Southern Railway 4501
|Southern Railway 4501|
Southern Railway #4501 on display in 2006
Southern Railway 4501 is a 2-8-2 "Mikado" type steam locomotive built in October 1911 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Southern Railway. As the very first of that wheel arrangement the railroad owned, 4501 served the Southern hauling freight until being retired in 1964. Today the locomotive operates in tourist and mainline excursion service for its owner the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
4501 worked on many different divisions of the Southern Railway system from Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and finally Indiana. In October 1948, the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway (K&T) of Stearns, Kentucky purchased the locomotive and renumbered it as their #12. When the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway purchased 3 ALCo S-2s from the Denver & Rio Grande Western in February 1964, the locomotive along with the K&T's other steam locomotives were retired from revenue service. A railfan named Paul H. Merriman bought the locomotive for The 4501 Corporation with $5,000 of his own money, and restored it for excursion use on the Southern Railway System.
On June 6, 1964, after running to Chattanooga from the K&T in Stearns, Kentucky, an initial restoration was done by Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) (which Merriman founded with Bob Soule) volunteers at the facilities of the Lucey Boiler Company in Chattanooga, just blocks away from TVRM's storage facilities, which were at the time located on the former Western Union Company tracks.
4501 was stripped down for an extensive overhaul with the thin cab floor, the rotted ash pan, and the rusty smoke box front replaced. The dented cab roof was straightened and got a radio antenna installed. In addition, the cylinder cocks were reworked and the throttle lapped with a new airline run to the repacked reverse gear. After that it was time to paint, the 4501 groups have the locomotive repainted in the fictitious Southern Crescent green with gold linings rather than the plain black freight livery.
1966-1994 Excursion career
After the restoration was completed in August 1966, the 4501 launched its first public run between Chattanooga, TN and Richmond, VA. In 1969, 4501's 12 tons of coal and 8,000 gallons of water capacity tender was replaced for a larger ex-Central of Georgia tender that came from a train wreck in Georgia. The new large tender holds 18 tons of coal and 15,000 gallons of water.
In the 1970s, 4501 found her way off the Southern Railway property for a series of excursion trips on the Illinois Central (IC), Chicago and North Western (CNW), Milwaukee Road (MILW), Rock Island Line (RI), and of course the Norfolk & Western (NW). The locomotive also became famous for pulling the "Old Milwaukee Special" circus train via CNW line between Baraboo, Wisconsin and Madison, Wisconsin and the MILW line to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in summer 1973.
However, in April 11, 1981, the locomotive suffered a cracked front flue sheet at Dalton, Georgia during an excursion trip from Atlanta, GA to Chattanooga, TN. So a diesel locomotive pulled the remainder of the trip and 4501 was towed back to the Irondale Workshop in Birmingham, Alabama for a long term rebuild. She would not operate again until November 1984. Following the rebuild, 4501 received a newly welded tender body to replace her old one along with the tender's old Andrews pilot trucks replaced with modern roller bearing trucks.
On November 3, 1991, during Southern's successor Norfolk Southern's 25th Anniversary of their Steam Program, 4501 teamed up with the two Norfolk & Western superpower steam locomotives J Class #611 and A Class #1218 to triple head a 30-car passenger train excursion from Chattanooga, TN to Atlanta, GA. But at Ooltewah, TN, 4501 took a handful of coaches for a complete round trip, turning around at Cleveland, TN. After that 611 and 1218 would complete the rest of the trip to Atlanta.
In 1994, Norfolk Southern announced that they would end their steam program because of serious safety concerns, rising insurance costs, the expense of maintaining steam locomotives, and decreasing rail network availability due to a surge in freight traffic. 4501 ran her last public NS main line steam excursion trip from Birmingham to Columbus, Georgia on April 30, 1994. But the locomotive had been taken off the excursion trip at Alexander City, Al due to overheated bearings, so the NS GP59 diesel locomotive #4610 finished the rest of the trip. After that, the 4501 returned home to TVRM on May 25, 1994.
21st century operations
After Norfolk Southern abandoned their steam program in December 1994, 4501 remained at TVRM operating their excursions through North Georgia on the former Central of Georgia line that now became the Chattooga and Chickamauga Railway shortline. In 1996, the locomotive was repainted back to its original plain black freight livery during TVRM's 35th anniversary until being retired for its boiler ticket certificate on September 20, 1998.
