Chessie Takes a Train Trip
This is an endearing story written by Thomas W. Dixon, Jr. and beautifully illustrated with historically- and mechanically-accurate artwork by artist Natalie O'Dell, the book features an original adventure starring the famous railroad kitten and brought to life with the first Chessie art officially commissioned since 1984. Eighty-two years since Chessie the Railroad Kitten last appeared in illustrator Ruth Carroll's original children's books, 20 years in the making by author Thomas W. Dixon, Jr., and after over one year of development by the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society with artist Natalie O'Dell, this groundbreaking labor of love by the Clifton Forge-based non-profit organization seeks to appeal to the next generation of supporters that may have never ridden a train, but will someday continue the C&OHS’s mission to preserve and interpret the history of the C&O Railway.
The new child’s book tells a story of how Chessie is living in C&O President Harahan’s office in Cleveland in the Depression year 1935. One day she stows away on his business car as he travels to Richmond and at Ashland two orphan children sneak on board. Chessie finds and takes them to Harahan. He gives them a place to sleep and food, and when they get to Richmond the children are adopted by a C&O employee family there. Of course, Chessie is involved throughout.
This book for children and the young at heart depicts an adventure featuring the nationally-known railroad kitten traveling on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. A crucial part of the plot takes place in Clifton Forge, with accompanying artwork in the book depicting the former C&O division office building and the passenger station also known as the Gladys Inn.
C&O, Chessie System, and CSX CEO Hays Watkins said when he saw to it that she was transferred to C&OHS for the 1992 calendar and beyond said: “Chessie is just on the third of her nine lives.” In her first life she advertised the comforts of C&O’s great passenger trains with the slogan “Sleep Like a Kitten.” In her second, she advertised C&O’s freight service with the slogan “Pur-r-r-fect Transportation.” In her third, she became to symbol for the combined C&O, B&O, and WM railroads as Chessie System, with her own outline emblazoned on cars and locomotives. Since 1992 she has helped C&OHS tell the history of the C&O. – It looks as if she will go on and on!
We hope the uniqueness of being a historical society with an original children’s book that appeals outside the railroad community generates attention that will reach a mainstream audience. Part of our business plan is to introduce our organization to future members nationally who would not otherwise learn about the C&O Historical Society and our 50 years of work. This exciting and beautifully-illustrated book will give young readers the gift of history, this year and for years to come, and that is a big step for us toward our long-term goals as an organization with plans to continue this mission. And Chessie, the C&O Railway's "Kitten of Destiny," as the Wall Street Journal called her, is so beloved by generations even today, we expect our society will find a new audience in the 2020s and beyond.