The 4501 Steam Locomotive
Built in 1911 by Baldwin Locomotive Works and stamped with Builders Number 37085, the 4501 was Southern Railway’s first Ms class steam locomotive. Known as a “super heater” for the way the steam was pushed through pipes then reheated to an elevated temperature, the 4501 and its sister trains were powerful and efficient in a way that met the increasing demands being put on the railroad industry. In time, though, diesel-electric took center stage. Many steam engines were sold for scrap.
The 4501, however, lives on in Chattanooga. Now owned by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, the 4501 is an artifact of the “golden age” of railroading.
Robert Soule and Paul Merriman, who helped found the museum in 1961, first caught a glimpse of the 4501 when traveling to photograph steam locomotives across the region. Renamed No. 12, the train had been purchased by the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway. Soule and Merriman knew the K&T would be converting to diesel, so they raised $5,000 to move the 4501 to the Southern Railway steam excursion program and preserve a piece of American history. Merriman eventually realized he could buy 4501 with his own money, so the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum used the $5,000 to buy K&T No. 10 as well.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Mikado Locomotive No. 4501, the best way to see this train today is by taking a ride on the Missionary Ridge Local. A 60-minute, six-mile round trip experience, the ride begins at Grand Junction Station, passes over four bridges, and travels through the Missionary Ridge Tunnel. You’ll exit the train for the turntable demonstration and tour of the restoration shop, and the 4501 will be visible somewhere on site. The Missionary Ridge Local runs Wednesdays through Sundays, with multiple trips per day.
In all, the Tennessee Valley Railroad fleet includes six steam powered locomotives; sixteen diesel powered locomotives; fifteen passenger coaches; plus dining cars, sleeping cars, and business cars. Train rides also include a 50-mile loop through the Hiwassee River gorge, dinner trains, and the annual Day Out with Thomas.
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