Steaming Down South

Daily Tour Description

Steaming Down South - Tour Report

For a few days in June the center of the steam car world was focused in a new place and for the first time the annual East Coast Steam Car tour came to Rome, Georgia. Twenty-seven steam cars with their owners, friends, and families traveled to Rome from seventeen states to participate in the first tour to be held in the Deep South. Many of the participants had never been to Georgia, and the tour was designed to give them an opportunity to tour Northwest Georgia and Alabama and to learn about the history and topography of the area.  The annual tours are not just an opportunity to get together with fellow steam car owners and put some miles on the cars but for those who have participated in multiple tours it turns into old home week. The intensity of the conversations and the enjoyment of seeing old friends and meeting new ones were apparent at every gathering of the group. 

Firing up and touring was the main order of the week and it kicked off with an optional tour on Sunday afternoon. Several cars made the 45-mile route and found it a good to way to get started and work any last minute kinks out of their cars.  The Firing Up Banquet on Sunday evening followed the tour. 

Monday’s trip to Barnsley Gardens was a short trip designed to give everyone an opportunity to get unloaded and get the cars checked out after the long haul.   Barnsley Gardens is the location of an exclusive resort and it piqued the interest of many of the steam tourists. We had a nice lunch in the beer garden at Barnsley Gardens, and several individuals expressed an interest in coming back to stay at the resort. 

Tuesday’s tour was an opportunity to see the countryside and it was also the longest day at 115 miles. The day’s destination was Jacksonville, Alabama and it also marked the first time a steam car tour has traveled into Alabama. The day’s first stop was in Cave Spring, Georgia. As the name implies Cave Spring has a huge natural spring that has supplied water to the city for years.  There is a park in the middle of town with a lake fed from the spring and it was an ideal spot for siphoning water tanks full. Leaving Cave Spring the group traveled to Jacksonville by way of Piedmont, Alabama. This route used some great scenic back roads with the Talledega National Forest and Duggar Mountain, the second highest point in Alabama as a backdrop. In Jacksonville the group had a great buffet lunch at The Barn restaurant. The restaurant is an old barn that has been converted from its original use as a dairy barn. What makes it unusual it that it was constructed of cast concrete not too many years after the Stanley brothers built their cast concrete factory building in Watertown, Massachusetts. The Stanley’s building is supposed to be the first cast concrete building ever constructed.  

Everyone learned about Georgia’s Cherokee Indian Heritage on Wednesday when we traveled to New Echota, which was the capital of the Cherokee Indian tribe which lived in Georgia prior and during the arrival of the settlers from Europe.  They learned about the history the Cherokees, as well as their forced removal by the United States government to what is now Oklahoma on what is known as “The Trail of Tears”.  The lunch stop for the day was to be “on your own”, however, a small barbecue restaurant in the small community of Rosedale, Georgia was suggested in the list of restaurants, and it was reported that so many of the steam tourists crowded into the restaurant that they ran out of food! But it was good southern barbecue and enjoyed by all of those who partook.  

Thursday was another 100-mile day that that took everyone to Kennesaw, Georgia to see the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.  The museum features the steam locomotive “The General”, which was stolen by Union Raiders during the War Between the States in an effort to destroy the railroad between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The Confederates recaptured the locomotive after an 80-mile chase, and it has been preserved to commemorate the event.  The museum also contains other exhibits pertaining to the war. It is also is host to a collection from the closed Glover Machine Works of Marietta, Georgia. Glover Machine built locomotives from 1900 to 1930 and until the plant was torn down in 1995 it was a literal time capsule of early 20th century factory technology. Two of the uncompleted Glover locomotives are now in the Kennesaw Museum along with many patterns, tools, and machinery from the factory.  The tour route directed the group along a series of back roads to Kennesaw, which is only 25 miles from Atlanta, Georgia, the largest city in the state.  The museum set up a special parking area for the group complete with a water hose to fill water tanks. The trip back included a stop by Kennesaw Mountain, a preserved National Battlefield Park that was the site of one of the many battles on the march to Atlanta during the War Between the States.  Several of the group got a late start returning to Rome and along with scattered heavy rain and several mechanical problems the last of the group did not get back until 8:30 PM with one car coming back on a trailer even later! 

