NEW YORK – A replica of the first American-built steam locomotive was on display outside the New York Stock Exchange Dec. 12 as part of the opening bell festivities commemorating the 175th anniversary of Norfolk Southern Corp.
The locomotive symbolizes the beginning of what would become the nation’s leading freight railroad. Today’s Norfolk Southern has an unbroken 16-year record of industry leadership in safety and is FORTUNE magazine’s 2005 most admired railroad.
"Many companies come to the New York Stock Exchange to commemorate special events by ringing the opening bell. But very few can celebrate with as long a history as Norfolk Southern," said David R. Goode, who recently stepped down after 14 years as the company’s CEO and president and who will retire as chairman early next year.
"At 175, the spirit of innovation is alive and kicking at Norfolk Southern," added President and CEO Wick Moorman. "By building on our thoroughbred heritage, we intend to deliver profitable growth and excellence in service well into the future."
Norfolk Southern traces its beginning to Christmas Day 1830, when its earliest predecessor launched the nation’s first regularly scheduled passenger service in Charleston, S.C., on six miles of track laid by the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company. Dubbed the Best Friend of Charleston, the train carried 140 passengers "on the wings of the wind at the speed of 15 to 25 miles an hour, annihilating time and space, leaving all the world behind," according to a participant.
The original Best Friend was destroyed in a boiler explosion six months later, marking the first railroad-fatality in the United States.
In 1928, a working full-scale replica of the locomotive, its tender and two passenger cars were built from original plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company. The replica carried passengers on special occasions throughout the Southern Railway and, later, the Norfolk Southern system.
The Best Friend replica was retired in 1993 and donated to the city of Charleston, now its permanent home. On loan from the city for the occasion, it was brought to New York as part of Norfolk Southern’s 175th anniversary celebration. On its way back to Charleston, it will be displayed outside Norfolk Southern’s headquarters in Norfolk, Va., on Dec. 15 and 16, in conjunction with the company’s museum.
— PRNewswire-First Call