Southern Railway 4501: a legend of the 2-8-2 steam locomotive


Southern Railway 4501. You could write a book about this locomotive, and indeed one has been done. If this were a fable, it would be the story of a commoner who became king. This is a brief look at a once-ordinary freight hauler 2-8-2 transformed into a legendary tour locomotive.

Southern Railway 4501 climbs the hub in Summerville, GA in October 2018. Photograph by Jim Wrinn

History of the South 4501

Baldwin built No. 4501 as Southern Railway’s first Mikado in 1911. It was the Ms Class, for Mikado wheel arrangement, overheated. The engine has spent much of its life in darkness. In the 1940s it began to appear and be documented on the Southern lines from Princeton, Indiana. Quickly ruled out from mainline freight service to local service as it lives.

In 1948, the engine was put aside and purchased by a short line called Kentucky & Tennessee, which carried coal to an exchange with Southern in Stearns, Ky. In the central part of the state just north. from the Tennessee border. The No. 4501 and other steam locomotives spent the following years lugging black diamonds around until diesel locomotives took over in 1963. As the number of steam locomotives declined in the United States, Enthusiasts found railroads like the K&T and spent time driving and photographing locomotives in their final years, so it’s no surprise what happened next.

No. 4501 in excursion service

In 1964, in Chattanooga, Tenn., Enthusiastic Paul Merriman purchased the locomotive, and he and his friend, Robert Soule, and made a deal with SR vice president W. Graham Claytor Jr., to move the engine in Chattanooga under its own power. The favorable public reaction to the 150-mile journey of No. 4501 prompted Claytor to organize company support for overhaul and tours using the engine from 1966 onwards. Merriman and Soule started the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum , so that No. 4501 had its own permanent home.

Claytor would have liked to have one of SR’s passenger locomotives to do the honors, but # 4501 should. When the engine debuted in the summer of 1966, it was painted in SR’s passenger green and gold colors. The regular cargo engine got rid of its working gear for a special garment reserved for the best of SR steam passenger power.

Over the next 28 years, the Southern Railway 4501 and a host of other steam locomotives propelled the Southern tours through the system, from Washington, DC, to Jacksonville, Fla., To New Orleans, St. Louis and Cincinnati. Occasionally, the locomotive made excursions on other Southeastern railways. Sometimes he would venture offline, traveling as far north as Wisconsin to pull the annual Circus World train, and arranging trips to Rock Island and other Midwest and Northeast railroads. The engine has appeared in numerous films, including “Fool’s Parade” and “Eleanor & Franklin”. In a 1994 corporate decision, Norfolk Southern decided to end its steam tours and No. 4501 retired to the Tennessee Museum, where it operated in its original black cargo paint scheme. until the end of its burn time in 1998.

Steam locomotive pulling a tour train with cabooses and passenger cars alongside a line of trees.
Southern Railway 2-8-2 # 4501 is leading a tour from Chattanooga, Tenn., To Summerville, Ga., To Rossville, Ga., In April 2018. Photograph by Jim Wrinn

Norfolk Southern’s Second Steam Program

The engine was on display until 2011, when NS relaunched its steam tours and TVRM began to overhaul the engine. Two major upgrades took place during this rebuild. One, the engine has a water heater, and two, it has a feed water heater, discreetly placed at the top of the smoke box. # 4501 was completed in 2015 and has led to excursions this summer and fall. Sadly, that year concluded the excursions on the 21st Century Steam Main Line from Norfolk Southern.

Since then, No. 4501 and Southern Railway 2-8-0 No. 630 have pulled the train in place of TVRM as well as tours on its local partner in Chickamauga, GA, and Summerville, GA.

Oh, and what about this book. Longtime Trains editor David P. Morgan prepared it in 1968, titled “Locomotive 4501”. You can still find it at book dealers, and it’s a delightful read and review of this amazing engine.

For many fans, No.4501 will always be steam royalty, whether it’s dressed in black or green and gold.


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