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The General is a type 4-4-0 wood-burning steam locomotive originally built in 1855 in Paterson, New Jersey. It’s claim to fame is being the subject of the Great American Chase during the American Civil War. As the story goes, the Northerners commandeered The General on April 12, 1862 at Big Shanty and eventually abandoned and damaged the locomotive north of Ringgold. Only one of these steamers was built in 1855 and is currently preserved in the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Georgia.

Prior to the Civil War, The General provided freight and passenger service on the Western & Atlantic Railroad between Atlanta, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee. After the war ended, the General was repaired and continued service on the Western and Atlantic. However, in the 1870s the General was completely rebuilt, and most notably having its three dome configuration reduced to two domes as the engine had been converted to burn coal.

One final interesting fact pertaining to The General is its name and number. Before the Civil War, most railways in the south did not give their engines numbers, but rather were simply named, such as the General. When the railroad began numbering engines after the war, the General was the 39th engine to be acquired by the railroad, and was numbered accordingly. Locomotives came and went as years progressed, and by 1880, a renumbering was necessary. At this time, the General was given the number "3," being the third oldest engine that the railroad had at the time. This engine continues to carry this number today.

Lionel's version of The General is the later, rebuild version from the 1880's. Ironically, the rebuilt version was converted to coal, however Lionel included a wood carrying tender. Nevertheless, it an excellent model of the original locomotive and continues to be a favorite today.

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