Friday’s tour was short trip to Berry College in Rome. The college is a small private institution founded by Martha Berry at the turn of the 20th century to give the poor children of Appalachia an opportunity to work and get an education. The college spreads out over 28,000 acres making it the largest in the world. It is a beautiful place and part of the group drove around the campus through the nature preserve and viewed the massive waterwheel that is part of a formerly operating mill.  After touring the Berry campus most of the tourists got back to the hotel early, loaded cars, and got ready for evening’s Blowdown Banquet.  On Saturday morning everyone got an early start headed for home. 

The steam car hobby is fortunate to have strong interest from younger drivers. This year’s recipient of the Young Driver Award was Adam Walkup.  He struggled with a car just recently purchased and out of long storage but persevered and was successful on his first steam tour.  Last year’s recipient of the award Sam Kirkpatrick was on hand to present the trophy to the new winner and was also seen piloting the family Stanley during the week. Another young driver Jim Helbling demonstrated the skills it takes to successfully drive a Stanley during the week’s tours. Sister in law Christina Johnson as a novice steam car driver successfully logged road miles behind the wheel of two different Stanley’s during the week. Jim Schukay was seen driving Jim Keith’s big green Stanley. Bruce Green Junior brought his late father’s White to the tour and managed to get it get it fired up and running around the parking lot which is pretty impressive for a novice White driver. New Stanley museum board member Lyn Curry was nominated for they young driver award until they checked the date on his driver’s license. Without son Robbie to give him advice novice steam car driver Lyn spent the week practicing his driving skills. He also persevered after suffering a pair of cracked perch poles on the first day’s run.  

There were the typical mechanical problems during the week but there were no scorched boilers or ruined cylinder blocks. Probably the worst mechanical failure was a split D-valve in the Stanley’s Museum’s Model 70.  Problems with oil pumps, cracked perch poles, a blown superheater and balky burners were seen but for the most part they did not keep cars from touring. 

Encounters with the local constabulary were one of the themes for the week. On the return trip from Barnsley Gardens on Monday Bob Nydam’s 1911 Stanley experienced a flat tire. An eyewitness reported coming on the scene to find a county Sheriff pumping up the newly mounted tire on Bob’s car. The report described the officer with a grin on his face!  The second close encounter with the local authorities occurred on Tuesday’s tour in Jacksonville, AL. It seems that a Stanley driver forgot to check the local speed limits and got the kind of blue light special that  K-Mart does not offer. Fortunately the officer was understanding and let the offender off with a verbal warning. The final close encounter happened on the Thursday trip to Kennesaw, GA when the movement of a house blocked a street near Kennesaw and interrupted one of the steam car drivers. Misinterpreting a flagman’s signal to proceed and pass the house was rewarded with another opportunity to meet a representative of the local law enforcement. The end result was a verbal warning.  

The only sad note of the tour was the untimely passing of Norm Miller. Norm had been in poor health but as friend Howard Randall pointed out in his eulogy of Norm at the Blowdown banquet he made a special effort to travel to Georgia from his home in Chicago to be on the tour because that is where he wanted to be. He will be missed. 

