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Southern Railway 4501
Southern No. 4501 on static display at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in 2006
Power type Steam
Builder Baldwin Locomotive Works
Serial number 37085
Model 12-48 1/4 E
Build date October 1911
Configuration 2-8-2
UIC classification 1'D1'h
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Driver diameter 63 in (1,600 mm)
Weight on drivers 215,700 lb (97,800 kg)
Locomotive weight 272,900 lb (123,800 kg)
Fuel type Coal
Boiler pressure 205 psi (1.41 MPa)
Cylinders Two, outside
Cylinder size 27 in × 30 in (686 mm × 762 mm)
Valve gear Walschaerts
Tractive effort 53,900 lbf (239.8 kN)
Factor of adhesion 4.00
Number in class 1st of 182
Nicknames "The Big Engine" (by K&T crews)
Retired February 1964 (revenue service)
September 20, 1998 (1st excursion service)
Restored August 1966 (1st restoration)
September 6, 2014 (2nd restoration)
Current owner Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
Disposition Operational, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Mikado Locomotive No. 4501
Southern Railway 4501 is located in Tennessee
Southern Railway 4501
Location in Tennessee
Southern Railway 4501 is located in the United States
Southern Railway 4501
Location in the United States
Location 2202 N. Chamberlain Ave., Chattanooga, Tennessee
Built 1911
Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works
NRHP reference No. 79002440
Added to NRHP March 28, 1979

Southern Railway 4501 is a class "Ms" 2-8-2 "Mikado" type steam locomotive built in October 1911 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the first of its wheel arrangement type to be built for the Southern Railway. In 1948, the locomotive was retired from the Southern in favor of dieselization and was sold to the shortline Kentucky and Tennessee Railway (K&T) in Stearns, Kentucky to haul coal trains.

When the K&T was dieselized in 1964, No. 4501 was purchased by a railfan named Paul H. Merriman with $5,000 of his own money and brought to Chattanooga. Shortly thereafter it was returned to steam for excursion service on the Southern Railway's steam program managed by the railroad's president W. Graham Claytor Jr. through Merriman’s 4501 Corporation. In 1979, the locomotive was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Initially turned out in Southern's passenger Virginia green with gold stripping and silver (aluminium) details with whitewall tyres, No. 4501 operated as the main star of Southern's steam program until being replaced by larger steam locomotives in 1985. The locomotive ran again from 1991 until 1994, when Southern's successor Norfolk Southern discontinued the steam program due to rising insurance cost and decreasing rail network availability.

Afterwards, No. 4501 operated for its owner, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Merriman was a founding member of TVRM alongside Robert “Bob” Soule, and eventually handed 4501 over from his personal property to museum property. Repainted into its circa 1935 freight black livery in 1996, the locomotive was retired when its boiler ticket certificate expired in 1998. With the coming of Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam Program and the success of TVRM's Southern Railway 630, the restoration on No. 4501 began in 2012 and completed in 2014, with period upgrades such as a feedwater heater and mechanical stoker added, which most classmates received but 4501 (once dropped from a crane) long the “Shop Queen” never received. Today, the locomotive operates in tourist excursion service for the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, traditionally on the longer trips to Summerville, Georgia throughout the year and on TVRM's Missionary Ridge Local as needed.


Revenue service

No. 4501 worked on many different divisions of the Southern Railway system from Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. In October 1948, the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway (K&T) headquartered in Stearns, Kentucky purchased the locomotive and renumbered it as their No. 12. When the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway purchased three 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. Railfan 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.

1966–1998 excursion career

On June 6, 1964, after running to Chattanooga from the K&T, an initial restoration was done by Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) volunteers at the facilities of the Lucey Boiler Company in Chattanooga near the TVRM's storage facilities, which were at the time located on former Western Union Company tracks.

No. 4501 was stripped down for an extensive overhaul with the thin cab floor, the rotted ash pan, and the rusty smokebox front replaced. The dented cab roof was straightened and a radio antenna was installed. In addition, the cylinder cocks were reworked and the throttle was lapped with a new airline run to the repacked reverse gear. With the blessing of Southern Railway executives, the No. 4501 was repainted in Southern's Virginia green with gold lining instead of its original freight black livery.

