ATLANTA - What can shut down two lanes of Peachtree Street on a bustling Friday night in Midtown? It’s the Best Friend of Charleston, historic icon of Norfolk Southern Railway, hoisted high above the street as the locomotive departs the lobby of NS’ David R. Goode Building here for its new showcase at Charleston, S.C.
The Best Friend, 1928 replica of the first locomotive built in America for regular service on a railroad, has resided in the lobby facing Atlanta’s most famous street since 2007, on loan from the city of Charleston. NS traces its beginning to the Christmas Day 1830 inaugural run of the Best Friend on the company’s earliest predecessor railroad company.
Now, Charleston has renovated a building in the city’s historic district to display the locomotive not too far from where the original first run occurred almost 183 years ago. Getting the Best Friend out of the NS building lobby in the wee hours of Saturday, Oct. 26, for its welcome back to Charleston will be no small feat.
Glass plates measuring 14 feet tall by eight feet wide will be removed to make a narrow gateway for the train consist, including the locomotive, tender and two passenger coaches. They will leave the building slowly and gingerly on a specially engineered turntable lubricated with liquid soap and powered by human muscle. Once just outside the building, a crane will hoist them one at a time high into the air over a plaza and onto flatbed trucks awaiting on Peachtree Street for their delivery to Charleston.
Rail fans will see irony in the Best Friend making its final journey by truck. Transportation enthusiasts will view it as evidence of the close partnership between rail and truck typical of today’s intermodal freight commerce.
The Best Friend replica did ride the rails for many years following its construction celebrating the 100th anniversary of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company. Millions of people viewed it and thousands rode in its open coaches during short excursions in cities and towns throughout the railroad’s operating territory. NS donated the train to Charleston in 1993.
For Norfolk Southern’s 175th anniversary in 2005, the Best Friend made notable appearances at the New York Stock Exchange and just outside the company’s headquarters building at Norfolk.
The Best Friend is a miniature of modern motive power. Today’s locomotives are 50 times heavier, more than five times longer, and more than 600 times more powerful than the Best Friend and are the most environmentally responsible mode of freight transportation.
Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway Company subsidiary operates approximately 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal, automotive, and industrial products.
Norfolk Southern contacts: