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Restoring Kentucky’s Steam Locomotive

By June 12, 2017Video

AboveL&N 152 during a nighttime photo charter in the 1980s. Photo courtesy of Ron Flanary.

Designed to pull the L&N Railroad’s most important scheduled passenger trains, #152 was the epitome of high-speed steam. However, in 1912, the locomotive would pull one of the most important passenger trains in US history: Former President Theodore Roosevelt’s Whistlestop Tour between Louisville and Corbin, Kentucky. Though Teddy lost the election of 1912, 152 would be the vehicle he used to spread his progressive values to the deep south, creating a movement that still influences American politics today. Just over a year later, in 1913, the 152 was involved in an accident at Livingston, Kentucky, being turned on her side. The crew perished in the accident, but the 152 was given a second chance, being rebuilt in the railroad’s South Louisville Shops shortly thereafter.

Below Right: L&N 152 at a station stop during her revenue career with the L&N Railroad. Photo courtesy of the L&N Historical Society.


The 152 would continue passenger service on the L&N, serving all over the system until more powerful locomotives were purchased by the railroad in the 1920s. The Pacific Class locomotives were then assigned to the Gulf Coast, a geographically flatter area. In 1934, the K-2a Pacific would again be called to pull another famous passenger train. This time, 152 would be pulling the “Al Capone Special,” conveying the famous gangster and forty three other prisoners in modified passenger cars, retrofitted with steel bars, between Atlanta, Georgia and Mobile, Alabama for further transportation to Alcatraz. Capone, with an extensive criminal history during the prohibition era, was convicted of tax evasion just three years earlier.

The locomotive would spend its time serving the railroad along the Gulf Coast throughout the thirties and forties. By 1953, the locomotive was the last of its kind on the L&N roster. On February 17th, 1953, the 152 was retired, with its fate hanging in uncertainty. During this time it was stored at Mobile, Alabama. In 1954, thanks to efforts of local L&N railfans, the #152 was sent to the Kentucky Railway Museum, then in Louisville, Kentucky. It was one of the museum’s first pieces. For thirty years it remained inoperative until a small group of volunteers assembled for the first restoration.

After thirteen years of work, in 1985, the locomotive was again alive under her own steam power. Thanks to the dedicated steam team of the 1980s, #152 would operate extensively on excursion trips over TTI, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Later, the engine was used on the museum’s Lebanon Branch out of New Haven, one of the original routes the locomotive was assigned for when delivered to the L&N in 1905. Locomotive #152 has the distinction of being the Official State Locomotive of Kentucky and is also part of the National Register of Historic Places and things. From 1985 to 2011, the locomotive was operated in regular excursion service, but has since been waiting a second restoration at the Kentucky Railway Museum. Watch the official restoration campaign video below.

Help bring 152 back to steam! Consider donating or volunteering at the Kentucky Railway Museum. For more information on this incredible locomotive, visit https://www.kyrail.org/

About Drayton Blackgrove

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