Local Man Goes Loco Over Old Time Steam Engine

Billy M. Byrd

Billy M. Byrd, in full Steam Engineer Regalia, tools down Broadway in Relic of a bygone era.

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The following newspaper article and pictures were sent to us by Billy M. Byrd, 369 S. Harrig St., Madisonville, Kentucky 42431. Permission is granted to use same by Ernest L. Clayton, Managing Editor of The Messenger newspaper of Madisonville, Kentucky. We thank Mr. Clayton for allowing us to use the article and pictures. By Laura McGrew Messenger Staff Writer

Locomotive Engineer Billy M. Byrd says they took all the 'romance and heart' out of railroading when they replaced the old steam engine with the diesel locomotive, so he has bought himself a 1922 model steam engine 'to play with.'

Byrd has the 18,000 pound coal burner parked in the middle of the bean patch in his garden at his home at 369 S. Harrig St.

Billy began his railroading career with the bridge gang and then in the roundhouse crew with the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company in Nashville, in December, 1941. Except for three and one-half years in the infantry in World War II, when he served with Gen. George S. Patton's 3rd Army in Germany, Billy has been 'working on the railroad'.

In 1946, when he returned to civilian life, Billy began working as a locomotive fireman, when he was transferred to the Henderson Division of the L&N. He was promoted to engineer in 1960 and now makes regular runs from Madisonville Atkinson terminal to Nashville Radner terminal.

Between runs now Billy 'tinkers' with his steam engine. Billy's neighbors usually know when he is at home. He just replaced the steam whistle with the one taken off the old steam ditcher, which has now gone to where-ever old steam engines go.

Billy's old steam engine, with which he plans to pull a float in the Christmas parade here, was manufactured by Nichols and Shepard Company, of Battle Creek, Mich., in 1922. It was originally manufactured for use as a wheat thrasher, to run a saw mill and to steam tobacco plant beds.

Carl Donahoo, of Calhoun, bought the engine new when he was 19 years old. He sold it to Isaac McPherson, at Millport, who used it for a sawmill about two years, and Donahoo bought it back.

Billy bought the engine from Donahoo for $2,000 and drove it from Calhoun to Madisonville about two weeks ago.

On the 29-mile trip the old steamer used one ton of coal and 900 gallons of water. 'We traveled about a mile every 17 minutes, or a little better than three-miles-an-hour,' Billy reported. The engine carries ton of coal and 250 gallons of water.

Before traveling to Madisonville, Billy covered the wheels with split section of tractor tire. 'We covered about 20 miles in six hours.' he said. On arriving in Madisonville, Billy and the old relic made a 'sashay' through town, before it was parked in the garden.

Billy, who says he's been on a 'steam engine kick ever since I was born,' said he plans to eventually use the steam engine for a saw mill on the L. S. 'Sid' Lovan farm near Hanson.

After he plays with it for a while that is.