On Sunday, September 23, 2012 the Southern Railway 630 steam engine, came to town — and we just happened to be driving past in our 1952 Buick, “Jack”, after Sunday-morning brunch.  Naturally we had to stop and take a look!

1952 Buick "Jack" and the Southern 630; Photo, James Coats

1952 Buick “Jack” and the Southern 630; Photo, James Coats

The 2-8-0 Southern 630 is a freight locomotive, built in 1904 by American Locomotive Company’s Richmond Works for Southern Railway. She ran freight service until 1952 (when our Buick was built), when she and her sister, the 722, were retired from Southern and purchased by the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad.

1952 Buick "Jack" with Southern Railway 630

Is it 1952 or 2012? Southern Railway’s 630 was first retired the year our Buick was built. Photo, Diana Kennedy

In 1967, both locomotives were traded back to the Southern for use in their steam excursion program and restored to their former identities. They headed main line excursion trains over the entire Southern system until 1983 when both were retired again in favor of larger power.

1952 Buick “Jack” and the Southern 630 preparing for departure. Photo, Diana Kennedy

They both were then leased to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM). 722 was later loaned by Southern’s successor, Norfolk Southern, to the Asheville, North Carolina Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. TVRM ran the 630 until 1989 when she was yet again retired.  Finally, 630 was donated to TVRM in 1999 by Norfolk Southern. Shortly thereafter, 630 underwent a thorough ten-year restoration — one of the most thorough restorations performed on a steam locomotive in the U.S. in recent years, including frame work and complete running gear overhaul.

and the 630 goes steaming past… Photo, Diana Kennedy

In March 2011 with her restoration completed, 630 returned to regular service with the TVRM and is participating in the “21st Century Steam” program instituted by the Norfolk Southern.  This brought about her visit to Birmingham, where she ran four excursions over the weekend.  You can find out more about 630 and buy tickets to one of these historic excursions by visiting the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum at www.TVRail.com — and check out the 630’s Facebook Page!