Far from ordinary were the Class Ps-4 type steam locomotives of the Southern Railway.
The Ps-4 type was "among the most celebrated passenger locomotives operated in the United States...." [John H. White, Jr. ]
Inspired by handsomely painted British locomotives, the Ps-4's green and gold livery set these locomotives apart from the funereal black associated with most American steam locomotives in the 20th century. The distinctive green was exclusive to locomotives on the Southern that were assigned to the company's principal passenger trains, such as the 'Crescent Limited,' the 'Piedmont Limited,' and others.
Built to a standard design, the first group of Ps-4s was constructed for the Southern Ry in 1923 by the American Locomotive Company (ALCo). These locomotives were patterned only partly on the successful Pacific design developed in 1918 by a design committee organized by the United States Railroad Administration, when U.S. railroads were under federal control during and after World War I.
In 1926, ALCo built for Southern a second order of Ps-4s at its Richmond Works, in Richmond, Virginia. The 1401 was included in this order. The 1401 was assigned for most of its operating life (1926-1952) to the Charlotte Division of the Southern Railway. (Hence the name, 'Charlotte' painted in small letters on the side of 1401's cab.)
The Charlotte Division was part of the Southern's Washington-Atlanta mainline, with extension of the mainline to Birmingham and New Orleans on trackage leased by Southern. The Charlotte Division included the line between Greenville, S.C. and Salisbury/Spencer, N.C. Thus the 1401 rarely, if ever, ran north of Spencer, the location of the Southern's vast Spencer Shops for the heavy repair of locomotives from throughout the system.
A Ps-4 was capable of hauling 12-15 steel passenger cars, about 700-1000 tons, at 80 mph on level track. (The 'hill and dale' profile of the Charlotte Division, however, kept average speeds to about 50-60 mph.) The 14,000 gallons of water in the tender permitted runs of about 150 miles - the full length of the Division - between water stops, although there would be one intermediate water stop normally scheduled. Fuel (16 tons of bituminous coal) in the tender was good for the full 150 miles.
As was the practice with all mainline steam locomotives, a locomotive on a through train was 'changed' at 'division points' (such as Greenville and Spencer) - i.e., the arriving engine was uncoupled and sent to the roundhouse for fueling and servicing, while a freshly prepared locomotive was coupled onto the train in its place for the continuation of the run.
The 1401 was one of eight Ps-4s used to haul President Franklin Roosevelt's funeral train from Warm Springs, Georgia, to Washington in mid-April 1945. (The locomotives were used in 'doubleheaded' pairs, each pair heading the train on the four Divisions between Atlanta and Washington.) The 1401, with the 1385 immediately behind, headed the train from Greenville to Spencer. It was mostly a slow procession at 20-25 mph, slowing to 10 mph at every hamlet and stopping briefly at larger towns, so that the people who lined the track over the complete distance could view the train.
"There was a solid line [of people] on both sides of the track," said Box Childers, fireman that day on the 1385. "I believe you could have walked on their heads all the way [from Greenville] to Salisbury. And they all looked so sad."
Engineer of the 1401 that day was Richard 'Easy' Cooksey, of Charlotte. Fireman of 1401 was recorded as a Mr. Cox, of Fairforest, S.C. Engineer of 1385 was O.B. Surratt of Spencer. [Source for Childers quote: Greenville (S.C.) News, Sept 23, 1962; the reporter interviewed the retired Mr. Childers for an article about the 1401's move into the National Museum of History & Technology (now NMAH) in November 1961.]
1401 ended its days hauling local trains. It was last 'shopped' (fully repaired) at Spencer Shops in 1951.
The locomotive was retired from service in 1952. A Regent of the Smithsonian, who was also on the board of directors of the Southern Railway, headquartered in Washington, D.C., persuaded the Regents to accept the 1401 in 1953 as a gift from the Southern - to represent the 'age of steam railways' in American history.
From 1953 to 1961, the 1401 was stored at Alexandria, Va. When the new National Museum of History & Technology (now NMAH - under construction from 1959) was ready, the Southern gave the 1401 and its tender a full external restoration, with new paint and striping, in October-November 1961.
Two 250-ton-capacity railway steam cranes of the Southern lifted 1401 from a rail spur located about two miles from downtown, where 1401 had been moved. The two cranes set the engine (sans tender) on a special, 200-ton-capacity, multi-tire trailer. Late on the night of Nov 25/early on the morning of Nov 26, 1961, the engine and its tender were moved (part of the way on Constitution Ave.) to their new home in Washington.
Another eleven days were required to place the engine and tender in the museum. The east end of the new museum was completed around the installed 1401. In January 1964, the museum opened to the public.