The Old 'Southern
#630' Whistles Its
Way Once Again
Down The Tracks
BY EMILY HAGENBURGER
The Southern #630 steam locomotive could be heard and seen whistling down the tracks through Greeneville on Friday for the first time in more than 40 years.
The Southern #630 engine of Norfolk Southern, built in 1904, rolled into town at about 12:30 p.m. on its way from Roanoke, Va., to Knoxville.
The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society & Museum hosted an excursion trip last Sunday that was supposed to use the Southern #630 to carry 300 passengers from Johnson City to Knoxville.
After the steam engine encountered mechanical difficulties, the passengers were sent on the route as scheduled with a different diesel engine.
On Friday, however, the repaired Southern #630 came through Greene County towing cars full of coal, not passengers.
It was on its way to meet up with the passenger cars in Knoxville so that it can be used for excursion trips today and Sunday from Knoxville to Alcoa, according to Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society & Museum spokesman Mike Tilley.
Steam locomotives were used until the 1960s, when railroads switched to all-diesel engines, and these days opportunities to see a working steam engine are few and far between.
The last time this particular engine passed through Greeneville was in 1971, Tilley said.
Though the train did not stop in Greeneville, anyone near the tracks could hear the distinctive and almost-forgotten sound of a steam whistle.
(See and hear our video at GreenevilleSun.com).
The Southern #630 was used in freight service for the Southern Railway from 1904 to 1952, when it was sold to the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad in Johnson City.
The ET&WNC Railroad also used the engine for freight until 1967, when it was reacquired by the Southern Railway to be used in excursion service.
The Southern Railway merged with the Norfolk Western in 1982 to become the Norfolk Southern.
The locomotive was then stored out of service by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in 1999, when restoration began on the steam engine, which was completed in March 2011.
Since then, the Southern #630 has been used in occasional excursion trips.
Traveling at 35 mph, this homage to the bygone era of the locomotives passed through Greeneville too quickly to be admired as it should.
After the excursions planned in Knoxville, the Southern #360 will join other vintage engines at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga.