The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) on Wednesday announced the return of its iconic Steam Locomotive 4501 to operation. TVRM has been restoring Locomotive 4501 over the past three years and she will make her public debut at Tennessee Valley Railfest on Sept. 6 and 7.
The locomotive last ran in 1998 and has patiently waited for a complete overhaul. The locomotive restoration specialists at TVRM began the project in 2011 and it has continued nonstop since then. The 4501 has now rolled out of Soule Shops in East Chattanooga looking better than ever. After testing and various final adjustments, the locomotive will make its public debut at the Railfest celebration.
“This is a dream come true,” said TVRM spokesperson Steve Freer. “Many of us at TVRM grew up riding behind 4501 (often simply referred to as “the 01”) and loved every minute of it. With the diminishing demand for main line rail excursions in the 1990’s, large locomotives were relegated to storage or display. However, 4501 is returning to active operation. It is a great day for TVRM and we are thrilled to make this example of living history available to the public.”
Railfest is an annual celebration of railroading at TVRM, which includes train rides, special exhibits, interesting displays, model railroads, children’s activities, live entertainment, and more. The debut of Locomotive 4501 will feature a public dedication at at Railfest. Tickets for Railfest on Sept. 6 and 7 are only $20 adults and $15 children (per day) and are available online at www.tvrail.com.
Locomotive 4501 has an interesting history: She was built for Southern Railway in 1911 and worked for 37 years before being forced out of service by a wave of modern diesel locomotives. Instead of being scrapped as so many other steamers were, 4501 was sold in 1948 to the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway in Stearns, Kentucky, to haul coal from mines served by the K&T. After 16 years serving the K&T, 4501 was sold to Chattanooga railroad enthusiast Paul Merriman in 1964. Merriman was a TVRM founder and president at the time, and brought Locomotive 4501 to Chattanooga for display and possible operation.
This is just what the fledgling museum needed, as 4501 was a highly visible symbol of steam railroading. Shortly thereafter, Southern Railway leased the engine from TVRM to be used throughout their system as a roving ambassador and to pull public rail excursions, which continued until 1994.
Back at home in Chattanooga, TVRM was able to operate the locomotive until its boiler certification ran out in 1998. Since other steam locomotives were operating at TVRM at the time, 4501 rested in semi-retirement until 2011 when Norfolk Southern inaugurated its “21st Century Steam” program. 21st Century Steam is a program of excursions for Norfolk Southern employees and the general public, utilizing steam locomotives on a limited number of trips on Norfolk Southern rail lines. TVRM’s Locomotive 630 has been participating in the program since 2011, and now with the help of many contributors, including Norfolk Southern, 4501 will join the program in 2015.
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a non-profit, educational organization founded by volunteers in 1961 with a mission to preserve, restore, and operate historic railway equipment. Trains operate within Chattanooga daily in season with many additional special events and excursion trips throughout each year. Every ticket sold is a fundraiser to keep the history of American railroading alive and available for the public to experience. For more information and schedules, please visit www.tvrail.com.