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
After he plays with it for a while that is.