A day trip to Chattanooga a week from now would offer a thrill for steam locomotive enthusiasts. On September 6th and 7th, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) will unveil #4520, a classic steam engine that has undergone a complete renovation.
Railfest will take place at TVRM in Chattanooga next weekend, and the return of the iconic Steam Locomotive 4501 will be the highlight of the weekend. For the past three-years a complete restoration of the giant engine has taken place at the museum's rail shops. After testing and various final adjustments, the locomotive will make its public debut at the Railfest celebration..
TVRM Operations Manager Steve Freer said, "This is a dream come true. Many of us 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."
(photo ID) TVRM's Steve Freer (left) talks with WGNS' Bart Walker.
History of 4501
Locomotive 4501 has an interesting history. The steam engine was built in 1911 for Southern Railway. It was in-service for 37 years before being replaced by a wave of modern diesel locomotives. Instead of being scrapped, as so many other steamers were, in 1948 4501 was sold to the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway in Stearns, Kentucky. That firm used it to haul coal from mines. After 16 years serving the K&T, 4501 was sold to Chattanooga railroad enthusiast Paul Merriman. He was a TVRM founder and president at the time.
Locomotive 4501 was taken to its new home in 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 until 1994.
The steam engine then returned to Chattanooga, where the museum used it to take guests on rides until its boiler certification expiered in 1998. Since other steam locomotives were operating there, 4501 was parked under a shed on the property.
It came to life again in 2011 when Norfolk Southern inaugurated their "21st Century Steam" program that took their employees and the general public on steam engine excursions. TVRM's Locomotive 630 has been participating in the programs since 2011, and now with the help of many contributors, including Norfolk Southern, 4501 will join the program in 2015.
Railfest is an annual celebration of railroading at the massive Chattanooga train museum, where actual engines and rail cars fill the massive complex. The September 6th and 7th gala includes train rides, special exhibits, model railroads, children's activities, live entertainment, and more.
Tickets for Railfest are on-line: $20 per day for adults and $15 children. Check www.tvrail.com
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. The museum's main terminal is located at 4119 Cromwell Road in Chattanooga. 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.