Daily Tour Description
Our first tour takes us to Barnsley Gardens, a beautiful spot with various types of recreation available and with an interesting history.  Barnsley Gardens was built by a transplanted Englishman, Godfrey Barnsley, for his wife, Julia Scarborough of Savannah, and their children.  Before the house was completed, Julia died and Godfrey was left with six children to care for.  The house remained unfinished for a year and then Godfrey completed the house and gardens and it became known as Woodlands.  The house was completed sometime in the 1840’s.   It was not damaged in the War Between the States; but, in 1906, a tornado destroyed much of the house and forced the family to live in the remaining part of the house.  Descendants of Godfrey and Julia lived in the house until 1940 when it was sold at auction.  Prince Hubertus Fugger of Bavaria purchased the estate in 1988 and transformed the property into a luxury resort. 
Tuesday’s Tour – Jacksonville, Alabama
On our tour today, we will be going to Jacksonville, Alabama for lunch at an interesting place.  This place, called “The Barn”, is part of what was a large farm dating back to the early part of the last century.  The barn, in which we will eat lunch, is made of cast concrete, which was very unusual for that time, was built in 1911.  If you remember, the Stanley brothers built their factory in Newton, Massachusetts of cast concrete because they could not get brick masons to work on it.  It was, apparently, the first cast concrete building to be built.  It is not known whether there was a shortage of other building materials in Jacksonville or not, but, for some reason, the barn was built of concrete.  Of course, the building has been renovated to make a very nice restaurant, while retaining the flavor of the original building.  Jacksonville is a college town with Jacksonville State University having an enrollment of 10,000 students.

On our way to Jacksonville, we will go through the small town of Cave Spring, Georgia.  The name of the town comes from a cave, in the middle of the town, from which the spring flows.  The flow from the spring never stops, summer or winter, flood or drought; it produces over one million gallons of water a day.  Investigation has shown that this flow comes from an aquifer, which extends at least 40 miles southwest.  We will be able to obtain water for our cars here.  In the town, are some antique shops, which might be interesting to the ladies.

Shortly after we turn onto Alabama Highway 9, you will see a sign, on the right, which reads “Goshen Memorial”; you may wish to stop here.  This is the former site of Goshen United Methodist Church.  In April of 1994, Palm Sunday, a tornado containing winds of 225 miles per hour hit the church during Palm Sunday Services and killed 20 people and injured many more.  At that time, Rick Bragg, a native of this area, was a reporter for the New York Times.  He was sent by the newspaper to cover the story of the tragedy; being from this area, he knew many of the people involved.  He wrote the story about the church and  for it and for some other stories he won the Pulitzer Prize.  The story of the storm was covered by the national news media and may have been seen by some on today’s tour.  A new church has been built a short distance farther on, on the right side of the road.

Another small town, through whose outskirts we will be going, is Piedmont, Alabama.  We will be going toward the town from the north and the backdrop for the town is Duggar Mountain on which Alabama’s second highest point (about 2200 feet above sea level) may be seen.

On our trip back to Rome this afternoon, we will be going a slightly different way which will take us through the town of Rock Run.  At one time, around 1900-1910 iron ore was mined nearby and a smelting furnace making pig iron was operated at Rock Run.  The furnace was heated by charcoal which provided employment to many people making the fuel.  The old company store, in very poor condition, may be seen on the right as you pass through.

Wednesday’s Tour – New Echota, Georgia

Today’s tour takes us to a place that could have been a showplace for the kind of government and republic that the United States should have fostered; but, instead of fostering that form of government, the United States destroyed it.  The government was that of the Cherokee Indians who had lived in Georgia for centuries and had lived there peacefully for many years.

The leader of the Cherokees, Sequoyah, devised an alphabet for their own language and many of the Cherokees became literate in their language.  A Cherokee Newspaper was established and printed in both English and Cherokee.  The Cherokees formed their own government, which was very similar to the U. S. government and the people were free.   The Cherokees, for the most part, were farmers and lived in towns and villages similar to the white people; but the U. S. wanted the Cherokees’ land to be sold to white settlers.  By persuading the leaders of the Cherokees that it would be best for their own interests to move to lands in the west, a treaty was drawn up to take away the Indian lands in Georgia.  The final result of that treaty was the infamous “trail of tears” in which over 4,000 of the Indians died on their way to what is now Oklahoma.  An interesting fact in relation to the treaty was that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the treaty was not valid and that the Cherokees could stay on their land in Georgia.  President Andrew Jackson then made his famous remark that “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it”.  Jackson then ordered the Indians to be forcibly removed from the land.

