The General - Original or Replica? The General, as we see it today, bears only a passing resemblance to the locomotive that was the subject of the "Great Locomotive Chase" in 1862. For one thing, it is questionable how much, if anything, you see in this photo was actually present that day. After the chase, this engine went on to serve the Confederacy for another 2+ years. Unfortunately, in 1864, as Sherman's troops moved in on Atlanta, General John Bell Hood's Confederates elected to destroy the railroad equipment left in the city to prevent its use by the Federal Army. The General was driven headlong into several boxcars of ammunition and the resulting explosions left her severely damaged. One historic photo of the wreck does exist and is perhaps the only evidence left of what she actually looked like in Civil War service. After the war, she was repaired and later totally rebuilt, including a boiler replacement. Even after her retirement, she was "restored" a number of times, the last of which was by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, just before the centennial of the Civil War.
Although The General, in its current state, is a beautiful example of a 4-4-0, the last restoration did not attempt to re-create her Civil War look. The 1862-era General likely sported a diamond-shaped Radley & Hunter spark arrestor stack vs. the Yankee-style balloon stack she has now. Historic photos show her with a somewhat different shaped boiler, having 3 domes vs. the 2 we see now. They also show full-length running boards on both sides, that were set down low, just above the center of the drivers. The current configuration of the General has a large, wooden, cowcatcher pilot. The historic photo from 1864 in Atlanta depicts a smaller, strap-iron cowcatcher. As displayed here, the General has injectors on both sides, whereas back in the war era, she would have only had crosshead pumps. Although you cannot see it because it is on the other side, she now has an air pump, and of course, air brakes hadn't yet been invented in 1862. The wood that you see stacked in the tender is just ornamental. The woodpile covers an oil tank that was installed when she was converted to oil-burning in 1959. Last but not least, her tender has a Janney-type knuckle coupler, because the old link and pin couplers would not have been acceptable for running on Class 1 track in the 1960s. So, although some may argue that she's more a replica than an original, die-hard railroad historians understand that during the course of their working "lives" steam engines often underwent lots of changes. Most of the parts you see are at least 120 years old, so it is arguable that the soul of the original General lives on in this exhibit in Kennesaw, GA.