In the Hall of Honor. As you tour the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History, The General is the last exhibit you see before exit. As I left the facility, I could not resist this one parting shot. For half a century, The General, more or less in its current configuration, was exhibited by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad at the old Union Depot in Chattanooga, TN....a station that no longer exists. The facade of that building was a series of arches, which were clearly visible in the historic photos that I saw of this locomotive when I was just a kid. The arched passageway leading to the museum gift shop reminded me so much of those photos, that I felt compelled to preserve that scene for my collection.
The "Great Locomotive Chase" of April 12, 1862 forever cemented the Western & Atlantic General in the annals of Civil War and Railroad History, but her path to preservation has hardly been smooth. Americans have a pretty poor history of recognizing the value of historic icons such as this one, until it is too late to save them. Just look at the two engines that met at Promontory Summit 7 years later. Neither exists today. Fortunately for "The General", a professional photographer named E. Warren Clark, discovered her on a siding in Vinings, GA in 1891, having been retired and awaiting the scrappers. He approached John W. Thomas, the President of the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway with the idea of restoring her for exhibition. Thomas approved the plan, and the first of The General's many restorations was done. Over the next century, The General certainly got around. She appeared at many large exhibitions and World's Fairs. For decades she was displayed at the depot in Chattanooga, TN. During the centennial of the Civil War in the 1960s, she was restored to operation by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and participated in a number of events, including a re-enactment run over the original chase route. Eventually, as property of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, she was donated to the State of Georgia, and retired to the permanent home where you see her now.