Reading 2101 is a 4-8-4 "Northern" type steam locomotive, originally built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works.
In 1923, the Baldwin Locomotive Works built 2101 as a 2-8-0 type steam locomotive, numbered 2021. During WWII, the United States Railroad Administration, which had control over every Class I railroad in America at the time, would not allow new locomotive designs to be made, due to most of the metal materials going to war.
At that time, the Reading Company needed a larger locomotive to handle the wartime freight. And since new designs could not be made, the 2-8-2 roster was transformed into a 4-8-4 roster. The new 4-8-4s,class T-1, which were built using the 2-8-0's, were numbered 2100 and upwards. After the Reading Co. retired steam locomotives, a few Reading T-1s were used for the Reading Rambles. 2101, however, was used as a backup locomotive. After these excursions ended, the 2101, along with 2100, 2102 and 2124 were sent to a scrapyard in Baltimore, Maryland in 1967.
In 1975, Ross E. Rowland, Jr, envisioned a large train to haul American artifacts across the country as part of the 1976 bicentennial of America. That train would be the American Freedom Train . It was found that Southern Pacific No. 4449 was too heavy for most bridges in the east, so diesels were originally slated to run the AFT on the east coast. Ross did not want this, and he eventually found the T1s stored in the scrapyard. Scrap metal was not a big business in the 70's and it also helped the engines' survival that the scarp yard owner was partial to steam engines, so the T-1s sat. He eventually restored 2101, using 2100 as a parts supplier. 2101 was restored in only 35 days, and hauled the AFT in 1975-1976 in the east. In 1976, the B&O's bicentennial was coming up.
On one of 2101's final AFT excursion, Hays T. Watkins, CEO of Chessie System in the 1970's, came up to Ross Rowland in Baltimore. He asked to have 2101 leased, and since Ross had no use for 2101 after the AFT, he agreed to have the Chessie System use the locomotive. 2101 was eventually overhauled at her birthplace into a 4-8-4, the Reading Shops in Reading, Pennsylvania. After overhaul, she was painted in a yellow, orange, and blue scheme, fitted with NKP number boards and a new headlight. The first Chessie Steam Special excursion was ran in 1977 out of Baltimore, Maryland. Two seasons of the CSS, 1977-1978, were ran.
A new third season was planned, and 2101 was stored in the Silver Grove Roundhouse in Silver Grove, Kentucky. After storage there, she would be fired up and run a third season of the CSS. However, this did not happen, as the roundhouse 2101 was stored in caught fire in March of 1979. The fire was so intense, that the metal on 2101's tender and cab warped along with other minor damage. The damaged portions of the engine were enough that no quick fix could be used to have the engine back in service for the next set of excursions. Also since the engine had been in a fire, a full rebuild would have been necessary for a new certification on the boiler and all the appliances. Damaged beyond quick repair due to time constraints, 2101 was cosmetically restored as AFT 1, and donated to the B&O Railroad Museum in exchange for C&O 614. There, 2101 (as AFT 1) sits on outdoor static display.