Handsome and powerful examples of steam's last hurrah, the Reading's thirty T-1 Northerns had a rather humble birth. In need of faster, more modern freight power, the Reading rebuilt thirty old 2-8-0 Consolidations into new 4-8-4's in its own shops between 1945 and 1947, using a combination of reclaimed Consolidation parts and new parts from Baldwin Locomotive Works and other vendors. The new engines retained the Reading's characteristic wide Wooten firebox, originally designed for the hard, slow-burning culm that was readily available in the region as a cheap by-product of anthracite coal mining; by the 1940s, however, the Reading's Wooten fireboxes had been converted to burn softer bituminous coal like the steamers on other American roads.
While the T-1s served the Reading well until the end of steam in 1956, their real fame came after the railroad had dieselized. In 1959 the Reading revived an old tradition of "Reading Rambles" and, to the delight of railfans and the general public, began running steam-powered rambles through the Pennsylvania countryside. With three restored "T-hogs" and another as standby power, the Reading ran fifty rambles before the program ended in October, 1964.
While all four engines survive to this day, the most famous of the group is no. 2101. A plaque on the engine, which now resides in the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD, tells her story after the rambles: ". She was saved from the scrapper's torch by E.L. Striegel [a scrap dealer] of Baltimore, MD. She lay idle until 1975 when purchased by American Freedom Train founder Ross E. Rowland, Jr. Two hundred men and women, largely volunteers, rebuilt her in 32 days to pull the American Freedom Train. She is a living example of the finest in American mechanical genius."
Looking for an assignment for 2101 after the Freedom Train, Ross Rowland sold the Chessie System on the idea of using her to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Baltimore and Ohio. Dressed up in Chessie System colors, she served in excursion service until 1979, when she was badly damaged in a roundhouse fire. No longer road-worthy, the 2101 was cosmetically restored and retired to the B&O Museum.
Designed from scale drawings supplied by the Reading Company Technical & Historical Society, our die-cast model features numerous added-on details, including opening sand dome hatches, as well as the accurate sound of a T-1 whistle. For 2014, the T-hogs return to the Premier lineup in the excursion colors they wore in the 1970s and beyond. The 2101 wears her Chessie Steam Special garb, and the 2102, rescued from the scrapper by Bill Benson of Steam Tours Inc., wears the Reading, Allegheny Railroad, and Blue Mountain & Reading names she wore in fan trip service into the mid-1990s.