NASHVILLE, Tennessee—The World War II-era steam locomotive currently under restoration after 65 years in Nashville’s Centennial Park is getting a big boost next week, thanks to two cranes that will suspend its 220,000 pounds approximately eighteen feet in the air. The locomotive’s wheels and trucks – the same ones made famous as a backdrop to a photograph of Johnny Cash on the cover of Life Magazine in 1969 – will be reinstalled after undergoing repair work for more than two years. The lift is scheduled for Tuesday, July 11th, weather depending.
The non-profit Nashville Steam Preservation Society (NSPS) is spearheading the restoration, which has been working on the locomotive at the Tennessee Central Railway Museum’s shop facility, where Locomotive No. 576 is being rebuilt for future passenger excursions.
“This was a very crucial phase in the restoration,” said NSPS President Shane Meador. “The amount of work we’ve completed on the historic wheels will keep engine 576 rolling for the next 20 to 30 years.” Work included inspecting and repairing the internal bearing boxes, replacing all eight driver tires, replacing three sets of wheels, and completely rebuilding the engine and trailing trucks.
A host of supporters in Nashville, across the state, and around the nation have put their time, talent, and resources behind the project. NSPS has raised more than $2.1 million to date toward the restoration, which is more than 60 percent complete. In March, NSPS launched the “Last Mile Campaign” to raise the final $350,000 needed to complete the mechanical restoration of the locomotive. The campaign is boosted by $175,000 in matching funds from the Walter Ferguson Charitable Trust and Right Track Foundation, with every donation of $576 or more being matched dollar-for-dollar. The campaign runs through the end of the year.
The large driver wheels were sent to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga for complete refurbishment. Other local sponsor companies, including John Bouchard and Sons, Precision Machine, Volunteer Welding Supply, World Testing Inc., and Lincoln Electric Company, have contributed products, tools, and services to this aspect of the restoration. NSPS sponsors Clark Crane, LLC, which will operate the cranes and execute the lift and reinstallation of the wheels.
“We’ve now entered the reassembly phase of the restoration,” Meador said. “It will start to look like a locomotive again.” The organization hopes to complete a hydrostatic test of the boiler by the end of the year with steam tests to follow in 2024. “It’s been 70 years since No. 576 entered retirement in Centennial Park, and after nearly 5 years of work, we can’t wait to experience her encore performance.
To learn more about the project or get involved with the Nashville Steam Preservation Society, please visit www.nashvillesteam.org.