The following article was published by and is
copyrighted by the salisburypost.com.
The link from the Transportation Museum's news feed failed, but I
found it on the "way back machine" internet
archive and decided to preserve it here to record the 542's
history. Please let me know if it is inappropriate or violation of
copyright to include it here.
perform restoration on locomotive
Posted: Friday, May 27, 2011 12:01 a.m.
UPDATED: Monday, November 21, 2011 12:22 a.m.
By Mark Brown
N.C. Transportation Museum
SPENCER — The new cosmetic restoration of a classic steam
locomotive was unveiled at the N.C. Transportation Museum in a
ceremony May 21. The Southern Railway No. 542 has more than a
century’s worth of history as a working locomotive, a display
piece at one of the Triad’s largest parks and an appearance three
years ago in the George Clooney-starring movie “Leatherheads.”
The May 21 rededication of the Southern Railway No. 542 took place
at the Bob Julian Roundhouse officiated by Chief of Museum Services
and Education Larry Neal and museum volunteer John Barnett, who
helped organize the restoration. As the engine rolled out of the
roundhouse and onto the turntable, all the volunteers who
contributed long hours and hard work to the restoration were
The No. 542 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in August
1903. Classified as a 2-8-0 Consolidation, the locomotive operated
in North Carolina on the Southern Railway around Statesville and
Winston-Salem. Similar class 2-8-0 locomotives were extensively used
by the Southern to pull freight trains throughout the entire system.
The Southern owned only 90 of this rare type J-class locomotive. The
No. 542 was part of a series numbered 505-548. During its time in
operation, repairs and regular maintenance to the No. 542 were
performed at Pomona Shops in Greensboro and Spencer Shops, now the
site of the engine’s home, the N.C. Transportation Museum.
The engine’s working career lasted until 1954. But while the
engine would never run again, the No. 542 has had a very active
Upon its removal from service, Southern Railway donated the engine
to Tanglewood Park near Clemmons. It would remain on display for
visitors, a fixture at the park for 37 years. The locomotive also
served as an early part of the park’s now well-known Christmas
In 1991, N.C. Transportation Museum officials came to an agreement
with the park, trading an ex-Illinois Central locomotive for the No.
542. A grant from the Winston-Salem Chapter of the National Railway
Historical Society funded the locomotive’s move. As the final
remaining J-class locomotive used by the Southern Railway, the piece
was an important part of Spencer Shops’ history and the N.C.
Transportation Museum. The locomotive was displayed in the
Roundhouse for many years to follow.
In 2008, Hollywood came to the N.C. Transportation Museum. The site
and several pieces of rail equipment were chosen for use in
“Leatherheads,” which Clooney starred in and directed. While the
engine was cosmetically restored for the movie, something was
The No. 542’s tender, pulled behind all steam locomotives to carry
water, fuel and coal, was in rough condition. Museum volunteers,
however, had just put the finishing touches on their restoration of
the tender for the No. 604 steam locomotive. The decision was made
to use the No. 604’s tender and change the No. 542’s designation
— the numbers painted on the side — to No. 604.
Following the appearance in “Leatherheads,” the No. 542, still
bearing the numbers 6-0-4, was featured at the museum, primarily on
the display track near the Master Mechanic’s Office.
This recent cosmetic restoration, however, puts each piece back into
its rightful place. With museum volunteers Barnett and Robin Eanes
overseeing the project, the locomotive’s original tender has been
restored and reattached and the designation has been returned to
5-4-2. The locomotive has had the proper air compressor installed.
All the piping and handrails have been placed back on the locomotive
and new jacketing has been fabricated and installed on the backhead.
A grant from the Greensboro Chapter of the NRHS helped to fund the
cosmetic restoration over the last several months. All in all, the
engine now looks like it appeared serving the Atlantic and Yadkin
Railway in 1947, if not better. It will be displayed in the Bob
Julian Roundhouse and remain a treasured part of the museum’s rail
collection for many years to come.
- © 2011,