Southern Railway Steam Excursion Program


Southern Railway, and now its successor, Norfolk Southern, has owned, maintained, and operated exquisite examples of steam power for twenty five years now. The value of seeing large steam locomotives charging up the mainline is incalculable: It rekindles the memories of those old enough to remember, and it fascinates those who are not. Better yet, the trains of the Norfolk Southern Steam Program are accessible: People can ride as well as watch. Many rode those early trips behind Southern 2-8-2 #4501 with the belief that it might be their only chance to see a Southern locomotive under steam once again. The notion has persisted that each season of steam trips may be the final one; each trip may be the last.

Bill Schafer, Weekend Steam, 1992



Norfolk & Western #611 was one of fourteen Class 'J' passenger locomotives built by the Norfolk & Western Railway between 1941 and 1950 and the only one in existence today. Constructed in Roanoke in 1950 and rebuilt after a wreck in 1956, #611 served in high-speed revenue passenger service until a farewell to steam excursion in 1959. The locomotive was then donated to the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke in 1960, where it sat dormant for two decades. 1n 1982, #611 was rebuilt by the Southern Railway's Norris Yard steam shop in Birmingham, Al. A year later she began a long first career in excursion service across the newly-formed Norfolk Southern mainline system, lasting until their steam program was dropped in 1994. Stored again in Roanoke, in 2013 the Fire Up 611 committee announced plans to rebuild the locomotive again for a second excursion career in the NS 21st Century Steam program. After a complete rebuild at Spencer Shops in Spencer, North Carolina, NW #611 remains based in Roanoke, Virginia, for this round of excursion running.

Norfolk & Western #611

  • builder:East End Shops, Roanoke Va
  • arrangement:4-8-4 Northern type
  • class:J (high speed passenger)
  • built:May 1950, number 388
  • series:14 produced 1941-50
  • number in class:12 of 14
  • fuel:Pocahontas coal / water
  • drivers:70" diameter
  • notes:
  • wrecked 1956, rebuilt at Roanoke, 1957
    retired from revenue service, 1959
    stored at Virginia Museum of Trans, 1960
    rebuilt at Birmingham shops, 1980
    retired from excursion service, 1994
    stored at Virginia Museum of Trans, 1994
    rebuilt at Spencer Shops, 2014
    started second excursion career, 2015
  • See also our complete Norfolk & Western #611 collection


    Built in 1904 by the Richmond Works of the American Locomotive Company (ALCO), Southern's 630 and sister 722 (below) were part of the road's largest class of steam engines: the Ks 2-8-0 Consolidation type, with 318 engines in the group. After nearly 50 years of service on the Southern system, in 1952 both locomotives were sold second-hand to the shortline hauler East Tennessee & Western North Carolina, based in Elizabethton, Tn. Fifteen years later, the Southern was looking to develop a small fleet of excursion steam locomotives and traded the ET&WNC two second-hand ALCo RS3 road switchers for the sister Consolidations. #630 served the Southern's excursion steam program from 1968 to 1977, as well as non-Southern sponsored trips on the system from 1987 to 1989. The locomotive was out of service since 1989, then donated to the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in 1999, who subsequently rebuilt the kettle for participation in Norfolk Souther's 21st Century Steam program. #630 remains at Tennessee Valley as a base for current excursion schedules.

    Southern #630

  • builder:Richmond Locomotive Works
  • arrangement:2-8-0 Consolidation
  • built:1904, Richmond #28446
  • fuel:coal/water
  • notes:
  • blt SOU #630, 1904
    to ET&WNC #207, 1952
    traded back to SOU #630 for RS3, 1967
    loaned to TVRM, 1978; donated, 1999
  • HawkinsRails thanks brother-in-law Will Hankins for use of his #630 photos from Bristol, Virginia


    Like sister 630 (above), Southern's #722 was a member of the railroad's large Ks class of Consolidation type steamers. Whereas 630 was an ALCo product, 722 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1904. Sold second-hand to the ET&WNC along with 630, the unit was also traded back to the Southern in 1967 for excursion service in the developing steam program. #722 made Southern-sponsored trips on the system for 10 years -- 1970 to 1980 -- before serving briefly at the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum and then being placed on display by the Asheville chapter NRHS.

    Southern #722

  • builder:Baldwin Locomotive Works
  • arrangement:2-8-0 Consolidation
  • built:1904, Baldwin #24729
  • fuel:coal/water
  • notes:
  • blt SOU #722, 1904
    to ET&WNC #208, 1952
    traded back to SOU #722 for RS3, 1967
    loaned to TVRM, 1984-92
    loaned to Asheville NRHS for display
  • #750

    Although a key player for nearly two decades in the Southern's excursion program, Pacific type #750 has no Southern Railway lineage of her own. Built by ALCo in 1910 for passenger service on the high speed Florida East Coast lines, she was sold second-hand in 1934 to Georgia regional Savannah & Atlanta. After retirement from revenue service, the locomotive was acquired by the Atlanta chapter NRHS for preservation and excursion use. The Southern and successor Norfolk Southern leased the locomotive from 1967 to 1984, operating it on numerous trips around the southeast. A subsequent lease from 1985 to 1992 by the New Georgia Railroad utilized the locomotive in tourist service around greater Atlanta, but business did not hold up. Today #750 is stored serviceable, on display at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Ga.

