Meador led the Southern Nos. 630 and 4501 programs for Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga. He’s assembled a team that also includes NC&StL Preservation Society Secretary-Treasurer David Ellenburg as soceity treasurer, and Trains Editor Jim Wrinn and steam locomotive expert Gary Bensman on the board of directors.
The preservation society makes its pitch May 3 to the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation. So far, the reception has been positive.
“The opportunity to ride a steam train out of Riverfront Park could be a much richer experience than the current static observation available in Centennial Park and is worthy of consideration,” Parks Directory Tommy Lynch says in a prepared statement issued ahead of the board meeting.
If the parks board goes along, the proposal will go to the Metropolitan Council. If the council approves, 576 could be moved this autumn to the museum. The engine would undergo a four-to-five-year rebuild, with the first trips under steam in the fall of 2020 or spring of 2021.
The preservation society will seek to raise $3 million for the J3’s refurbishment and an additional $2 million to build a visitors center. So far, the group has gotten $200,000 in pledges; donations can be made online
“We’re not going to touch this project unless we have at least $500,000 in initial capital, which will basically pay for the move to [the museum] … and maintain $100,000 escrow so that in the worst-case scenario we can put the locomotive back together in better condition than when we found it,” Meador says.
The J3 class – not a “Northern” but a “Dixie” to the NC&StL — had its immediate predecessor in the J2, a 1930 design by NC Superintendent of Machinery Clarence M. Darden. A dual-purpose engine for freight and passenger service, the Alco-built J2 had 25-by-30-inch cylinders and 70-inch drivers, weighed 381,000 pounds and exerted 57,000 pounds tractive effort at 250 pounds steam pressure.
It was smaller than a typical 4-8-4 because of the NC’s tight clearances, lightweight bridges and 90-foot turntables. Its total wheelbase of 82 feet, 7 inches compared with 95 feet 4 inches for a Norfolk & Western “J” class like 611.
Yet Darden crammed a lot of innovation into a small package.