We are going to the place where the capital of the Cherokee government, New Echota, was located.  A visitor’s center and museum are there and many items of interest are to be found in the museum.  In addition, there are some houses to be visited on the location of the town of New Echota, including the Supreme Court building and the Newspaper Print Shop. 

Thursday’s Tour – Kennesaw, Georgia

On today’s tour we are going to Kennesaw, Georgia to visit the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, which is the site of one of  the most daring and intriguing stories of the War Between the States.  A group of  Federals under the command of a Mr. Andrews, came south to steal a Western and Atlantic Railroad train on its way from Atlanta to Chattanooga. They then hoped that, on its way north, they would be able to destroy the railroad track and bridges to keep supplies from going to the Confederate Army.  The place, at which the train was stolen, was Kennesaw (which at that time was named Big Shanty).  The train, pulled by the engine, General, had stopped for breakfast at Big Shanty, and Andrews and his men stole the train while everyone else was eating.  The conductor of the train, Captain Fuller, started off on foot chasing the train, along with some other members of the train crew.  He shortly came to a maintenance crew who had a handcar and he commandeered it.  Later, he was able to take over a small yard engine, and after that, he commandeered the engine, Texas, to follow his train pulled by the General.   The Texas had to run in reverse since it was on its way to Atlanta when it was commandeered.  This was not a problem since a steam locomotive can go as fast in reverse as it can forward. The Confederates were following so closely behind in the Texas that they ran the General out of fuel and recaptured it.  We are going to see the object of that chase, the General, at almost the same spot on which it was stolen.  The engine, Texas, is now in Atlanta in the same building in which the Cyclorama is housed.  Walt Disney Studios made a movie of the Andrews Raid, named The Great Locomotive Chase.  For steam fans, this is a very good movie; it has so many shots of working steam engines that it is a must see!

In the same museum with the General, there are many objects taken from Glover Machine a factory in Marietta, Georgia, which manufactured steam locomotives from 1902 until 1930.  The factory continued some operations until 1998 when the factory building was torn down and many interesting pieces from the factory were given to the museum.

We will also be going through the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield National Park, which was the site of a battle preceding the Battle of Atlanta.  Anyone, who wishes, may go in the visitor’s center or drive up Kennesaw Mountain.  The mountain is fairly steep, but can be climbed by a steamer in good condition.  The grade reportedly is 6.5 percent overall, but in some places may be as much as 10 percent and the road is 1.5 miles long.  On a clear day, Stone Mountain and the tall buildings in Atlanta may be seen from the overlook.

Friday’s Tour
Martha Berry Home, Museum, and Berry College

Our final tour today takes us to the home of Miss Martha Berry, a museum about her life, and a tour of the Berry College Campus where we will eat lunch in the college cafeteria.

Miss Martha Berry, born in 1866, was the daughter of Thomas Berry, a well-to-do planter and businessman, and Frances Rhea.  As a young woman, she was deeply concerned by the plight of the rural Appalachian young people who had no opportunity to go to school and make better lives for themselves.  She started teaching children in an improvised cabin and later a crude school was built.  This building is still standing and may be seen on the Berry College Campus at “Possum Trot”.  The big attraction of Berry School was that it allowed the enrolled students to work on the school farm to pay for their tuition and room and board.  Miss Berry was not ashamed to ask for donations to help the school and some well known people were persuaded to donate.  Henry Ford built some of the buildings which are in use today on the campus.  The school which started in teaching the basics expanded into a high school and then added a college curriculum.  The beautiful campus, the biggest college campus in the world, contains approximately 28,000 acres, and has a student enrollment of approximately 2,000 students. 

Our tour will first take us to the Martha Berry Museum, and to Oak Hill, Miss Berry’s home.  You will have an opportunity to visit the museum, view Miss Berry’s automobiles (sorry, no steam cars), and to take a tour of Oak Hill.  While at Oak Hill, there will be an opportunity to take a picture of your car in front of the house.

After visiting Oak Hill, you can drive over to Berry College and tour the campus on your own. Be sure to visit the Old Mill Wheel and Possum Trot.