Dutchman’s Curve-100 Years Later

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Railroad history is not limited to Pullman, streamliners, and four-course meals in the dining car. Believe me I wish it was. But to truly understand and contextualize the place of railroads in American history, it is vital to study the bad as much as the good. The “go-to” topic for railroading’s darker side is without a doubt the train wreck. Train wrecks can often be romanticized, especially when the tales of a troubled run are transformed into ballads of employee martyrdom and lost young love. These events often receive special notoriety around the time of significant anniversaries. And this coming Monday July 9, 2018 is no exception.

Travel back 100 years ago and the Nashville, Chattanooga, & St. Louis Railway was making national headlines, but not for the desirable reasons. The day began as an average Tuesday with the usual trains operating out of Nashville as scheduled. However, as train No. 4 train headed westward out of Union Station, the very fabric of American railroading changed forever. As a result of severe human error, the No. 4 collided head-on with the in-bound No. 1 from Memphis, running about a half-hour late, at a place called Dutchman’s Curve just a few miles west of downtown Nashville. The two trains met in a cornfield and the sound of the impact could be heard several miles away. Witnesses reported the sound was like nothing they had ever heard before, quick yet catastrophic. An estimated 100 to 121 people were killed with more than 100 more badly injured. Many of the victims were African American laborers en route to work at the new munitions plant in Old Hickory.

Local responders on the scene with cots set up to care for the wounded.

In the aftermath of what would become the deadliest train wreck in American history, a remarkable thing happened. People were not scared away by the sound of the collision, but rather they ran toward it. Countless people and wagons made their way through the tall stalks of corn to help extinguish the flames and tend to the wounded. An estimated 40,000 people came out the day of the accident to help their fellow man in a time of great need and tragedy. Victims of the accident sought refuge in surrounding homes and barns until they were well enough to venture home. Several Catholic nuns brought typewriters so they could write letters for the survivors and notify their families that they were safe. As much heartache as there was that day, the spirit of the people of Nashville rallied and came to the rescue.

View from the Richland Greenway near the crash site. St. Thomas-West is in the background.

There are many stories from that fateful day, but it is the story of how the people of Nashville responded that I like to remember. Anyone from Nashville knows this was not a one-time occurrence but a trait that is engrained into the fabric of the city itself–look to the local response after the horrific flooding in 2010.

The wreck at Dutchman’s Curve brought fundamental changes to American railroading. Wooden coaches were phased out of service seemingly overnight and railroads saw the need for a better signaling system to avoid similar accidents. And in a sense of what could only  be described as poetic justice, the area around the crash site is now the campus for St. Thomas-West hospital. The Richland Trail Greenway parallels the railroad right-of-way and provides a peaceful setting for a moment of quiet and reflection. Anyone who considers themselves a student of railroad or transportation history should take the time to visit Dutchman’s Curve. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of the accident and the true nature of the human spirit.

To learn more about the wreck at Dutchman’s Curve, read The Day the Whistles Cried by Betsy Thorpe or listen to this podcast from Nashville Public Radio.

Historic photos courtesy of the Nashville Public Library.

 

Donations Surpass $375,000, Final Push of Phase 2 Underway

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Final push underway to raise funds for the relocation of 
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway Steam Locomotive No. 576

 

The Nashville Steam Preservation Society’s goal is $500,000.
To date, the grassroots effort has pulled in $375,000.
When the remaining $125,000 is raised, heavy restoration can begin

 

The Nashville Steam Preservation Society (NSPS) today announced that it is only $125,000 short of its initial $500,000 fundraising goal for the relocation of the famous Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway (NC&StL) Steam Locomotive No. 576, on display in Centennial Park since 1953.

Known as the “Stripe,” the locomotive is the last remaining J3 4-8-4 steam locomotive designed and built by the American Locomotive Company for the NC&StL Railway. The locomotive, long associated with Nashville’s Country Music roots, sits in Nashville’s Centennial Park eagerly waiting for restoration and the return to the high iron in excursion service.