After the restoration was completed in August 1966, the No. 4501 launched its first public run between Chattanooga and Richmond, Virginia. In 1969, No. 4501's tender, which could hold 12 tonnes (12,000 kg) of coal and 8,000 US gallons (30,000 l) of water, was replaced by a larger ex-Central of Georgia (CG) tender from a maintenance of way wreck train in Georgia. The new tender holds 18 tonnes (18,000 kg) of coal and 15,000 US gallons (57,000 l) of water.

In November 1969, during the 75th anniversary of the Southern Railway, a historic photo session, which featured three steamers, took place in Anniston, Alabama, along the Birmingham to Atlanta mainline. This event was dubbed “Steam-O-Rama”. It featured the 4501, as well as, Savannah and Atlanta 4-6-2 No. 750, which also recently returned to steam by the Railway, and London and North Eastern Railway A3 No. 4472 “Flying Scotsman”, which was in the course of its USA tour at the time.

In the 1970s, No. 4501 was run off of Southern Railway property for a series of excursion trips on the Illinois Central (IC), the Chicago and North Western (CNW), the Milwaukee Road (MILW), the Rock Island Line (RI), and the Norfolk & Western (NW). The locomotive became famous for pulling the Old Milwaukee Special Circus World Museum train via the CNW line between Baraboo, Wisconsin and Madison, Wisconsin and the MILW line to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in summer 1973. On March 28, 1979, No. 4501 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On April 11, 1981, the locomotive suffered a cracked front flue sheet at Dalton, Georgia during an excursion trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Chattanooga. A diesel locomotive pulled the remainder of the trip and No. 4501 was towed back to the Irondale Workshop in Birmingham, Alabama for a long-term rebuild. The locomotive would not operate again until November 1984. Following the rebuild, No. 4501 received a newly-welded tender body with the water tank capacity decreased to 13,400 US gallons (51,000 l) and the tender's old Andrews pilot trucks were replaced with modern roller bearing trucks. At the same time, No. 4501 was repainted into a lighter Sylvan Green (later diesel era) scheme with dark gray smokebox, black wheel centers, unpolished rods, and no bell acorn.

On November 3, 1991, during Southern's successor Norfolk Southern's 25th Anniversary of their Steam Program, No. 4501 joined the Norfolk & Western steam locomotives J Class No. 611 and A Class No. 1218 to triple head a 28-car passenger excursion train from Chattanooga to Atlanta. At Ooltewah, Tennessee, No. 4501 took a few coaches for a complete round trip, turning around at Cleveland, Tennessee. Afterwards, No. 611 and No. 1218 completed the rest of the trip to Atlanta.

In 1994, Norfolk Southern announced that they would discontinue their steam program due to serious safety concerns, rising insurance costs, the expense of maintaining steam locomotives, and decreasing rail network availability due to a surge in freight traffic. No. 4501 made its last public Norfolk Southern main-line steam excursion trip from Birmingham to Columbus, Georgia on April 30, 1994. The locomotive was taken off the excursion trip at Alexander City, Alabama due to overheated bearings, and the Norfolk Southern GP59 diesel locomotive No. 4610 finished the rest of the trip. After its last excursion on the Norfolk Southern, the No. 4501 returned to the TVRM on May 25, 1994.

After Norfolk Southern ended their steam program in late 1994, No. 4501 remained at TVRM operating their excursions through North Georgia on the former Central of Georgia ’C’ line that became the Chattooga and Chickamauga Railway shortline. In 1996, the locomotive was repainted into its circa 1930s freight black livery during TVRM's 35th anniversary, until it was retired due to the expiration of its boiler ticket on September 20, 1998.

