Southern Railway 2-8-2 No. 4501 was built in Ocotober 1911 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (serial number 37085). The locomotive was built as the first engine for the railway's MS Class 'Mikado' locomotives. Once entering service, the 4501 was first assigned to a division in Bulls Gap, Tennessee, where it hauled coal, lumber, and freight. The engine when then based in Knoxville from 1917 - 1926, and then in Somerset, Kentucky from 1926 - 1935. The locomotive would eventually be assigned to numerous divisions on the system, finally on the St. Louis Division in Indiana. Once retired in June 1948, the 4501 was put up for sale, and was purchased by L.C. Bruce, the head mechanic of the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway for $8,225.75. In October 1948, the locomotive was brought to Stearns under her own steam and was renumbered as the K&T's #12. The Iocomotive then continued service along with the K&T's other 2-8-2s #10 (Baldwin, 1920) and #11 (ALCo, 1922) hauling coal down from the mines of Oz, Kentucky to the Southern Railroad interchange at Stearns. In February 1964, the K&T purchased 3 ALCO S-4 diesels from the Denver & Rio Grande Western and the engine was retired, completing over 52 years of revenue service.
The fate of the locomotive seemed dim until a railfan named Paul H. Merriman purchased the 2-8-2 for $5,000 of his own money with intentions to restore it and run it on excursion trains. His goal became a reality when the locomotive's restoration was completed on June 6th, 1964, and following it's completion it made an historic test-run from the K&T Railway's shops in Stearns, Kentucky, to Chattanooga, Tennessee. What followed was the very first public excursion the 4501 pulled, marking the beginning of the Southern Railway Steam Program. In 1966, the 4501 was painted up in the Green and Gold livery of the Southern and became the first locomotive to haul excursion trains for the steam program. She would keep this livery until October 1996.
The Southern 2-8-2 4501 hauled excursions for the historic program for the majority of the time it operated. In 1994, the locomotive went back to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum for museum duties, and ran until September 20th, 1998, when it was sidelined for major repairs and an overhaul. In 2011, the 2-8-2 'Mikado' had it's boiler evaluated for possible repair, and the same year it's restoration began. Some of the major milestones of the restoration are below:
In 2008, #4501 was stripped for a boiler inspection, and passed for restoration.
In January 2014, #4501 passed it's FRA Hydro Test, and the locomotive's wheels were installed again.
The same month in 2014, #4501 committed a static steam test, and passed all FRA certification.
In September 2014, the #4501 returned to service and made it's first public run on the Missionary Ridge Local train at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's 2014 'Railfest' on September 6th and 7th.
In 2015, Norfolk Southern ran excursions with the Southern 2-8-2 4501 for it's 21st Century Steam Program, which has been 'operating' since 2010 and already has a large stable of locomotives that have/will operate excursions.
- Southern Railway No. 4501 made and appearence in the 1999 film "October Sky" dressed as Norfolk & Western No. 4501 with O. Winston Link as the engineer in the film. One interesting fact was that the Norfolk & Western never owned any 2-8-2s, they preferred 4-8-0 Twelve Wheelers (called Mollies by the N&W) because of their adhesive weight.
- #4501 also starred in the 1971 movie "Fools Parade" as Baltimore & Ohio #4501.
- #4501 cameoed in the opening of the 1978 film "Summer of my German Soldier" bringing some German POWs to a POW camp in Louisiana.