If I were doing it I'd go with one of the Williams Old Brass versions, center head light. Then you can kit bash to exactly want you want it to look like from Stevenson Preservation Lines...

They come equipped with a Pitman Can motor, and you don't get any better than that, and very easy to install Err Electronics, or MTH's PS3 +...

 

Ms 4526 is one of the first class of Mikes built for the Southern, by Baldwin, along with the currently operational 4501 in TN.  It is not a USRA Mike, but rather predates that design.  Lionel did a scale model of it (18018, perhaps others), although I can't vouch for its accuracy.  From photos I've seen it looks decent, and although the detail is a bit rudimentary it looks like an excellent specimen to "dress up".  I've often thought of doing the same thing, so I hope you do and post lots of photos and descriptions!

Lionel #18018 seems fairly commonly available, as #4501,  but comes with a longer tender on 6 wheel trucks, vs.  short one in photo, on four wheel trucks.  Wonder what Lionel short 8 wheel tender would work with 18018?

??Another one of THOSE!!??  What you want to sell is not what I want to buy!

I discovered Lionel Pacific #18044, Southern, has a too long 8 wheel tender....l wonder if it might be mechanically and electronically compatible with 1992 #18018?  Better yet would be a shorter compatible 8 wheel tender.

??Another one of THOSE!!??  What you want to sell is not what I want to buy!

It's your project, of course, but that's the old familiar postwar semi-scale tender.  I'd keep your eyes on Ebay for something more appropriate, as you will sometimes find tenders or tender shells there.  That's where I got mine for the Southern 2-8-0 project I'm working on.

The 18018 Mikado is definitely the closest model to the loco in the photo.  Lionel made better-running versions of that loco with a Pittman motor and Odyssey speed control, RailSounds 4, etc., right up to the release of the Legacy system circa 2007.  I don't have my catalogs handy, but were any of the Odyssey versions painted for the Southern Railway?  (and since the Mikados were freight locos, they would have been black, not Crescent Limited apple green!)

If you don't want to tackle a custom paint job and money isn't an object, you could probably buy both and swap shells.  Sell the leftovers on the Forum or a popular auction site.  One snag will be the TMCC antenna (because the handrails probably aren't insulated on the 1992 model.)  My $.02.

Creep, coast, and pull.  We're not talking about cold fusion here.

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