Leave Feedback

New book chronicles multitude of stories of Santa Train's fabled engine

J. H. Osborne • Aug 22, 2014 at 12:54 PM

KINGSPORT — Have you ever heard about the time a Scott County woman sued Santa Claus for $30,000?

Her lawyer filed suit in poetic verse to mimic "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

The Jolly Old Elf's co-defendants included the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and the Clinchfield Railroad C o m p a n y.

The woman claimed something thrown from the Santa Train hit her as she stood with her grandchildren at one of the train's gift-tossing stops in 1974.

Santa eventually was dropped from the suit, which ended in a settlement when the woman agreed to accept $635 from each of the remaining defendants.

This tidbit of regional history is the focus of one of the chapters of a new book — "The Clinchfield No. 1: Tennessee's Legendary Steam Engine" — by author's Mark A. Stevens and A.J. "Alf" Peoples.

Stevens and Peoples compiled a photo-documentary book about the famed Number One — a 4-6-0-type steam locomotive built in Indiana in 1882 — last year. "The One & Only: A Pictorial History of the Clinchfield No. 1" included more than 500 photographs.

Stevens, in an interview Wednesday with the Times-News, said he and Peoples thought they could tell the little engine's story through those historic pictures.

But research into the first tome quickly showed them a second book would be required to tell the No. 1's stories — plural.

And that's what "The Clinchfield No.1: Tennessee's Legendary Steam Engine" does, in 17 lushly detailed and well-illustrated chapters (plus introduction and epilogue).

The new 160-page book features more than 80 photographs, many previously unpublished elsewhere in recent years.

Pulling the Santa Train from 1968 — the year the No. 1 was painstakingly restored — through the late 1970s is but one small part of the engine's long life.

In its earliest years of railroad work, the No. 1 had the distinction of being the first relief train to reach victims of the infamous Johnstown, Pa., flood in 1889.

From the late 19th century to the mid-20th Century, the No. 1 — lovingly nicknamed "Rosebud" — helped build the Clinchfield Railroad.

After sitting idle and forgotten, the engine was restored in 1968 and became the subject of national attention.

Stevens and Peoples are scheduled to appear at several book-signing events Friday and Saturday.

Those include:

Friday — 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Elizabethton Star, 300 Sycamore St., Elizabethton; 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, 400 Clinchfield St., Kingsport; 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tupelo Honey Cafe, 300 Buffalo St., Johnson City; 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Clinchfield Railroad Museum, 529 Federal Hatchery Road, Erwin.

Saturday — 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., George L. Carter Railroad Museum at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City; noon to 2 p.m., Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society & Museum, 210 Spring St., Jonesborough.

"The Clinchfield No. 1: Tennessee's Legendary Steam Engine" (paperback, $19.99, The History Press, Charleston, S.C.) also is available at bookstores and online at Historypress.net and Amazon.com.

Recommended for You