Reading 2101 is a 4-8-4 "Northern" type steam locomotive constructed in 1945 for use by the Reading Company as a member of the T1 class. Constructed from an earlier 2-8-0 locomotive built in 1923, the 2101 handled heavy coal train traffic for the Reading until being retired in 1959. Withheld from scrapping, the 2101 served as emergency backup power for the three other T1 locomotives serving the Reading's "Iron Horse Rambler" excursions until being sold for scrap in 1964. In 1975, the locomotive was restored to operation from scrapyard condition in an emergency 30-day overhaul after being selected to pull the first eastern portion of the American Freedom Train. After being involved in a roundhouse fire in 1979, the 2101 was traded to the B&O Railroad Museum in exchange for the Chesapeake & Ohio 614. Today the locomotive remains on display in its American Freedom Train paint scheme.
Reading 2101 is a T1 class 4-8-4 steam locomotive that was one of 30 4-8-4s that were converted from 30 I-10sa 2-8-0 Consolidation locomotives from 1945 through 1947 by the Reading Railroad when management wanted faster and more powerful locomotives, but had no spare cash to order completely new ones. Starting in 1945 the Reading took 30 of its 2-8-0s and converted them with a little help from Baldwin Locomotive Works into 30 new 4-8-4 locomotives that were numbered 2100-2129 and classified as class "T1". 2101 was originally built by Baldwin in 1923 as I-10a 2-8-0 #2021 and was converted to Reading 2101 in 1945. For its entire service life, 2101 pulled many freight and passenger trains from 1945 to 1956 when nearly all steam on the Reading was sent to scrap, except for five T1s: 2100, 2101, 2102, 2123 and 2124. 2101 was cared for in the Reading's Roundhouse from 1959 to 1964 as a standby locomotive for the famous "Iron Horse Rambles". October 17, 1964, saw the 50th and last Ramble excursion when rising operational costs and deteriorating track forced the end of these special fan trips.
The 1975–76 American Freedom Train to present day
In 1975, the country was gearing up for America's Bicentennial and plans were underway for The American Freedom Train which would travel across the country stopping in dozens of cities and pulled by steam locomotives. Led by Ross Rowland, a nationwide search was carried out to search for locomotives in restorable condition to pull the train. Southern Pacific 4449 and Reading 2101 were selected for the trip. (A group of dedicated preservationists in Ft. Worth also rebuilt a steam locomotive that would pull the train in Texas, Texas and Pacific 610) 2101 was pulled from the scrapyard and restored to operating condition in only 30 days in the same building where she was constructed from a 2-8-0 nearly 30 years earlier—and painted as "American Freedom Train #1".
2101 as AFT 1
2101 pulled the eastern section of the trip before giving it to the 4449 in Chicago for the western section. On the return trip east, 2101 again took charge of the train at Birmingham, AL and pulled the train through much of New England, handing the train back to the 4449 at the Pentagon. Less than two years later, 2101 was repainted into a bright yellow and orange livery and pulled many excursions arranged by Ross Rowland on the Chessie System as the "Chessie Steam Special" before becoming victim to a 1979 roundhouse fire in Kentucky. While most damage was cosmetic, she was damaged to such an extent that she would need a complete overhaul to be in service after the fire. It was then decided that 2101 was to be traded to the B&O Museum for Chesapeake & Ohio 614 where it would haul the 1981 Chessie Safety Express from Baltimore to Hagerstown and return. Since then she has been cosmetically restored as "American Freedom Train #1" and is on static display. Upon restoration after the fire, her tender was swapped for the tender belonging to 2100. When locomotive 2100 was restored, the 2101 tender was also restored and converted to oil. The 2100 loco and 2101 tender were stored together in Richland, Washington until April 2015 when they were shipped to Cleveland, Ohio for restoration to operating condition.