HAMLET — The city has no city manager or museum director and downtown coordinator, but that’s not keeping the tourists off of Main Street or out of the Hamlet Depot and Museums and its many popular attractions.
There’s a building across the street from the roundhouse, a short skip and a jump from the Main Street Park, and it’s called the Tornado Building. And no, it’s not what people tend to think it is.
Interim city manager Tammy Kirkley said the most frequent misconception is that the structure has something to do with a weather event in Hamlet’s past or preparedness for some future calamity from the skies.
“In reality it was the name of one of the (train) engines,” Kirkley said. We’ve had people call thinking it was a shelter for a storm or something, but it was the name of an engine.”
Kirkley, who is holding down the fort while Hamlet seeks a permanent city manager to replace Marchell David, said people come through town all the time and ask about the building.
Another vacancy in Hamlet’s government, the position vacated by Miranda Chavis as museum manager and downtown coordinator, is temporarily being filled by the town’s information technology director, Zach Garner.
David resigned July 21 after accepting an assistant city manager position in Raleigh and Chavis resigned a day later. Both women’s resignations were effective Aug. 22.
“Miranda was responsible for everything in here. She did all of this, and now that she’s gone I’m here filling in and keeping the museum open,” Garner said. “It’s been fun. Yesterday I had about seven groups come through, but not as many today so far. I’m thinking it will pick up again in the afternoon.”
Garner said the Tornado Building is also part of the museum, and during a walking tour, he showed off a replica of the engine after which it was named.
According to materials published by the museum for tourist information, the first train that pulled into Raleigh in 1840 was called the Tornado. The following information is printed:
“During the Civil War, the original Tornado was damaged. It was lost immediately after. In 1892 during Raleigh’s Centennial Celebration, the original engineer of the first Tornado, Albert Johnson, built a life-sized wood and metal replica of the Tornado. That’s what we have in this building — the 1892 replica of North Carolina’s first train!”
The Tornado Building houses not just the replica, but several informational and interactive displays about the engine and its components and the man who built it. There is also a large-scale functioning train set wending its way along so much track that Garner said it once filled up all of a two-car garage.
“There was a small path right down the center that was clear,” Garner said. “That was so the builder’s wife could get the groceries into the house.”
Hamlet is actively recruiting for the city manager and museum manager/downtown coordinator positions. Prospective candidates can find out how to apply by visiting http://www.hamletnc.us/Careers.html.
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @melonieflomer.