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Southern Railway 4501

Riding the Rails of History: The Epic Tale of Southern Railway 4501

Unfolding from humble beginnings in October 1911, the Southern Railway 4501 stands as a testament to steam engine resilience. Manufactured by the Baldwin Locomotive Works with builder number 37085, this 2-8-2 Mikado locomotive paved the way for 484 more of its kind, in various designs, across Southern Railway.

Its initial years were fairly uneventful, as the 4501 chugged along through East Tennessee, Central Kentucky, and later, Southern Indiana. It wasn’t until 1948 that its destiny took an intriguing turn, when L.C. Bruce, General Manager of the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway (K&T), sought an additional locomotive to complement his existing fleet. As a former Southern Railway employee, Bruce procured the oldest of the Southern’s 2-8-2s, which he found in Princeton, Indiana, and relocated it to Stearns, Kentucky for the next 16 years.

During this tenure, the 4501 remained relatively obscure, nestled within east/central Kentucky’s mountains, until Robert Soule and Paul Merriman stumbled upon it. The duo, future founders of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) in 1961, were on a quest to witness and document the East’s remaining steam-powered engines. The number 12 engine, sporting a distinct Southern Railway look, immediately captured their attention. As K&T was transitioning to diesel, Soule and Merriman procured the requisite $5,000 to acquire the locomotive via TVRM.

In 1964, instead of utilizing TVRM funds, Paul Merriman made the locomotive purchase with his personal funds. TVRM members later used the remaining $5,000 to add K&T 10 to their museum collection. From this point, the previously unassuming locomotive evolved into one of the world’s most traveled, photographed, and renowned steam engines. The Southern Railway 4501 has since carried countless passengers on mainline excursions for Southern (later Norfolk Southern) Railway’s Steam Excursion Program and museum tours for TVRM.

The 4501 retired in 1999 due to escalating maintenance costs, but it wasn’t the end of the line for this steadfast engine. Selected for the “21st Century Steam” program, it was restored to service between 2011 and 2014. Despite the program’s conclusion, the 4501 continues to enthral passengers on TVRM tracks. Throughout 57 years of preservation, the Southern Railway 4501 has carried hundreds of thousands of passengers on excursions across eastern and midwestern United States. Owing to ticket sales and generous donations, this locomotive continues to operate, serving as a living piece of history.

Recognized for its cultural significance, the 4501 proudly features on the National Register of Historic Places (#79002440). Here’s to the first 110 years and many more to come! Discover the riveting journey of Southern Railway 4501 in the insightful “050: Southern Railway 4501 Documentary – the roundhouse podcast”


Locomotive: Southern Railway 4501

Locomotive Type: Steam

Operators: Southern Railway, Kentucky & Tennessee Railway, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

Class: Ms

Builder: Baldwin Locomotive Works

Builders Number: 37085

Date Built: 1911

Date Retired: 1964 (Revenue Service), 1998 (1st Excursion Service)

Date Restored: 1966 (1st Restoration), 2014 (2nd Restoration)

Wheel Arrangement: 2-8-2 Mikado

Driver Diameter: 63 in

Locomotive Weight: 272,900 lb

Fuel: Coal

Boiler Pressure: 205 psi

Cylinder Size: 27 in x 30 in

Valve Gear: Walschaerts

Tractive Effort: 53,900 lbf

Paint Scheme: Black

Status: Operational

Updates on Southern Railway 4501

Explore the journey of the Southern Railway 4501, TVRM’s crown jewel, through our dedicated tag featuring all updates and stories related to this magnificent steam locomotive. From in-depth restoration diaries to exhilarating event announcements where 4501 steams to life, this tag is a treasure trove for enthusiasts and historians alike, providing a chronicle of the engine’s storied past, present endeavors, and future under the care of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.