As part of the lease agreement with the City, NSPS must raise $500,000 before the historic locomotive can be relocated. When the remaining $125,000 is raised, the locomotive will be removed from its display site and transported to the initial restoration facility approximately five miles away.

“The 576 is a beloved local icon that toured throughout the South from Memphis across the state to Nashville and on down to Chattanooga and Atlanta,” said NSPS President Shane Meador. “Restoring the last remaining Stripe will serve as a visceral link to the history of Nashville.”

With a number of special events planned during peak summer months and another fundraising push to rail fans around the world, Meador hopes that the group can raise the remaining $125,000 by the end of September. “If that happens, we can move No. 576 out of the park by the end of the year,” he said.

Nationwide support for the Nashville landmark

For decades, families and friends gathered in front of No. 576 for pictures. Johnny Cash posed next to the locomotive for the cover of Life Magazine in 1969. “If you grew up in Nashville, chances are you had your picture taken in front of No. 576 at some point in your life,” Meador said. “The 576 is as much of a Nashville landmark as the Ryman Auditorium, the Parthenon, or Union Station.”

Even though No. 576 is as Nashville as country music, the NSPS reports that donations have come from across the country. A $75 for 75 Campaign, launched in September 2017, marked the locomotive’s 75th anniversary of the date the locomotive entered into service. The campaign was boosted by a $50,000 matching grant from the Candelaria Fund in California. That effort alone raised more than $120,000.

The NSPS’ hope is that the restoration of the locomotive will celebrate Nashville’s musical roots, add to Nashville’s vibrant tourism industry, and help younger generations imagine careers in technical trades such as welding, machining, and mechanical comprehension.

“When people see No. 576 thunder past them on the rails, they’ll see the ultimate in power and machinery,” Meador said. “Steam locomotives are living and breathing classrooms of history and science. By restoring Nashville’s own No. 576, we are teaching an important but often forgotten aspect of our history and showcasing the mechanical ingenuity of its design and the science of how these machines work.”

“Hearing the whistle and the clatter of the wheels against the steel rails is musical,” NSPS Communications Manager Joey Bryan added. “The 576 has a beat all its own, just like the city it served. I can’t wait to hear that rhythm.”

Click here to donate.

New Technology Aids Boiler Inspection

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This past Friday, representatives from EON Products, Inc. and World Testing, Inc. were on site at Centennial Park to perform more inspections on the condition of the boiler. Specialists used handheld analyzers to measure the amount of carbon within the steel plates of the boiler. The CFR mandates that in order to weld repair any unstayed area of the boiler, the carbon count must be below .25, so these tests are extremely important as we plan ahead to the restoration phase.

For this inspection, World Testing used the SciApps Z-analyzer that uses a LIBS technique. What exactly does that mean? LIBS means “laser induced breakdown spectroscopy” and it yields nearly instant readings on the metal that it’s testing. This is the only analyzer currently on the market that has the ability to measure carbon in alloys. We are pleased to announce that all of the readings showed the carbon amount at less than . 25! The men who maintained the NC&StL’s steam fleet could never have imagined that this could be done with a tool that fits in the palm of a hand!

World Testing, Inc. previously performed ultrasonic tests on various portions of the boiler measuring the thickness of the sheet metal. They are a metals testing laboratory, locally-based in Mt. Juliet, TN, offering Radiographic Examination, Ultrasonic Inspection, Magnetic Particle Examination, Liquid Penetrant, Hardness Testing, Leak Testing, Visual Inspection, Alloy Analysis, Welding Certifications, Welding Procedures and Consultations.

As a subcontractor for construction and engineering firms throughout the United States, World Testing performs destructive and nondestructive testing of structural steel, castings and piping for compliance with codes and customer specifications in fabrication and welding operations.

Their services are performed at shop and field projects of all sizes and types of structural steel, pipelines, compressor stations, pressure pipe, pressure vessels (including steam trains!) and related facilities throughout the United States. We are very appreciative of their help and proud to call them a partner!

