The 1500 series Frisco was a dual purpose engine for passenger service and freight trains. The 1501 was one of 30 4-8-2 engines from the Baldwin Locomotive Works, officially off the assembly lines in Philadelphia, April 1923. The 1500 series was built to traverse the worst terrain on the Frisco lines, hence the nickname "Mountain" locomotives. These engines made runs from St. Louis to Oklahoma City and from Kansas City to Birmingham. Both routes were over 700 miles in length. The "Mountains" were served by a oil tender.
Fifteen of these, including the 1501, were delivered in 1923. Service was performed in Missouri at Newburg, Monett and Springfield. Following World War II, the retirement of the diesel powered 1500 class took effect by 1951. Communities, including Phelps County, began asking the Frisco Railroad to make the steamers historical attractions.
The 1501 was granted to the county on Jan. 25, 1955. Requests for an order board and passenger coach were included as a package deal, to be located at Schuman Park, former site of a Frisco water tank. Deeds were signed to the City of Rolla on June 13, 1955 for arrival in early August.
The engine and oil tender, along with Frisco passenger car 563, arrived on Aug. 16 of that year, with 1,762,964 miles having passed under its wheels. Shop forces from Frisco had painstakingly repaired the locomotion and affixed metal plates on various working parts of identify their function.
In 1988, the St. Louis Transportation Museum removed the pistons from the 1501 for a restoration project of the 1501's twin, Engine 1522, as a working model train.
There are six surviving SLSF "Mountains," including the 1501, found at Schuman Park in Rolla. The 1519 is at the Railroad Museum of Northwest Oklahoma in Enid, the 1522 at the Museum of transportation in St. Louis, the 1526 at the Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton, Okla., the 1527 at Spring Hill Park in Mobile, Ala., and the 1529 at Frisco Park in Amory, Mississippi.
The passenger coach was built in 1883 by the Barney Smith Company. During its service time, it is thought to have undergone several renovations, including a period shortly after its manufacture and until the early 1950s during the Jim Crow era of segregated passenger cars.
The only other known Frisco passenger car from this era, the 1057, is in Springfield, Mo. Other Jim Crow era passenger cars can be found at the Smithsonian and at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.
Renovation & Preservation
In 1997 the 1501 was repainted by local volunteer Richard Allison. In 1999, the City of Rolla received a TEA21 grant to put a canopy over the 1501 and the passenger car to help with its preservation and a fence was added at that time.
BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway) officials donated to the City of Rolla a bell from their storage facility at Topeka. While the bell is not original to the 1501, it has been deemed adaptable.
A group of volunteers from CSE Enterprises has painstakingly begun renovation of all three pieces, beginning with a complete restoration of the inside of the passenger car, from floor, to seating, to ceiling. Efforts have progressed to sanding, priming, painting and lettering the engine, tender and the passenger car.
Renewed efforts to improve the safety of the train have led to installing a new LED lighting system, with illumination from dusk to dawn.