Largest Steam Locomotive Builder in the South | Southern Museum

View 2 of a steam locomotive from Glover Machine Works Exhibit at the Southern Museum

Glover Machine Works: Casting a New South

The Glover Machine Works: Casting a New South is an exhibit featuring the only fully restored belt-driven locomotive assembly line in the country. The Glover Machine Works, originally located in Marietta, Georgia, played a significant role in industrializing Georgia after the Civil War by becoming the largest steam locomotive builder in the South. This exhibit gives visitors a fascinating look at the original machining equipment and two restored Glover locomotives in various stages of assembly.

An audio-visual presentation detailing the train building process from start to finish helps visitors experience life as a factory worker while detailed company records provide insight into the management of the Glover Machine Works.

Experience this exhibit and you are sure to come away with a new appreciation for the industry that rebuilt this area after the Civil War and one of the more notable families that drove it.

View of Glover Machine Works Factory Exhibit at the Southern Museum

Glover Machine Works is Founded

James Bolan Glover Jr., a grandson of the family patriarch, was by all accounts a mechanical whiz who came of age when the South needed all the engineers it could get. His father and two uncles were Confederate veterans; young Glover represented the rising generation of New South entrepreneurs who would help shape the region's economic future.

Glover entered Lehigh University, graduating in 1888 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He worked for the Central Railroad in Savannah, Georgia, before securing a job as a master mechanic with the Marietta & North Georgia - a railroad co-founded by his father to tap the marble and mining resources in north Georgia.

Glover quickly recognized a wide-open opportunity to produce the heavy machinery used by the mining and lumber industries. In 1892 he purchased the Phoenix Foundry and Machine Shop. He expanded the facility and rapidly began cultivating a client base. The business, situated in downtown Marietta, was incorporated the next year as Glover Machine Works. In short order, Glover Machine Works was the area's top employer, with 40 workers, and one of the few with a highly skilled workforce.

Although Glover Machine Works eventually became best-known for its locomotives, the enterprise was first and foremost a machine shop.

Glover Machine Works started during a period of immense growth in the industrial output of America's factories, forests, and mines. That brought a demand for heavy machinery, and Glover soon was manufacturing full lines of steam-powered machinery and hoisting engines advertised for "all classes of industrial work."

One of its earliest and most popular products was a steam-=powered log skidder. Designed for use in the South's pine and cypress forests, the skidder was a steam-powered winch that dragged logs out of otherwise inaccessible pine forests and cypress swamps.

Glover-built equipment could also be found in the developing mining and quarry industries. Marble-polishing machines, quarry cranes, pulverizing machines, brick machines and machine-molded gearing bearing the Glover name could be found throughout the Southeast.

The company nationally advertised its ability to manufacture or repair virtually any part of a steam locomotive. By 1894, Glover was repairing and rebuilding locomotives made by leading builders such as Vulcan, Davenport, Baldwin, and Porter. The Glover shops were also building railroad-related equipment such as push cars, lever cars, inspection cars and virtually anything else from brake wheels to grate bars.

James Bolan Glover had little time to enjoy his success. He passed away in 1897 at age 33 after suffering a baffling paralysis that defied his doctors' best efforts.

The task of running the company fell to his brother, John Wilder Glover.

The South's Last Steam Locomotive Builder

View 4 of Glover Machine Works Exhibit at the Southern Museum

Its locomotive repair work led Glover Machine Works into the full-scale production of locomotives. The company recognized opportunities in an expanding market for light steam locomotives, primarily to serve the many industrial uses of the early 20th century.

Already equipped with the necessary production assets and well-established as a builder of steam hoisting engines and steam-driven logging skidders, Glover was perfectly positioned to begin manufacturing light steam locomotives.

Glover Machine Works was neither the first nor the largest locomotive and steam-machinery builder, a distinction belonging to Baldwin Locomotive in Philadelphia. Hundreds of smaller companies built locomotives. Most, like Glover, specialized in locomotives for specific purposes and classes of service.

Glover's first customer was Stratton Brick of Macon, Georgia, which ordered a small, saddle-tank engine to run on the company's three-foot gauge, 2 1/2 mile railroad connecting its clay mine to the processing plant. The engine was shipped May 6, 1902. Stratton became Cherokee Brick the following year, and over time ordered six more Glover locomotives.

Encouraged by its early success, in 1903, Glover Machine Works moved to an 11-acre site on present-day South Cobb Drive that had once been part of James Heyward Glover's Bushy Park Plantation.

On the site were built a huge foundry, machining and erecting hall complex; a pattern shop; facilities for drafting, metallurgy and storage; and spur track to the nearby Western & Atlantic.

Over the next 27 years, Glover Machine Works built about 200 steam locomotives for customers in 12 states and 12 countries. Engines were constructed in many designs and sizes, but nearly all were intended to perform heavy industrial work.

The South's last steam locomotive builder shipped its last engine on April 19, 1930.

Industries Served

View of Main Glover Machine Works Exhibit at the Southern Museum

As industrialization of United States took a firm hold in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, companies turned to the Glover Machine Works to manufacture nearly two hundred locomotives of various sizes and gauges for work in America's coal mines, lumber camps, steel mills, and brick yards.

Glover locomotives could be found as far west as California and Washington and as far north as Pennsylvania. However, the vast majority of the locomotives sold by the Glover Machine Works were to companies based in the southeast. In all, company records indicate that Glover sold engines to customers in twelve states.

In Addition to their domestic clients, Glover locomotives served a variety of industries outside of the United States. Between 1902 and 1930 the Glover Machine Works manufactured twenty-five locomotives for work in Central America, South America, Canada, the Caribbean, South Africa, and Russia.

Although most often found in an industrial setting, Glover engines were also used in non-industrial operations. Company records show that Glover engines were used for a variety of purposes, including work on banana, fruit, and sugar plantations throughout the Caribbean, for highway construction in Louisiana, and to haul coal at the United States Naval Coal Depot in San Diego, California. One engine was ordered specifically to use to haul passengers on the Cliffside Railroad in North Carolina.

The Lasting History of Glover

steam locomotive assembly at the Glover Machine Works Exhibit at the Southern Museum

According to Glover Machine Work's historian Richard L. Hillman "the Glover's were locomotive builders and not merely assemblers of locomotives built from manufacturer's parts." By the 1930s the era of steam locomotive production at the Glover facility had passed.

The company continued operating, with the bulk of their business coming from the production of high-pressure pipeline components at their plant in Cordele, Georgia. After the last steam locomotive was shipped, the Glover Machine Works continued to repair and manufacture replacement parts for their engines through the 1950s.

Although no longer in the business of building locomotives the Glover family did not dispose of the wood patterns and machinery used in the building process. Nor did they dispose of the extensive paper archives associated with the company. Instead, they simply closed the doors on that part of their company's history.

With the population explosion of Cobb County in the 1980s and 1990s, the land on which the Glover complex sat became a desired commodity. With the sale of the land to Cobb County in the early 1990s historians and concerned citizens aware of the importance of the material become concerned about what would happen with the historically significant archives and artifacts.

With the support of the Glover family, and just as demolition began on the complex, work commenced to remove and preserve the wood patterns, company archives, machinery, and 3 Glover locomotives still within the buildings on the complex grounds. Ownership of the materials was transferred to the City of Kennesaw with the understanding that a new museum would be built to exhibit and preserve the collection.

View this impressive collection at the Southern Museum in Kennesaw. Save time by ordering your tickets online.

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