In 2008, the locomotive was stripped down for a complete boiler inspection. In June 2010, Norfolk Southern announced they would run excursions with 4501, Southern Railway 630, and U.S. Army 610, with their new 21st Century Steam program. In March 2011, Southern 630 returned to service pulling tourist trains for TVRM and some of the first mainline excursion trips for the 21st Century Steam program. With 630 in operating condition, the restoration of 4501 began in 2012.
On September 6, 2014, 4501 was steamed up for the first time since 1998 and made her first public debut at TVRM's 2014 Railfest. The locomotive made a test run from Chattanooga, TN to LaFayette, GA on the Chattooga and Chickamauga Railway line on September 25, 2014 to be prepared for TVRM's upcoming seasonal Summerville Steam Special on October 4 that year.
On June 26, 2015, 4501 ran the "Radford Rambler" excursion from Bristol, Virginia to Radford, Virginia. On June 27, the locomotive pulled the "Lonesome Pine Special" excursion from Bristol, Tennessee to Bulls Gap, Tennessee and ran the "Radford Rambler" excursion again on June 28.
On September 12 & 13, 2015, 4501 ran an excursion trip from Chattanooga to Cleveland during TVRM's 2015 "Railfest". On September 26 & 27, 2015, the locomotive pulled the "Nancy Hanks Special" excursion from Macon, Georgia to Tennille, Georgia.
4501 was also planned to pull the "Piedmont Limited" excursion from Atlanta, Georgia to Toccoa, Georgia on October 3 & 4, 2015. But it was cancelled on October 1 due to weather concerns. Which caused Norfolk Southern to conclude their 21st Century Steam program on December 2015, although N&W J Class #611 (which had been restored since 2015) continue to run various excursions across the NS system in Virginia and North Carolina hosted by the Virginia Museum of Transportation (611's owner) and the North Carolina Transportation Museum. After that, 4501 remained at TVRM to continue regular operations and became the main motive power to operate their seasonal "Summerville Steam Special" excursion from Chattanooga, TN to Summerville, GA.
Pop culture references
4501 is shown while under steam in the 1974 movie Ridin' the Rails: The Great American Train Story, starring Johnny Cash. A clip of this movie was used in the music video for "Hurt" covered by Johnny Cash.
4501 was also used as the locomotive in the 1999 movie October Sky. Its role was a coal-hauling locomotive lettered for the more setting appropriate Norfolk and Western Railway and was shown several times in the film. A short clip of famed rail photographer O. Winston Link as the engineer is shown in the abandoned spur line scene. Link was particularly fond of Norfolk and Western locomotives. Another interesting fact was that the N&W never owned any 2-8-2s and preferred 4-8-0s because of their adhesive weight.
In 1994, the 4501 appeared in the opening scene and weekly in the opening credits to the short lived but loved TV show Christy, starring Kellie Martin and Tyne Daly. Christy aired from April 1994 till August 1995. The show was based on the novel written by Catherine Marshall. Christy Huddleston was a new teacher who left her comfortable home in Asheville, NC to be a teacher for the children to a fictional village of Cutter Gap, TN. In the pilot episode, the 4501 is the engine which carries Christy to her new home in Tennessee.
The locomotive was featured in a 2016 feature-length documentary called "And Then There Was One" directed by Evan Lofback, a resident of Maryville, Tennessee which represents the history of 4501's life career.
The locomotive also appeared in the 1975 movie "Hard Times" starring Charles Bronson.
During the restoration of 4501, the locomotive received a lot of upgrades with its trailing wheel modified with roller bearings to help guide the engine steer through curve tracks. A replica of a Worthington SA type feedwater heater from a China Railways QJ Class 2-10-2 was built to improve the locomotive's performance along with its tender modified with a mechanical stoker that came from a Canadian National Railway 4-6-2. The Armstrong lubricators that spring loaded the driving wheels are replenished by an automatic lubricator from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in North Yorkshire, England. 4501's boiler also received attention and was re-certified from her operating pressure 200 psi (1.38 MPa) to increase of 205 psi (1.41 MPa), the higher operating pressure also gives a small boost to tractive effort.
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- 4501 being stripped down for restoration
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- Morgan, David P. (1968). Locomotive 4501. Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing.
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