    Savannah & Atlanta #750

  • builder:American Locomotive Company
  • arrangement:4-6-2 Pacific
  • built:1910, ALCO #46567
  • fuel:coal/water
  • notes:
  • blt Florida East Coast #80, 1910
    to Savannah & Atlanta #750, 1934
    to Atlanta Chapter NRHS, 1962
    leased by SOU for excursions 1967-84
  • journal_rwh

    Southern Rwy Excursion Steam Savannah & Atlanta's lone surviving Pacific type may not have been the strongest horse in the Southern excursion stable, but she may just have been one the of the classiest. My father would have said that she "looked like a steam locomotive should look," with good lines and that all-American appeal. The brass eagle perched on the boiler-front headlight was a classy touch, one I could appreciate even as a kid. My first exposure to #750 was a 1983 NRHS-sponsored excursion out of New Orleans up to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and return. We arrived early Saturday morning at NOUPT and found 750 at the far end of the platforms, being prepped for the day's trip ahead. I remember thinking that she was on the small side for such a long line of well-worn heavyweight excursion equipment. But I was not complaining, and the day proved to be as marvelous as all those Hattiesburg runs turned out to be in the 1980s. I did not ever see her run again after that trip, but our paths would cross again a few more time in storage or on static display -- including a visit to the museum in Duluth, Georgia, in the late 1990s, when and where she sported a fresh coat of paint and was under the protection of a museum roof.


    Southern Railway #4501 was built in 1911 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. The engine is a 2-8-2 locomotive of the Mikado type, inherited from Japan, and was the very first specimen of that wheel arrangement the railroad owned. For many years the Southern had relied heavily on the similar 2-8-0 Consolidation type, but 4501 and her class marked the transition to a heavier, more powerful hauler -- the one-axle trailing truck allowing for a much larger firebox. 4501 worked on many different divisions of the Southern Railway system from 1911 until her mainline retirement in 1948. Divisions included Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and finally service in Indiana.

    In 1948, the short Kentucky & Tennessee Railway -- a coal-hauling shortline on the border of its namesake states -- purchased the locomotive and renumbered it as their #12. She was the largest and most powerful locomotive the shortline ever owned, spending fifteen years working the mine runs with heavy cuts of hoppers.

    When #12 was retired by the Kentucky & Tennessee in 1963, a Chattanooga railfan with a keen interest in steam, Paul H. Merriman, purchased the locomotive with $5,000 of his own money. He created The 4501 Corporation and with much help from railfans and retired steam masters he restored the engine for excursion use on the Southern Railway System. As such, the 4501 launched the Southern Railway's well known and long-running steam excursion program, which operated across the Southeast for several decades until it was dropped in 1994 by Southern's successor Norfolk Southern. She headed up numerous trips from a number of bases, including some double- and triple-headed action with the larger locomotives at the end of the excursion era.

    #4501 is currently owned by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee (which Merriman founded with Bob Soule), where she is once again in operation. She remains on the National Historic Register of places and equipment.

    Southern #4501

  • builder:Baldwin Locomotive Works
  • arrangement:2-8-2 Mikado
  • built:1911, Baldwin #37085
  • fuel:coal/water
  • notes:
  • blt for SOU #4501, 1911
    to Kentucky & Tennessee #11, 1948
    to The 4501 Corp. (Paul Merriman), 1964
    to Tennessee Valley Rwy Museum, 1975
    leased by SOU for excursions, 1966-87
  • builder
    See also our complete Southern #4501 steam collection


    Handsome in design but eccentric within the Steam Program stable, Southern Railway nevertheless leased for two years Montreal-built Hudson type #2839. During 1979 and 1980, the "Royal Hudson" made several trips throughout the region pulling Southern-sponsored excursions.

    Canadian Pacific #2839
    "Royal Hudson"

  • builder:Montreal Locomotive Works
  • arrangement:Class H1c 4-6-4 Hudson
  • built:1937, MLW #68952
  • fuel:coal/water
  • notes:
  • to Ontario Center of Science in 1960
    to Royal Hudson Locomotive Co. LTD, 1969
    leased by SOU for excursions, 1979-80
  • #4472

    Britain's "Flying Scotsman" steamer made one appearance on the Southern Railway, for the system's anniversary "Steam-o-rama" gathering in Anniston, Alabama, in 1969. After retirement from revenue passenger service, the locomotive was sold into private hands and during the late 1960s was brought with a passenger consist to the United States for a "British Industry Tour." It remains in service today in Britain.

    LNER #4472 "Flying Scotsman"

  • builder:Doncaster, England
  • arrangement:4-6-2 Pacific
  • built:1923, Doncaster #1564
  • fuel:coal/water
  • notes:
  • to Alan Pegler, 1967
    British Industry tour in US, late 1960s
    used in SOU 75th anniversary, 1969
  • #6910

    Built in 1920 by Baldwin for the coal-hauling shortline Kentucky & Tennessee, the locomotive was sold to the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in 1965. Its service in the Southern steam program turned out to be brief: running only one excursion out of Chattanooga in the fall of 1965.

    Southern #6910

  • builder:Baldwin Locomotive Works
  • arrangement:2-8-2 Mikado
  • built:1920, Baldwin #53182
  • fuel:coal/water
  • notes:
  • ex Kentucky & Tennessee #10
    ran one of two planned Chattanooga-Cleveland excursions in Oct 1965
  • Lagniappe

    Links / Sources

    This page was updated on 2017-07-04