Southern 4501

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Name: Southern 4501

Railroad of Record: Southern Railway, Kentucky & Tennessee Railway

Locomotive Number: 4501

Type of Locomotive: Mikado

Date Built: 1911

Date Rebuilt: 2014

Locomotive Weight: 272,900 lb

Driver Diameter: 63 in

Cylinders: Two, outside

Tractive Effort: 53,900 lbf

Builders Number: 37085

Paint Scheme: Black

Current trip assignments: Summerville Steam Specials, Missionary Ridge Local

Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1911 for the Southern Railway, the 4501 was the first of its class on that railroad. The wheel arrangement is a 2-8-2, known as a Mikado, which is Japanese for "Emperor" since the first of this type were sold to Japan. 4501 served the Southern until 1948 when the railroad sold the locomotive to the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway and renumbered it to 12. When the small Kentucky railroad put the 4501 up for sale for scrap value in the early 1960s, TVRM’s first president, Paul Merriman, purchased the locomotive, brought it to Chattanooga and returned it to service. Since the mid-1960s, 4501 has pulled countless passenger excursion trains across the Southern (later Norfolk Southern) Railway. The 4501 ended its service in 1999 due to rising maintenance costs but was selected for service in the "21st Century Steam" program, being restored to service between 2011 and 2014. The 4501 is the sole survivor of 435 Mikado locomotives on the Southern Railway.

In October of 1911, the proud men of the Baldwin Locomotive Works turned out a locomotive with builders number 37085. This 2-8-2 locomotive was sold to the Southern Railway, as the first of 485 locomotives of varying designs. Leading a rather unremarkable career, this locomotive operated for the Southern in East Tennessee, Central Kentucky and later in Southern Indiana, that is until 1948.

In 1948, L.C. Bruce, general manager of the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway in Stearns, Kentucky, was in need of a third locomotive to supplement his numbers 10 & 11, which were built new for the K&T. Being a former Southern man himself, he naturally headed there to find what would become K&T 12. In Princeton, Indiana, Mr. Bruce found the eldest of the Southern’s 2-8-2’s, which he purchased and brought to Stearns, where it would live for the next 16 years.

During the following 16 years, this rather inauspicious locomotive remained in obscurity in the mountains of east/central Kentucky, until it was discovered by Robert Soule and Paul Merriman, two gentlemen on a mission to see and photograph the remaining holdouts for steam power in the east. They immediately took a liking to the 12, which is different in appearance from stablemates 10 & 11, was obviously of Southern pedigree. In 1961, they formed the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. 

When Soule and Merriman learned that the K&T was converting to diesel, through TVRM, they raised the $5,000 asking price that Mr. Bruce wanted for the 12, and off to Stearns, they went to acquire ownership of the locomotive. After a meeting with Mr. Bruce, Merriman came back outside exclaiming “Fellas, I did it!”, to which Soule replied with “You did what Paul?”. “I bought the 4501!” he exclaimed. 

Indeed, Paul Merriman had purchased with his own funds, this locomotive. Left standing with a check, the members of TVRM later went back to Mr. Bruce to purchase stablemate K&T 10 for their Museum. After that eventful day in 1964, this rather unremarkable locomotive was thrust into the spotlight, where it quickly became one of the most traveled, photographed and inarguably one of the most famous steam locomotives around. Over the last 54 years in preservation, Southern Railway 4501 has carried hundreds of thousands of passengers on excursions all over the east and the midwestern United States, and it has been through those ticket sales, along with countless donations that this locomotive is still operating today. So here’s to the first 107 years, and to the next 107!