My idea for an alternative history of the Norfolk Southern steam program. Which is designed to exist with the ideas based on those of I made, like where steam locomotives were used last far longer than they truly did in the US. (Though of course, diesels did appear eventually.)
Mind you in this AU, Norfolk Southern is simply the company running the railroads in it rather than one individual railroad. Also, my idea for this AU excursion fleet.
In 1966, the Southern Railway hosted an excursion with engine 4501. A Mikado built for the railroad and used by the railroad until being sold to the Kentucky and Tennesee for work from 1948-1963. This excursion proved to be a success, and several more were planned with the engine. But by the early 1960s, the popularity of the excursions grew, as did the demand for more of them. The Southern's solution was to overhaul 4-6-2s 1401 and S&A 750, and 2-8-0s 630 and 722, complete with the latter receiving a green repaint like 4501, and operate them on other excursions. But once again, the demand grew more and more until the Southern had to lease more engines until the roster was as follows...
2-8-2 4501, 4-6-2 1401, 2-8-0 722, 2-8-0 630, and S&A Pacific 4-6-2
4501 visited several other railroads in the 1970s, including other railroads owned by Norfolk Southern like the Nickel Plate Road (NKP), Central of Georgia (CofG), the Pennsylvania (PRR), the Norfolk and Western (N&W), and even the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W). Railroads that NS didn't own included the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O), Illinois Central (IC), the Rock Island Line (RI), the Milwaukee Road (MILW), and the Chicago and North Western (CNW).
Soon, other railroads owned by the Norfolk Southern corporation decided to run their own excursions in an effort to mimic the success of the Southern's program. First was the Central of Georgia in 1978, which repainted 4-8-4 451 in a green paint scheme, then ran it on an excursion over its mainline between Atlanta and Albany. This trip proved a success, and the Southern allowed the CofG to run 451 over its own trackage. With the Northern even double heading with 4501. The engine soon became a permanent member of the NS steam fleet.
In 1982, Robert Claytor chose to extend the NS steam program beyond the Southern and Central of Georgia. This led to the restoration and operation of several steam locomotives. The first new member was Norfolk and Western 611. Which was first used on excursions in 1983. In addition to of course, the revenue passenger trains for NS railroads. Meanwhile, a group at the PRR’s steam shops in Altoona, PA had K4s 1361 join the excursion program; G5 39 soon followed, and the two often double headed. Meanwhile, back on the Norfolk and Western, class A 1218 was sent to Roanoke to be restored in 1985. It was soon ready the following year. With her and 611 often running alongside each other. 1987 saw the arrival of two railroad’s engines to join the program, those being Nickel Plate 2-8-4 765 and Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western 1632. 2-8-2 587, another NKP engine, joined the NS steam program in 1989. 1991 led to the celebration of the program’s 25th anniversary, with all sorts of engines taking part in all sorts of celebrations. But the biggest was in November when 630, 4501, 611, and 1218 all got together, with the latter three tripleheading several times.
But in 1994, David goode announced that the NS steam program would be severely reduced in scale. When asked, Goode explained that several issues had come up, namely the increase of revenue traffic and rising insurance costs. Goode had tried to save the program’s size. But the government did not allow it due to the fact the excursions were not considered revenue. Leaving Goode with his last choice. By 1996, all the engines that had once roamed the NS systems were placed back in revenue service. Only 4501, 611, and 1218 pulled excursions on a frequent basis. And they were confined to Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Georgia.
However, in 2005, Wick Moorman, Goode’s replacement, decided to return to the idea of steam excursion, he met with volunteers from the TVRM in Chattanooga. Where they talk of letting 630 reunite with 4501, 611, and 1218 to form a new series of steam programs. From there it went on. The 630 was ready to hit the mainline again by 2011. Where upon 4501, 611, and 1218 were operated beyond the corridor they were confined to since 1996. Meanwhile, in the Midwest, NKP engines 765 and 587 were confined to excursions on various short lines in Indiana. When Moorman asked, the NKP was delight to set to work. Soon, the excursion program was back to full 80s splendor. With both most of the veterans of the old program and entirely new engines, such as PRR T1 5533 and Reading 4-8-4 2102 working as well along the past engines.
If only this was a reality sadly.