CHESTER — Water Street along the Mississippi River in Chester was lined with eager onlookers young and old Wednesday, all of them waiting to get a glimpse of history.
Union Pacific Railroad’s legendary Steam Locomotive No. 844 made a short stop in Popeye’s hometown about 8:15 a.m. as part of a seven-day trek from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Marion, Ark.
The trip is part of a 150th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Shiloh. Nearly 300 civil war historians were aboard the special Civil War Troop Train. They are to attend a re-enactment of the battle.
Steam Locomotive No. 844 is the last of a breed — the final steam engine built for Union Pacific in 1944. It’s now a goodwill ambassador for the company.
As white smoke billowed out of the engine’s smokestack with a loud hiss, the train pulled out of the station.
“That’s going to be a forgotten sound when (No. 844) stops running,” said Stephen Wheat, a member of Sons of Union Veterans, Col. Hecker Camp.
Wheat — dressed in Union soldier blue — was among a number of spectators who drove 45 minutes from Belleville to wave their fellow re-enactors on.
“You don’t see a steam engine everyday,” Wheat said. “I saw (some) empty seats and thought, ‘Why aren’t I on there.’”
Joe Starek, a member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, Lt. Dixon Camp, said re-enactment events such as this are a way of preserving the past.
“We’re not being taught history anymore,” Starek said.
On Twitter: @BrentStewartSI