Those who follow this blog know that among my many, many interests is a fascination with both the Civil War and trains. Upon a recent outing to Sonic Boom Records in Seattle, I found both.
Records of trains sounds are fairly common finds. Due to their iconic nature, they tend to hover around the $10 per LP range. I like trains and I like records, but I tend not to pick these up. I feel kind of weird listening to train sounds in my living room.
I made an exception for this one put out by O. Winston Link Productions in 1962 (during the Civil War Centennial). It’s a 7″ (45rpm) record of the restored General, a steam engine made famous in the Great Locomotive Chase, a strange historical event that I covered here, in Civil War Daily Gazette.
The record itself comes in a gatefold sleeve and is loaded with wordy information about the historical event, the restoration of the locomotive and the recording.
There are five tracks in all, and you can listen below.
From the inside cover:
High Fidelity recording equipment has been used to capture for posterity the sounds of the steam locomotive General just as they were 100 years ago.
Recorded here for the first time are the close-up tones of the hand-rocked bronze bell (the last steam locomotives used in the U.S. were equipped with steam driven bell ringers operated by a small piston next to the bell stand), the clack-clack of the hydraulic ram pump, and the distinctive throaty moan of the single-ton brass whistle, all part of the engine’s original equipment.
The final sequence, as the 107-year old General attacks a steep grade in Southern Kentucky with its one-car train, is an exciting combination of these historic sounds.
Puts you on the General during a test run in Southern Kentucky on a branch between Lebanon and Spurlington. You are riding the pilot beam and you will feel the dripping water off the roof of the rough rock tunnel as the General passes through.
The final sequence takes you to Big Shanty, Ga. (no Kennesaw) 100 years after the locomotive was stolen by Andrews in 1862. This recording is typical of the welcome the General receives where ever it appears, an enthusiastic “Thank You” to the men of the Louisville & Nashville R.R. responsible for the tremendous task of bringing this old beauty back to life.
Remember to tack on fifty years to those numbers.
If you’d like to download MP3s of this record, along with high resolution scans of the outer and inner covers, you can do so here.
Today, the General is on display in Kennesaw, Georgia. It sadly is no longer in operating condition.