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Workhorse cart returns as show horse

By Kay S. Pedrotti Picture the Barnesville train depot about 1875-85. A heavy baggage cart, made of wood down to its wheels, was trundled along carrying the bags and trunks of railroad passengers, day after day. Then picture the days of the Nancy Hanks II, arguably Georgia’s most famous passenger train, running between Savannah and Atlanta from 1947 to 1971. For most of those years, the baggage cart was still there, faithfully performing its duties through the strong arms of the porters. Like all other buggies and wagons of bygone days, the cart eventually was replaced by something modern. The cart sat out in the open for several years, becoming more decrepit by the day. There were no passenger trains stopping in Barnesville anymore. Bill Hewitt, deputy superior court clerk, is one of many Barnesville natives who has fond memories of the famous Central of Georgia train. He recalls the days when he and his older brother John would ride the Nancy Hanks to their grandparents’ home in Millen. ’We would be dressed up like Little Lords Fauntleroy,’ he said. ‘We had notes pinned to our jackets with the instructions to get us off in Millen, where our grandfather would meet us. ’My father would give John maybe a dollar, and we would go to the dining car and get coffee or a Coca-Cola. We thought we were really something. The two of us rode the train from when we were 5 or 6 until we were about 10 or 11, when someone would take us there in a car. It was a good time, a simpler time, because now you couldn’t imagine sending your children off like that.’ Local historian Shanna English, curator of the Old Jail Museum, obtained the cart 18 years ago from the depot. Once again, due to lack of space and funds, the cart sat mostly in the open in a pole barn for a number of years. ’It just looked like a pile of rubble,’ English said. Mike Hudson of Custom Woodworks in Howard, noted for his restorations of antique vehicles, agreed to restore the cart for the cost of materials. Hudson said he spent 121 hours on the restoration, practically rebuilding it from scratch. ’It’s well over 100 years old,’ Hudson said. ‘The wooden wheels and spokes date it before the turn of the 20th century. I enjoyed it ‘“ I love to make old things new again.’ English said, ‘Despite Mike’s huge discounting, the restoration cost more than anticipated. In order for the museum to be able to preserve history and provide genealogical material, we always need donations, and especially now. ’We need for every one who loves railroad history, who rode the Nancy Hanks, or works to preserve Barnesville buggies and other vehicles along with the Old Jail Museum, to donate whatever they can to recoup the costs of this wonderful work. ’The baggage cart and a Franklin surrey will be the highlights of the buggies displayed at the museum during Buggy Days. The surrey was recently donated to us by David Traer of Orchard Hill, who bought it from Bonnie Oxford. He has been a faithful supporter of the museum.’ Checks may be made payable to the Old Jail Museum and sent to the museum at 326 Thomaston St., or given to Scott Tenney at United Bank, English said.

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