Surviving steam engineers--Atlanta Division : LUSENET : Southern Railway : One Thread

Are there any surviving Atlanta Division engineers who were engineers on steam power? I was told that John Philip Craton, who died a couple of years ago at Dallas GA was the last one, but I have no way to verify that. There are a few men left who fired steam engines and became engineers after the transition to diesels, but I don't know of any surviving steam engineers from Atlanta Division. If there are any left, I would love to meet them and talk with them before it's too late.

What about surviving steam engineers from other divisions? Is Walter Dove still living?

-- Lamar Wadsworth (, May 14, 1998


Lamar--I suggest you contact Bill Purdie. He hangs out at the Southeastern Railroad Museum in Duluth, Ga. I would bet that he knows every Southern engineer still kicking. It may take a while to get a response since the museum is beginning the process of moving a mile or so up the road to a new 30 acre site. There is a link to their web page on our Links page.

-- Larry Puckett (, June 02, 1998.

I know this is an old thread, but I just found this board so here goes...I personally know a surviving engineer from the Atlanta division. His name is James Caldwell. If you come out to Six Flags Over Georgia on the right days (usuallly weekends) he can be seen firing the General or Texas. He used to run the engines, but back problems have precluded that in recent years. He loves to tell stories and the fireman's side of the engine is closest to the station platform, so come out some time when the park opens next spring. I might be running the engine, so be sure to ask. "Mr. James" was normally a fireman, but he was on the extra board and ran quite a few extra freights south out of Atlanta and North to Chattanooga during the days of steam. He also ran several of the steam specials in the 70's, running 4501, 630, 722, 750, 610, and 2839.

-- Andrew Durden (, November 09, 2000.

My dad is James Caldwell. He is 82 years old now, and he still works at the Atlanta Six Flags Over Georgia on their trains.My father was a fireman, then, an engineer for Southern RR. He was also Engineer for steam excursions from Atlanta to Chattanooga and back in the 1970's. He retired from the Southern Railway in 1980 after having a heart attack. He was only a couple months' short of working 40 years for Southern RR when he retired a few months before his 60th birthday. His father was also an engineer for Southern Railway. His name was Ector M. Caldwell. My maternal grandfather was a conductor for Southern RR. His name was Harvey Lowery. Needless to say, trains are a part of my family heritage.

-- Linda Caldwell Hutchins (, November 25, 2002.


I am so glad to hear that James is alive and well. I remember him from when I was a green 19 year old trainman on the North End of the Georgia Division. He was on the Sunday off side of #230. Henry Bradford was the engineer on the Saturday off side of "the pigs" as we called them back then. If I am not mistaken, James, Harold Jones, Henry and Hugh "Cosmo" Couch all had experience from the "hickory handle" days of steam. I just passed my 25th year on the railroad and while net surfing I stumbled across this site. Good to see and hear about people from fond memories of your past!

-- Tony Skeen (, November 28, 2002.


I just wanted to tell you what an honor it has been to work with your father for the past three seasons at SFOG. I think that I speak for the entire crew, as well as anyone else who has known him out there, in expressing my heartfelt admiration. He is without a doubt a true gentleman, and I have learned a great deal from him about the art of running a steam locomotive.


Andrew Durden

-- Andrew Durden (, November 29, 2002.

Oops, wrong email address!!!

-- Andrew Durden (, November 29, 2002.

What a coincidence. My grandfather started in the days of steam with Southern Railway and stayed on all the way to be a conductor on AmTrack from B'ham to Atlanta. Byt the time he retired he had put in some 42 or 43 years with SR. His name was also James Caldwell. James Alexander Caldwell Sr., to be exact. His letter to SR announcing his retirement simply said, " To whom it may concern...........I QUIT". Funny though how of all the railroad stories he used to tell I can still remember some of his buddies names. One was a fellow named Purdie. Could it be the same one?

His train history loving grandson.....Terry

-- Terry Brundige (, September 01, 2003.

Hi Linda,

I had the pleasure of firing and being allowed to run for your dad James on the Extra 2839 North to Huntsville. (I think) Its been a while but I remember a engineer by that name letting me run the old 4- 6-4 from Canada while the Southern Rwy had it. My name is Dwight. I worked for Bill Purdie for a while on the steam program as a fireman mechanic. It was quite an experience! See if he remembers. We were only pulling a water car & caboose that time. Seems like Bill had already retired and Doug Karhan was along for the trip.

Dwight Browning Retired Steam Locomotive Dept. Sou. Rwy

-- Dwight Browning (, May 21, 2004.

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