SOUTHERN 4501: STEAM POWER’S RESILIENT ICON
The Renaissance of Southern Railway 4501: A Journey Through Time
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) has always been a place where history comes alive, and the recent installation of a new roller bearing trailing truck underneath the firebox of the Southern Railway 4501 steam engine is a perfect example of this commitment to preserving the past.
The Southern Railway 4501, with its history stretching back to October 1911, is more than just a locomotive; it’s a living legend. Crafted by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, with builder number 37085, this 2-8-2 Mikado was the forerunner of 484 similar engines that graced the tracks of the Southern Railway.
In its early days, the 4501 served diligently in East Tennessee, Central Kentucky, and Southern Indiana. Its story took a fascinating twist in 1948 when L.C. Bruce, then General Manager of the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway (K&T), and a former Southern Railway employee, needed an extra locomotive. Bruce discovered the 4501 in Princeton, Indiana, and relocated it to Stearns, Kentucky, where it spent the next 16 years in relative obscurity, hidden in the mountains of east/central Kentucky.
The 4501’s fate changed again when Robert Soule and Paul Merriman, the future founders of TVRM, discovered it during their quest to document the last of the East’s steam engines. As K&T shifted towards diesel, Soule and Merriman, recognizing the historical significance of this locomotive, raised $5,000 to acquire it for TVRM.
Today, the Southern Railway 4501 is not just a piece of history; it’s a testament to the resilience and enduring charm of steam power. As our team at TVRM works tirelessly to maintain and restore this iconic engine, we invite you to come and witness the ongoing journey of the 4501, a true railway treasure.