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Southern Railway 4501

About Southern Railway 4501

In October 1911, Baldwin Locomotive Works produced a locomotive with builder number 37085. This 2-8-2 Mikado locomotive was sold to Southern Railway as the first of 485 locomotives with various designs. The engine had an unremarkable career, operating in East Tennessee, Central Kentucky, and later Southern Indiana.

In 1948, L.C. Bruce, General Manager of the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway (K&T) in Stearns, Kentucky, needed a third locomotive to supplement his numbers 10 & 11, which were built specifically for the K&T. As a former Southern Railway employee, he naturally sought the oldest of the Southern’s 2-8-2s and found it in Princeton, Indiana. He purchased and brought it to Stearns, where it operated for the next 16 years.

During those 16 years, the unassuming locomotive remained hidden in the mountains of east/central Kentucky until Robert Soule and Paul Merriman discovered it. These two men, who would later establish the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) in 1961, were on a mission to see and photograph the remaining steam-powered engines in the east. They were instantly drawn to the number 12 engine, which had a distinct Southern Railway appearance. When they learned that K&T was transitioning to diesel, they raised the $5,000 required to purchase the locomotive through TVRM.

In 1964, instead of using TVRM funds, Paul Merriman bought the locomotive with his own money. With the remaining $5,000, TVRM members later purchased K&T 10 for their museum. From that day on, this previously unremarkable locomotive became one of the most traveled, photographed, and famous steam locomotives worldwide. Southern Railway 4501 has since pulled numerous mainline passenger excursions for Southern (later Norfolk Southern) Railway’s Steam Excursion Program and museum excursions for TVRM.

In 1999, the 4501 retired due to increasing maintenance costs. However, it was later chosen for the “21st Century Steam” program and restored to service between 2011 and 2014. Although the program has ended, the 4501 continues to operate on TVRM tracks, delighting passengers. Over the last 57 years in preservation, Southern Railway 4501 has carried hundreds of thousands of passengers on excursions across the eastern and midwestern United States. Thanks to ticket sales and numerous donations, the locomotive remains operational. Here’s to the first 110 years and the next 110! The 4501 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (#79002440).

Learn more: 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