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Southern 4501, The return of a legend in steam

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  • Southern 4501, The return of a legend in steam

    Back in 2011 I wrote that it had been a "good year for Southern steam" with the return of SR 630 to the high iron, plus the SR 154 running in Knoxville and SR 401 in Monticello, Illinois. It had been a good year indeed, but now I will rephrase that just a bit...."2014 has been an AWESOME year for Southern Steam" with the return of the 4501!

    When I wrote that back in 2011, the 4501 was in the middle of a multi-year restoration in the hands of the skilled craftsman at TVRM. In March of 2011 when we visited TVRM for 630's debut, the 4501 was a stripped hulk..just a boiler and some wheels on the shop floor. Since that time, she has undergone one of the most thorough rebuilds to be seen in a long time, including some modern upgrades (most notably a stoker and feedwater heater) that will keep her in top form for years to come.

    While she may not be the biggest or fanciest of steam locomotives, her return to service was a much anticipated event for a lot of people, myself included. I was excited to see the 630 out running on the mainline again, but excitement does not do justice to how I felt to see the "01" again. She was the first hot steam engine I had ever seen in my life back many moons ago, and the first I had ridden behind at the ripe old age of Five. Good things are worth waiting for, and the wait was worth it!

    After the 4501's successful debut at the TVRM railfest at the end of September, I started making plans to head South as soon as we could find out when she would be out running off the museum grounds. That first trip came on Saturday, October 4th when the engine was called to power a 9 car train over the Chattooga and Chickamauga to Summerville, Ga and return.

    Early that morning (0400 early) We left Kentucky headed South to Chattanooga. We arrived just as the train was departing the museum, and would spend the next 10 hours photographing the train as it wound around the hills and rivers of North Georgia. We had some great weather, and it was a treat to be there and enjoy the sights and sounds as 4501 ran a flawless round trip. By the time the day was done, we had driven over 700 miles and had been on the road over 20 hours.....and it was worth every second and every mile.

    You can find everything I shot that day at this link, if you care to take a few minutes to look>>>>>> Norfolk Southern Steam in 2014 Photo Gallery by E.M. & Carmon Bell at

    First, a look back. In September of 2011 this is how 4501 looked. A stripped down boiler, no firebox, no backhead...this will give you an idea of just how comprehensive the restoration was.

    And fast forward to this past Saturday (October 4th, 2014) as I got my first look (since 1994) at the old girl hot and alive, barking off the Belt Line at 23rd street in Chattanooga.

    After a brief stop in Rossville, Ga the train start up the first big hill on the C&C mainline just East of Town.

    Blasting over the top of the mountain at Rock Springs, Ga. That old Chrysler Imperial sitting there by the general store is owned by Mr. Robert Soule, the son of 4501's savior.

    Rolling down the river valley just West of Trion, Ga

    Pausing in front of the old CofG depot at Summerville, Ga

    Turning on the table at Summerville with several hundred folks watching the show.

    On the return trip, we "snuck" over to to the wrong side of the tracks at Trion Ga for a shot of 4501 from the Sunny side (a concept that seems lost on some folks...they sunny part, not the sneaking).. The bridge we are standing on leads to a plant to the left, and was not "technically" public but we stood out there and dodged the security guard (He acted like he did not see us) and then the police (he waved, and then took a picture to) to get our shot of the train on the freshly painted bridge over the Chattooga River.... When was the last time you saw an old RR bridge with new paint??
    E.M. Bell, KD4JSL
    Salvisa, KY

  • #2
    Great photos, EM.
    "A guy can't just sit around." Lawnchair Larry


    • #3
      It's been a long time since I've ridden behind 4501 myself. I was unsure what to think of the black vs. green she wore for all those years, but the black is very handsome. You're correct, TVRM did a hellofa restoration on her along with the "modern upgrades." It'll be nice to see her pulling NS steam trips in 2015 if NS can get rid of its congestion problems. She should be able to pull more train than the 630 could.

      Great pictures & thanks for sharing. BTW, what is the heritage of the silver boat tail observation next to the engine in your shot crossing the Chattooga River at Trion?
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      • #4
        Dont quote me on it, but that car is ex SAL I believe.

        Thanks for the comments guys..glad you liked them.
        E.M. Bell, KD4JSL
        Salvisa, KY


        • #5
          Very nice work, thankyou for sharing.
          Only 511 ft lbs of Tq and only 1100 degrees EGT, damn, I need more fuel...