Historic Markers Across Georgia

Locomotive Bell from the Nancy Hanks

Marker ID:  
Location: At the Nash Farm on Babbs Mill Road east McDonough Rd.
County: Henry
Coordinates: N 33° 27.516    W 084° 17.436
  33.4586    -84.2906
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


Locomotive Bell from the Nancy Hanks
"The Pride Of The Central Of Georgia Railroad"

The highlight of Ed Waterhouse's railroad career came in 1892 when he was assigned as engineer of the "Nancy Hanks," the South's first non-stop steamliner, and the pride of the Central of Georgia railroad. Running between Atlanta and Savannah, the first trial run of the Nancy Hanks was made in October of 1892. With its cars originally painted vermilion red with gold trim, and finally royal blue with gold trim, the Nancy Hanks was named for a prize-winning race horse of the day, and a picture of the horse was painted on the engine, and on every car in the train.

Like the later Nancy Hanks II, the first Nancy Hanks ran between Atlanta and Savannah. In two back-to-back incarnations, it ran for only ten months. It was named after the race horse by the same name that set a speed record for trotters in 1892. The horse had been named for Abraham Lincoln's mother.

The days of this splendid train were soon to be numbered. The Nancy Hanks had two bad wrecks before it was to be abandoned in August of 1893. One occurred at the old Gate City Oil Mill between Hapeville and East Point, Georgia. W.T. Landers, former Hapeville station agent, described the wreck in his book, entitled the Choo Choo. "On this occasion, the Nancy left Atlanta about 40 minutes late. It was a clear summer day, and Engineer Ed Waterhouse was at the throttle. Then, as now, there was an industrial engine that did the switching for all the industries between Atlanta and Hapeville. This day they left the switcher at the switch to let them out on the main line as soon as the Nancy was by. They still kept switching on the long siding. When Waterhouse called for a clear board at East Point and got it, he yanked the throttle way back and passed East Point like he was shot out of a gun or, s the boys used to say, 'like a bat out of Hades.' When he turned an abrupt curve, and leveled out on a long straight towards Hapeville, he saw the switch engine was in the clear. He opened up the old jack for top speed, or as fast as the wheels could turn under it. The switchman at the switch got rattled and forgot whether he had closed the switch, lost his head completely, and before you could had said 'scat,' grabbed up the ball of the switch and threw it right in Waterhouse's face. Of course, Waterhouse did not have time to do a thing. The old jack, when she hit the switch, going at top speed, began to rock and reel like a ship on the ocean waves—looked like it would turn over on its side every minute—but, she finally leveled out and tore into the switch engine and cut off cars like a Kansas cyclone. The crew on the switch engine saw what was going to happen and jumped off with none of them injured."

The engine on the Nancy was stripped of everything except the smokestack, sandbar, and whistle, but still kept on the rails. It looked just like a boiler standing on its drivers. Waterhouse and his fireman fell off to one side as their cab went to pieces. Why they were not killed outright was a modern miracle. As it was, they were seriously injured and in a hospital for a very long time. Many of the passengers and the express master were badly shaken up, but the engineer and fireman were the only ones seriously injured."

Upon his recovery, Ed Waterhouse continued his railroading career for more than twenty years. A family picture, taken in about 1915, show him as a handsome and distinguished-looking gentleman with a white beard, allegedly grown to cover scars received in the accident of 1893.

He retired in 1915, about two years before he died of heart failure. He was laid to rest in beautiful Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon.

The passing of the Nancy Hanks, and its engineer, Ed Waterhouse, marked the passing of exciting bygone years on Georgia's railroads.