Cotton Belt 819 is a custom made 4-8-4 L1 class steam locomotive built in 1943. It was the last of its class of 20.
The Cotton Belt Railroad had previously purchased 10 4-8-4 Northern's from Baldwin in 1930. By the time WW2 came around the railroad was in need of more engines and submitted for new FT units. Due to war regulations the railroad was granted instead for the building of 10 more 4-8-4's.
The new batch of engines were built in the railroads own shops in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. These new engines were similar to their pre war counter parts except they boasted several modern improvements. Number 819 was the last engine built of the last 10 and was also the last steam engine built in the state of Arkansas.
The engine enjoyed a 10 and a half year career before bowing out to the newer diesels. The president of the Cotton Belt donated the retired engine to the city of Pine Bluff in 1955 as a monument to the cities effort in building the engines.
Until 1983 the engine was left in the elements slowly rusting. Vandals took what ever they could and the engine looked like a shell of its former self. A group of volunteers took it upon themselves to save the dying engine. The group hauled the train from its display back to the shop it was built in and began restoration work.
In 1986 the engine moved for the first time under its own power since 1953. She attracted large crowds during the first days of operation. For the next seven years the engine did numerous excursions in the mid-west. In 1990 she joined several notable steam engines in St. Louis for that years NRHS convention. Her last excursion was to Tyler, Texas in 1993.
Today the engine sits partially dissembled in the Pine Bluff shops. Several factors have slowed the progress for the return of the engine to service including rise in price of materials and insurance.