Internet Horology Club 185
Southern Railway No 1401 Moved to Smithsonian/Our Story

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April 26, 2005, 15:07
Sheila Gilbert
Southern Railway No 1401 Moved to Smithsonian/Our Story
Curious about an old move, I started looking for a huge train that was installed in the Smithsonian in Washington DC around about 1960.
I knew that it traveled on Constitution Ave and it's final destination was to be the new National Museum of History & Technology, but that was about it. After more searching than I thought it would take, I did find the train, and after almost 34 years we finally had the name of the train that my husband, Russell, helped to install in the museum so long ago.
It has been a story told to our children for years, and after looking at some of the wonderful train stories on the message board, I decided to share Russell's story.
When the company he and his father worked for, got the contract for the move, Russell was in High school. He worked at the (then) Merchants Heavy Hauling & Rigging Co. in SW Washington DC during the summer, and with his father when he needed him.
This was to be the heaviest move the company had ever attempted, and to tell the truth, they were not even sure that they could do it, but none of the other companies knew if they could either, so it was a draw.
In those days everyone in the business was watching to see if Washington was going to have a huge train sitting in the middle of Constitution Avenue during rush hour one day.
Nothing like this had ever been attempted before, and it was only after the company had purchased a new Road Rainger Tractor with 26 forward gears, could they even attempt to move it.
The tractor would be used to pull the 200 ton capacity trailer, that the 1401 was placed on by Southern Railway for the move.
In the middle of the night they started the move, and with much care, and covering, because of the new restoration, they started the slow move to the National Museum of History & Technology, now called NMAH. With lights flashing and guidance for the wide load, it arrived at the National Museum by morning with no problems. It was time to get it into the building!
Merchants had rented several cranes to lift the train from the trailer for it to be placed into the open, unfinished building, so with the help of many, many men, including Russell, the train was unloaded and set on huge timbers for the decent to the tracks that went from the street to the inside of the building.
The train was first set on timbers, outside the building by the tracks, and the timbes were removed one at a time, in order to carefully lower it to the tracks. When the train was safely on the tracks, a hitch was attached to the train, and pulled in to it's final resting place on the tracks inside the building. The museum had to be finished around the Train because of it's size, and is still there today.
Russell says that even though you always have injuries during heavy moves like this one, they only had a few with this one, with the exception of one man that may have lost a few fingers.
The move took months to plan, and the news kept everyone informed of the undertaking, with much fanfare. When it was finished, everyone talked about it, and when it opened in 1964 it was a huge success, and is still visited by huge numbers of people today.
That's the story.

Next one will be about when he moved

President John F. Kennedy!

1401 Southern RR

April 26, 2005, 17:46
Terry Hill
thanks sheila for the wonderful story....

these massive engines took much skill to move..

April 26, 2005, 19:48
Lindell V. Riddle

Great work Sheila!


April 28, 2005, 16:49
Mark Cross
I have photographs taken in front of that locomotive when my wife and I visited the Smithsonian back in 1978! Regards. Mark
May 01, 2005, 03:24
Sheila Gilbert
Hi Mark,
Sorry I missed your post. I just love it when people actually have pictures of a while back.
You can not immagine how Washington has changed since then, and it's actually better than it was!

I never did get a picture of us there, I think I will have to do that this summer.

For a big city, it's still comfortable to go there and enjoy everything.
We used to like to go down and have a picnic on the grass near the Museums. What a great place to sit and watch the people walking around.
Fun times!