NSPS Hosts Successful Open House

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On Friday October 13th, The Nashville Steam Preservation Society hosted an Open House in honor of Nashville, Chattanooga, & St. Louis Railway steam locomotive No. 576’s 75th birthday. No. 576 was built in 1942 by the American Steam Locomotive Company and arrived in Nashville just in time for the war effort. The Open House was an all out 1940s bash with the locomotive dressed up to its revenue service appearance. The highlight of the event was the performance by the Moonlighters Big Band ensemble, taking everyone in attendance back to a bygone era. More than a thousand people walked around the plaza and toured the locomotive’s cab. An additional fan favorite was the occasional blast of No. 576’s original whistle.  With the help of a large air compressor, the voice of the NC&StL ‘Stripes’ echoed through the streets of west Nashville after a 60-year hiatus. Thank you to all who attended and everyone who made the event a huge success!!

Nashville Steam Receives $50,000 Matching Grant, Launches “75 for 75” Campaign

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The Nashville Steam Preservation Society (NSPS) announced today that it has received a $50,000 “challenge” matching grant from the Candelaria Fund, whereby any donation the group receives through the end of 2017 will be matched one-for-one. In honor of that matching grant coinciding with the 75th Birthday of Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway No. 576, the last remaining J-3 ‘Stripe’ steam locomotive, NSPS is launching the “75 for 75” Campaign.

“We are absolutely honored to have received this generous pledge of support to help put No. 576 back on the rails,” said NSPS President Shane Meador. “While we wanted to recognize the 75th birthday of No. 576, that donation amount is merely a recommendation – any donation, large or small, will help us with this project. Not to mention, each dollar will be matched one-for-one!”

Today, the 576 eagerly sits at Nashville’s Centennial Park in the hopes that it will one day return to service pulling excursion trains and teaching younger generations Tennessee’s rich railroad history and the science behind steam technology. Once the funds for its relocation and restoration are secured, the iconic locomotive will be moved to the Tennessee Central Railway Museum for a complete tear-down, inspection and restoration.

“The 576 is a beloved icon that traveled throughout the South from Memphis over to Nashville and down to Chattanooga and Atlanta,” said NSPS Historian Joey Bryan. “Restoring the last remaining Stripe will serve as a visceral link to the history of the region”

Donations to NSPS will be matched by the Candelara Fund dollar-to-dollar up to $50,000 until December 31, 2017. The NSPS has already raised more than $250,000 of the $500,000 it needs to relocate the locomotive for the tear-down, inspection and restoration. To make a donation, click here.

The ‘Stripe’ No. 576

August 2017 marked the 75th anniversary of No. 576’s construction at the American Locomotive Company’s Schenectady Shops. To mark the occasion, Nashville Steam is launching the “75 for 75” campaign. “The fact that there is still a J-3 in existence is remarkable,” said Joey Bryan, Historian & Preservation Officer for Nashville Steam, “we’re asking anyone that wants to see No. 576 thunder down the high iron once more to donate $75 or one dollar for every year the locomotive has been around. And with the matching grant, any donation will help ensure that the locomotive is around for another 75 years.” Donations will be matched between now and the end of the year. The Candelaria Fund is 501(c)(3) based out of California. They frequently donate to rail preservation efforts across the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

Join Us for the 2017 Nashville Steam Open House!

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The Nashville Steam Preservation Society is hosting a FREE Open House in Nashville’s Centennial Park on October 13 from 4:00 to 9:00 pm. Come on down to the locomotive, just west of the Parthenon on 27th Ave. N., for tours of the train, evening photo sessions, a silent auction, food trucks and more. All proceeds and donations will go towards the restoration of Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Rwy. No. 576 to operate excursions out of downtown Nashville.

The event in brief:

DATE: Friday, October 13
TIME: 4:00-9:00 PM
LOCATION: 
At the locomotive, just west of the Parthenon on 27th Ave. N. in Centennial Park
ATTRACTIONS INCLUDE:

  • Locomotive tours from 4:00-7:30
  •  Evening photo session from 8:00-9:30
  •  Silent auction from 4:00 – 7:00
  • Food trucks from 5:00 – 8:00
  •  Gift shop and tent open the entire time
  • And more!

We look forward to meeting y’all soon!