Some called her “Old No. 1.”
Others preferred “One Spot.”
And some even knew her as “Rosebud.”
But whatever her name, the Clinchfield No. 1 holds a special place in the hearts of all those lucky enough to hear the steam engine’s whistle blow through the mountains of Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, the Carolinas and points south.
And thanks to the collaboration of a Carter County newspaperman and a Johnson City engineer whose service dates back to when steam ran the rails, the story of the historic locomotive is being told in a hardback pictorial history book.
“The One & Only,” written by longtime engineer A.J. “Alf” Peoples and author and newspaper publisher Mark A. Stevens, tells the tale of Clinchfield No. 1 through hundreds of color and black-and-white photos. She was built in Indiana but became famous in Tennessee, especially in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s when she pulled excursion trains from Northeast Tennessee to as far away as Florida.
Professional and amateur photographers from around the United States donated photos for the book, which is published by Elizabethton’s Star Publishing.
Peoples and Stevens hatched plans for the book in 2010, then worked to collect photographs to include in the volume.
Life kept going, but we both kept collecting more and more photos,” said Peoples, who works as an engineer for the CSX Railroad.“Eventually, Mark and I agreed that we had to stop collecting photos and actually get the book published.”
Images – including many never before published – range from images of the steam engine chugging through the mountains of East Tennessee to her trip to Florida for her most audacious excursion, where she was welcomed by no less than the cheerleaders for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The No. 1’s history dates back to 1882 – although she didn’t always carry that number.
Her career began as a “flatlander,” carrying the No. 423 designation for the Chicago & Indiana Central Railway. Over the years a number of other railroads operated: the Ohio River & Charleston Railroad, the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad and, on two occasions, the Erwin-based Clinchfield Railroad.
She didn’t get her designation as the No. 1 until she pulled for the North Carolina-based Black Mountain Railway.
After her service seemed over in 1955, the town of Erwin bought her from the Clinchfield Railroad with plans to set her up for display.
That project was never realized and the little engine was left to rust away in the rail yard.
Until, that is, Clinchfield Railroad General Manager T.D. “Tom” Moore Jr. decided to restore her and have her guide special excursion trains.
It was an audacious plan pulled together by nearly three dozen railroad workers, who, for two months in 1968, completely rebuilt the engine into a shining example of success. During her 11 years pulling excursion trains, it’s estimated the No. 1 carried more than 150,000 passengers, from everyday people of Northeast Tennessee to celebrities and powerful politicians like U.S. Sen. Howard Baker and, at the time, Governor-to-be Lamar Alexander.
After her days of celebrated excursion leader ended in 1979, she was retired to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Md.
“But,” Stevens said, “the people of Northeast Tennessee, where the Clinchfield No. 1 called home for so many years, have never forgotten about her. I’m thrilled to be part of a team to bring her life into focus once again in this pictorial history book.”
Peoples’ father, Jack, once served as engineer aboard the locomotive when she was the Black Mountain No. 1, and Peoples himself, as a teenager, worked aboard the early excursion trains pulled by the Clinchfield No. 1.
“I do seem to have a close connection to the No. 1,” Peoples said. “I have photos of me as a toddler aboard the Black Mountain No. 1 and then again as a boy when it was converted to the Clinchfield No. 1. Then years later, I had the honor of working with the Hatcher brothers, who were responsible for taking her on hundreds of excursions over a 13-year period from 1968 until 1979.”
The book includes segments on the rebuilding effort inside the Erwin shops and even one on the No. 1’s trip to Florida.
“One of my favorite photos in the book is this amazing picture of the Clinchfield No. 1 snapped by Fred Clark Jr. in downtown Tampa, Fla.,” Stevens said. “It was such an amazing find – this never-before-published photo of this little Appalachian locomotive in Florida. You’ve just got to see it to believe it.”
The painting used on the book’s cover art is by Jim Stagner, a Johnson City artist and Carter County native.
“From the moment I saw the painting, I knew it had to be the cover for our book, and I’m so proud of it and so grateful to Jim,” Stevens said. “And as a Carter County native myself, I’m so pleased that cover art is by a fellow Carter County native.”
Peoples hinted that the No. 1 could be followed by a No. 1a: “Our friends tell us if we find more photos after the book is out, we can always do Volume 2,” he said.
The book will be available for purchase beginning with a special book signing at the Elizabethton Star Tuesday, Oct. 1, from 4-5 p.m. and later that night, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Clinchfield Railroad Museum in Erwin. Stevens and Peoples will be at both events to sign copies.
Following the book signings, the “The One & Only” will be available for purchase at the Elizabethton Star, 300 Sycamore St. Cost is $29.95, plus tax. The book can be shipped for an additional fee.
The book will also be available at the Unicoi County Apple Festival Friday and Saturday, Oct. 4 and 5, at the Unicoi County Historical Society’s booth on Main Avenue.
Here’s a video about the book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiRiydhoWLQ&noredirect=1