Steam’s Final Hour (Southern)

Copyright © 1994, T.D.R. Productions
Sheet: 18″ x 24″ / Image: 12″ x 20″

On Wednesday, June 17, 1953, at 3:00 PM, over a century of steam power on the Soutehrn Railway came to a close. President Harry A. DeButts had announced the day before that the event to take place on the 17th would make the Southern the largest railway in the country to be completely dieselized. It was that day the Southern’s last steam engine in service, heavy Mikado type No.6330, would pull a train from Oakdale to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“It has taken us 123 years to put out this fire,” Mr. Debutts said as he told of the final run which would mark the end of the steam locomotive era on the Southern. There was something symbolic about that Wednesday afternoon in June. The best of steam power was represented by the 6330, giving way to the best in diesel power. The old bowing before the new. They served their purpose, these knights of the past, on their specialized, remarkable assignments. The millions of miles of tireless service they gave cannot be reduced to cold figures here, they are already a part of America; of the World.

After a brief ceremony with company officials, she had come to the very end of the line. So it was that, on Wednesday, June 17, 1953, at 3:00 pm in the afternoon, an era, an epoch, ended. It’s like we shall never see again.

(TIES Magazine July 1953; Chattanooga Times Newspaper June 21, 1953)

This Southern Railway Centennial print is signed by the last two surviving members of the 6330’s crew.  (Click here to view video footage from the 1994 print signing.)


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