Steam Saturday: Ex-CP 2839 on the Southern

The Southern Railway leased former Canadian Pacific 4-6-4 No. 2839 in 1979-1981 to pull a series of steam excursions.

As described in Jim Wrinn’s book Steam’s Camelot: Southern and Norfolk Southern Excursions in Color, Southern officials found the 2839 on an abandoned short line railroad in Northampton, Pennsylvania.

It was operable and looked snazzy with its blue-gray and burgundy CP livery but it had no place to run.

Southern arranged to have the locomotive moved to Southern rails. The plan was to have the 2839 pull longer excursions than Southern’s two excursions locomotives at the time could handle.

The Royal Hudson pulled its first Southern steam trip in March 1979 from Alexandria, Virginia, to Atlanta.

Shortly after that the 2839 was used in the filming of the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter.

The Southern steam program assignment for 2839 was short lived because the railroad didn’t think the Royal Hudson steam was powerful enough.

Wrinn wrote in his book that the 2839 was a fast runner but needed diesel helpers to assist it in getting heavy excursion trains over the mountain grades of the Southern.

Still it continued to pull steam excursions in 1980 and 1981, with its last trip running from Birmingham to Memphis in January 1981. On the Southern the 2839 logged 17,587 miles and carried 53,570 passengers.

In the image above, the 2839 is at St. Anthony, Indiana, on June 9, 1979, pulling a roundtrip between Huntingburg and New Albany.

That month the 2839 pulled six excursions, three of them out of Huntingburg and three out of Louisville.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

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