.L, ncstl,  




Letter to the Editor

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 its day.

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 ) 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

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.

Thank you,

Tom Rye Knowles, Jr.



NC&StL Preservation Society, Inc. is in no way affiliated with the NC&StL Railway or any of it's successors.
As a non-profit entity, NCPS presents these pages to the public purely for educational and historic interest.

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