LOGANSPORT, Indiana — The history of a steam engine built 132 years ago this month in Logansport was chronicled in a recently published book.
One of the stories Mark A. Stevens covered as publisher of The Erwin Record in Erwin, Tennessee, was community members' efforts to bring the Clinchfield No. 1 steam engine back to the town that helped make it famous from where it currently resides in a Baltimore museum.
A.J "Alf" Peoples, a retired locomotive engineer whose career began as a car marshal on the Clinchfield No. 1, was one of his sources.
The reporter and the source became friends and eventually co-authors as the two set out to publish "The One & Only: A Pictorial History of the Clinchfield No. 1," a 500-photo volume that came out last year.
Stevens and Peoples soon realized if a picture is worth a thousand words, they had the beginnings of what could be a definitive history book on the subject.
"In doing so, we kind of realized there are a lot of stories to tell," Stevens told the Pharos-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1pd9aCa ).
The two hunted down even more information and conducted interviews with those knowledgeable of the train to write the recently published "The Clinchfield No. 1; Tennessee's Legendary Steam Engine."
Stevens and Peoples found articles on the steam engine in publications such as The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Southern Living.
"It became very well-known and very famous and very beloved by a lot of people," Stevens said.
But it's first mention in print, Stevens said, was in the Logansport Weekly Pharos in the summer of 1882, the year it was built by the Panhandle Company shops that formerly did business in town.
"It was wonderful because it talked about its first time on the rails," he said, adding it was one of the few if not the only steam engine ever built in Logansport.
The train was known as Engine No. 423 then, then as Engine No. 543. It was owned by several different railroad companies in the country before it came to Clinchfield Railroad in Erwin, Tennessee, in the early 1900s, where it would go on to be only one of two steam engines the company never scrapped after diesel came along.
"It wasn't created to pull passenger trains necessarily or to be famous, but like a lot of other steam engines of that time — to do work, to pull freight," Stevens said. "It wasn't the biggest or the most elaborate, it just simply became famous and loved by a lot of people much later."
The town of Erwin eventually purchased the engine with plans to put it on display in a public park, Stevens said. It never happened, however, and the train was left to rust and rot away in a rail yard.
That is, until "about four dozen Clinchfield Railroad workers rebuilt it into this shining example of railroad history," at the age of 86 in September 1968, the month and year Stevens was born.
"The chances it would have been saved are so slim," he continued. "It became what it was because of its recreation and revitalization."
Since 1979, the train has been on display at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.
"It's one of those things, one of those stories about defying the odds," Stevens said. "None of it should have happened the way it did, yet I think that's why it makes it special."
Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com