Norfolk Southern is eying the launch of a steam excursion program that could begin as early as this fall. The company announced on Wednesday (June 20, 2010) that it is negotiating with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum of Chattanooga, Tennessee, on the terms of what NS described as a “limited schedule of steam locomotive event appearances and passenger excursions.”
NS said the program, to be called “21st Century Steam,” would highlight milestones in rail history and provide an opportunity for audiences to learn about today’s safe and service-oriented freight railroads. Three steam locomotives would be used to pull the trains.
- Southern Railway 4501: Built in 1911 by Baldwin Locomotive Works, 4501 served Southern Railway in freight service in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana, before being sold to a short line railroad. No. 4501 was retired from revenue service in 1963 and enjoyed a second career in the excursion program operated by Southern Railway and Norfolk Southern from 1966 until 1994. This Mikado superheated class locomotive has 63-inch driving wheels.
- Southern Railway 630: Built in 1904 at the Richmond, Virginia., works of American Locomotive Company, this Consolidation-type locomotive has traveled throughout the Southeast, often in the company of 4501 and sister locomotive 722. An extensive six-year rehabilitation to Federal Railroad Administration standards is being completed at TVRM’s Soule Shops complex in Chattanooga.
- Tennessee Valley Railroad 610: Built in 1952 by Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton for the U.S. Army, 610 has been the mainstay of TVRM steam operations since 1990. It also appeared on several Norfolk Southern steam excursions from 1990 to 1993. No. 610, also a Consolidation type, was one of the last steam locomotives built in the U.S.
“This is the right time for steam to ride the Norfolk Southern rails,” said Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman in a news release. “We have a fascinating history, and we have a compelling message about how today’s railroads support jobs, competition, and the economy. It is a forward-looking message that resonates with people everywhere.”
“21st Century Steam can help introduce historic and modern railroading to a broad new audience of supporters,” said TVRM President Tim Andrews in the same news release. “We are pleased to be developing this relationship with Norfolk Southern for the purpose of preserving and interpreting the steam age, and of bringing today’s railroad closer to people young and old, in communities large and small.”
The 21st Century Steam program would mark a number of anniversaries. 2011 will be the 4501’s 100th birthday and TVRM’s 50 anniversary. 2012 will mark Norfolk Southern’s 30th anniversary.
The initial appearance of 21st Century Steam’s could take place in the Chattanooga area this fall, with locomotives 610 and 630. No. 4501 could join the program sometime in 2011, after rehabilitation. Exhibit dates, ticketing, and other details will be announced later.
Later this year, Norfolk Southern and TVRM plan to launch a web site in support of the program. Correspondence can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many Akron Railroad Club members and northeast Ohio residents remember the NS steam program, which operated numerous excursions in Ohio until being canceled after the 1994 season. Among other excursions, the Norfolk & Western 611 and 1218 operated between Erie, Pennsylvania, and Rocky River, Ohio (Cleveland), Brewster and Bellevue, Columbus and Bellevue, and Bellevue and Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Although it is unlikely that 21st Century Steam will replicate exactly what took place years ago in the NS steam program, it does seem likely that if the program goes systemwide in 2011 or 2012 that northeast Ohio will again see steam, smoke and cinders along a mainline railroad.
It’s speculation at to this point as to where the trains might operate in Ohio, but a good bet is that Belleveue will be a destination as well as Cleveland. The NS steam program ended long before the Conrail breakup. Trips might run on the Cleveland Line between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and from Cleveland westward on the Chicago Line (ex-New York Central). NS has several lines out of Bellevue that could be used for excursions.