The Calhoun Jaycee Pageant Parade was staged just prior to the train’s arrival and was led to the park by the Calhoun Jacket Band to await the celebration.
In the Gentlemen’s Park (present day parking lot) local planners had set up four scenes on flat bed trailers to perform skits of life in Gordon County including Indian, pioneer, plantation and Confederate to be visible to the train passengers and spectators in the park. Many Gordon County citizens were dressed in Civil War costume attire with ladies in hoop shirts, and men in uniforms with beards.
First to arrive here were two modern excursion trails trains with 675 dignitaries and guests. The General was behind schedule due to an unscheduled stop in Adairsville were the towns school majorettes dancing on the tracks forced the train to a halt. Over 1,000 vehicles followed the train from Marietta along the route.
The General steamed into sight to a tumultuous welcome of shouts and cheers from the crowd. As the General, tender, and two coaches rolled to a stop at the depot Governor Ernest Vandiver came out onto the train’s coach platform and was greeted by Calhoun Mayor Frank Dickerson and Miss Gordon County of 1961, Miss Linda White, while the Jacket
Band played. Each of the distinguished visitors received a special edition of the Cherokee Phoenix and a small square of red carpet signifying a red carpet welcome.
At the controls of the newly restored General were Calhoun native, Firemen Jack Barrett and Engineer Paul West of Dalton. The two experienced rail men were selected by the L&N Railroad to operate the train on the 87-mile route taken during the famous train chase of April 12, 1862.
The crowds surrounded the locomotive to get up close, take photographs, and talk to the dignitaries, Governor and Mrs. Vandiver and party exchanged places with 40 others from the excursion train so they could ride on the General to the next stop in Dalton. The General was delayed at the depot while it took on 8oo gallons of water and some fuel.
As a child of six years old, I still recall riding atop my late grandfather’s shoulders in the excitement to see over the crowd and getting to stand on the steps of the General. Each time I visit the museum in Kennesaw to view this great relic of times past, my mind drifts back to this day of my life with great fondness. Today, the once beautiful Gentlemen’s Park is a parking lot, but our depot that that played an important role in 1862 during “The Great Locomotive Chase” still survives as do photographs and memories of the day a train visited Calhoun 100 years later in 1962.
Note - Details of this article were found in the archives of the Calhoun Times located at the Calhoun-Gordon County Library.