In 1952, when Southern sold a couple of utterly normal 2-8-0s to a Tennessee short line, no one would have thought much of it. Surely no one would have predicted that, 15 years later, Southern would buy them back for passenger work.
For about a year beginning July 1968, Southern Railway 2-8-0 no. 630 called the North Avenue roundhouse (the passenger roundhouse near Atlanta’s Terminal Station) home, departing from Terminal Station several times before it closed in 1970. It returned to Atlanta in 1976 prior to being based in Alexandria for two years.
In the fall of 1977, Donald Purdie was given the task of getting Southern Railway 2-8-0 no. 630 from Alexandria, VA, to the Southern’s steam shop in Irondale, AL. Normally 630 or 722 would have taken 5 days to make a similar move, stopping overnight in Monroe, Salisbury, Greenville, and Atlanta. But this time, running light engine at 25mph due to a crown brass running warm, 630 knocked off the 625 miles to Atlanta without a break, stopping just long enough for servicing and train crew changes.
After getting some much-deserved sleep, the steam crew left Atlanta for Irondale – 630’s last movement under steam for Southern.
Some 34 1/2 years later, in the fifth act of a long career, 630 has returned to Atlanta once more, where at least a few employees stopped to get photos of the movement entering Inman Yard. On Saturday 630 will again depart from the site of Terminal Station, this time hauling employee appreciation specials. The site has been spruced up, and a tent has been set up in the parking lot. Once more 630 will pass through East Point, where the Purdie clan lived for many years.
That’s not something I would have predicted in the fall of 1994. And on this occasion, I am delighted to have been wrong.
See you trackside.