On Saturday, the Owensboro-Daviess County Christmas Parade will roll down Second Street for the 83rd time.

But there's something in the parade that's been around longer than that.

Well, yeah, Santa.

But something else.

The Colonel Glenmore was built in the summer of 1934 -- making it 85 years old today.

A news story from August that year says the motorized train is a replica of a World War I French train engine.

It was built at the old Owensboro Wagon Co. on a Chevrolet truck chassis at a cost of $2,000 -- worth about $38,500 today.

Glenmore Distillery was "a liberal contributor" to the cost of the train, the story said.

It should have been.

The train was named for one of the distillery's brands.

Although most people associate the Colonel Glenmore with the American Legion because it was parked there for years, it's actually owned by Voiture Nationale LA Societe Des 40 Hommes Et 8 Chevaux 807 Corr Voiture -- 40&8 Voiture 807 for short.

The French name translates as the Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses.

The men who formed the association in 1920 were all World War I veterans.

They had been transported to the front lines in French boxcars stenciled with a "40/8," which meant that the cars could hold either 40 men or eight horses.

The new society adopted the boxcar designation as its name.

Tradition says that in 1934, 17 members of the local society took the Colonel Glenmore to the national American Legion convention in Miami -- 1,000 miles away.

Forty years later, four of the men who made the trip gathered to share their memories.

They recalled that two men drove the train to Miami while the others slept on cots.

"We left here in the afternoon (of Oct. 18)," Robert M. Burks recalled in 1974. "And we went over the mountains at night. A guy walked up the mountain with a light and guided the train."

Swain Miles recalled that the men on the train got out and helped push it up the mountain.

Others at the meeting didn't remember that.

Through the years, the Colonel Glenmore has been to New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, Little Rock, Atlanta, Louisville and a lot of other places.

And it's still rolling today more than a century after World War I ended.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

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