Louisville & Nashville Railroad had decided to give the General to Kennesaw as a memorial. But Chattanoogans considered it the original "Chattanooga Choo-Choo."
Now, Mayor Ralph Kelley and city commissioners armed with a court order as well as a band of policemen boarded the freight hauling the 31-ton locomotive, built in 1855, and ordered it to stop.
C. H. York, L&N special agent accompanying the antique, challenged Kelley. "This train is going through," said York."Well, if you go, you're going to be taking my men along with you," said H. Q. Evatt, chief Hamilton Co. Deputy Sheriff. "And if you take them over state lines, you'll be kidnapping them."
Mayor Ralph H. Kelley
Shared by daughter Ellen Kelley
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The General, seen under the shadow of Lookout Mountain in Wauhatchie with what appears to be a limited number of VIP passengers.
SOURCE: Ellen Kelley, daughter of Ralph H. Kelley
The band of raiders acted with authority by City Chancellor Ray Brock who ruled that the L & N Railroad had awarded the General to Chattanooga as a "charitable trust" since it had been in the city for more than 70 years exhibited from 1891 until 1961 at the Chattanooga's Union Depot.
On June 7, 1961, the General had been taken to Louisville by the L&N. There it was renovated for a re-enactment of the "Great Locomotive Chase" which occurred April 12,1862. The General toured the country during the Civil War Centennial.
Chattanoogans assert they were assured by L & N officials that the locomotive would be returned after its tours It never was returned. The railroad later announced that the General would be enshrined permanently at Kennesaw where it remains today.
The L & N's lease on the Western & Atlantic Railroad was to run out in 1969, and the L & N's gift of the General to Georgia almost assured the railroad of a renewal of the lease by the Georgia state legislature. The L & N won renewal of the lease, and the General was scheduled for display at Kennesaw, GA.
On January 4, 1969, Judge Frank W. Wilson, U.S. District Judge in Chattanooga ruled that the engine belonged to the L&N, who could dispose of it as they desired. The city of Chattanooga appealed, and the case was referred to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. The latter upheld Wilson's ruling, and the city appealed once more, sending the case to the Supreme Court of the United States. The city of Chattanooga's appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court, thus making Wilson's ruling final.
The General would be little seen if returned to its wonted stall in the Union Station at Chattanooga. That one time exciting part of America's then teeming railway system stands empty now — a sad reminder of the days when a proud Dixie Flyer and other great trains made stops there. Only the birds that twitter in the upper, and now rusted, supports of the silent train shed would see it.