21st century operations

Baldwin 2-8-2 4501 & GM DE 6914, Tennessee Valley Railroad, April 2013 CNV00057 (10319199186)
No. 4501 being restored in 2013

In June 2010, Norfolk Southern announced that they would run excursions with No. 4501 and 2-8-0 "Consolidation" No. 630 with their new 21st Century Steam program. In March 2011, Southern No. 630 returned to service pulling tourist trains for the TVRM and some of the first main-line excursion trips for the 21st Century Steam program. With No. 630 in operating condition, the restoration of No. 4501 began in 2012.

During the restoration of No. 4501 around 2013, the locomotive received upgrades to its trailing wheels that included the addition of roller bearings to help guide the locomotive through track curves. 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. Its tender was given a mechanical stoker from Canadian National Railway No. 5288, a 4-6-2 steam locomotive that was also on display at TVRM. The Armstrong lubricators that spring-loaded the driving wheels were replenished by an automatic lubricator from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in North Yorkshire, England. No. 4501's boiler also received attention and was recertified from its operating pressure of 200 psi (1.38 MPa) to 205 psi (1.41 MPa), which created a slight increase in tractive effort.

Southern 4501 at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, October 4, 2014
No. 4501 preparing to pull the Summerville Steam Special excursion in October 2014

On September 6, 2014, No. 4501 was steamed up for the first time since 1998 and its first public debut took place at TVRM's 2014 Railfest. The locomotive made a test run from Chattanooga to LaFayette, Georgia on the Chattooga and Chickamauga Railway line on September 25, 2014 to prepare it for the TVRM's upcoming seasonal Summerville Steam Special on October 4 that year.

On May 1, 2015, No. 4501 successfully completed a test-run on the Norfolk Southern mainline from TVRM to Cleveland, Tennessee and back.

On June 26, 2015, No. 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 and 13, 2015, No. 4501 ran a round-trip excursion from Chattanooga to Cleveland, during TVRM's 2015 Railfest. Two weeks later, the locomotive ran the Nancy Hanks Special excursion from Macon, Georgia to Tennille, Georgia.

No. 4501 was also planned to run the Piedmont Limited excursion from Atlanta to Toccoa, Georgia on October 3 and 4, 2015. However, it was cancelled on October 1 due to Hurricane Joaquin. As a result, Norfolk Southern officially concluded their 21st Century Steam program. Despite this, the N&W J Class No. 611 locomotive, which had been restored since 2015, continued to run various excursions across the Norfolk Southern system in Virginia and North Carolina. No. 4501 remained at the TVRM to continue regular operations and became the main motive power for its annual Summerville Steam Special excursion from Chattanooga to Summerville, Georgia.

In September 2019, No. 4501 was dressed up as Louisville & Nashville steam locomotive J-3 class No. 1593 for the L&N Historical Society annual convention.

Appearances in media

  • No. 4501 made its first feature film appearance in the 1971 movie Fools' Parade in which it was repainted as Baltimore & Ohio No. 4501.
  • No. 4501 is shown while under steam in the 1974 movie Ridin' the Rails: The Great American Train Story. A clip of this movie, with Johnny Cash at the throttle of the locomotive, was used in the music video for Hurt, which was covered by Cash.
  • No. 4501 appeared in the 1975 movie Hard Times.
  • No. 4501 starred in the 1976 television movie Eleanor and Franklin.
  • No. 4501 appears several times in the 1978 movie Summer of My German Soldier, set in Georgia during World War II.
  • No. 4501 was used as the locomotive in the 1999 movie October Sky. It was marked as a Norfolk and Western Railway locomotive and was shown several times in the film. A short clip of rail photographer O. Winston Link as the engineer is shown in the abandoned spur line scene.
  • No. 4501 was featured in the 2016 feature-length documentary And Then There Was One, which chronicles the history of No. 4501's career to that point.
  • No. 4501 was featured in Baby Einstein’s “On the Go” episode in stock footage, seen hauling a freight train in the segment on trains.
  • The sound of No. 4501's 3-chime whistle was used in the Thomas & Friends thirteenth series episode "Toby's New Whistle".

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