Reading #2124, Rambling at Steamtown

The roster of steam locomotives at the Steamtown National Historical Site in Pennsylvania is quite impressive. The collection features examples of some of the largest, most powerful, and famous locomotives. Reading #2124 may not be the biggest or fastest locomotive at Steamtown, but she made her mark with an excursion career and deserves a spot on the Steamtown roster.

Reading #2124 shortly after she arrived at Steamtown in Vermont. The locomotive had a fruitful revenue career followed by a series of excursion trips known as the Reading Rambles.
Reading #2124 after arriving at Steamtown in Vermont. (Photo: Hugh Llewelyn via CC by 2.0)

A Brief History of Reading #2124

Reading #2124 is a coal burning steam locomotive that features a 4-8-4 “Northern Type” wheel arrangement. The locomotive was built in the Reading Company’s shops in 1947 by rebuilding and modifying another locomotive: Reading #2024. #2024 was built as a Consolidation type (2-8-0) by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1924.

This was not unusual for the Reading. The company would modify older locomotives to new standards and even wheel arrangements (as done with 22124) to meet new and different needs. Reading modified 30 steam locomotives this way. You can tell which engines received the rebuilding by their numbers – all were numbered between #2100 to #2129. Some of these locomotives, being some of the newer steam power on the railroad, went to pull special excursion trains known as the Reading Rambles.

After being rebuilt in the company shops in 1947, #2124 entered service pulling freight. She primarily hauled coal on the Reading in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The conversion to a Northern Type wheel arrangement gave her the power necessary to handle heavy-duty freight loads. #2124 engine served diligently for close to a decade until 1956 when she was retired from active service.

Reading #2124 found permanent home at the Steamtown National Historical Site in Pennsylvania.
#2124 on display at Steamtown in Scranton, Pa. (Photo: Alphageekpa via CC by 3.0)

While she had an adequate revenue career, it was the locomotive’s excursion service that made her famous. Three years after her last revenue service run, #2124 remade her career in passenger service for the railroad. #2124 pulled a series of excursion trains known as the “Iron Horse Rambles” and later the “Reading Rambles” beginning in 1959.

These excursions became an instant hit, and as the star of the show, #2124 was given the nickname the “Queen of the Iron Horse Rambles”. But #2124 ran out of flue time in October 1961, forcing her into storage pending inspection and rebuild. A rebuild that would never happen.

Although busy with the Rambles, “The Queen” took time to be part of the 1960 film “From the Terrace”. It’s only a bit part, but #2124 shared billing with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, some of the biggest names in Hollywood at the time.

Since the Rambles were in good hands with other locomotives (See our story on Reading #2102), Reading decided not to rebuild the locomotive. Instead Reading sold #2124 to F. Nelson Blount, who brought the locomotive to Vermont for static display at his museum, Steamtown. When Steamtown moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1984, #2124 moved with the collection. She stayed at Steamtown when the Federal government took over making Steamtown a National Historic Site.

Current Condition

Today, Reading #2124 still calls the Steamtown National Historic Site home. Now under the control of the National Park Service, there are no plans, because of the cost, to restore #2124 to operating condition. However, the locomotive did undergo a cosmetic restoration in 2011 so visitors can see what she looked like when she roamed the high iron in her glory days.

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